WPP PR shines in uncertain year, but challenges remain

Adgully Bureau |

WPP's Public Relations division emerged as a relative bright spot in the company's preliminary results for 2023. The division, which includes agencies like BCW, Hill & Knowlton, and FGS Global, achieved a modest 1.4% like-for-like revenue growth across the year. This performance outperformed both WPP's Global Integrated Agencies (0.7% growth) and Specialist Agencies (6.8% decline).

Highlights:

  Overall growth: 1.4% like-for-like revenue growth across 2023.

  Q4 performance: 2.4% like-for-like revenue increase in Q4, reversing a Q3 decline.

  Agency performance: FGS Global led with "strong" growth, Hill & Knowlton saw "modest" growth, and BCW had a "weaker" year.

Global performance and outlook:

  Overall WPP revenue: £14.8 billion (2.9% increase, 3.2% like-for-like)

  CEO Mark Read: Acknowledged a "more challenging" year due to tech client cuts, but highlighted opportunities in AI and data.

  Growth drivers: Strong performance in India (up 7.7%) and the UK (up 5.6%).

  Challenges: Decline in North America (down 2.7% across the year) and China (down 3.3%).

Efficiency focus: WPP expects to achieve cost savings of £125 million in 2025 through agency mergers and group simplification.

Optimistic outlook: CEO Read expressed confidence in "accelerated and increasingly profitable growth" in the medium term.

While the PR division demonstrated resilience, WPP acknowledges the broader challenges present in the industry. Technology client cuts and regional uncertainties remain hurdles, but the company is looking to capitalize on AI and data opportunities and implement cost-saving measures to ensure future growth.