WPP is past the worst as it looks to World Cup for boost

Steve Dinneen
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WPP is looking to the World Cup to kick start the weakend advertising industry.

The advertising giant, headed by Sir Martin Sorrell, is hoping that the World Cup, Shanghai Expo, US mid-term elections and UK general election will give it a platform to crawl out of the advertising recession.

The world’s biggest advertising firm last week reported “less weak” results, which were ahead of most analyst expectations.

Operating profit was down nine per cent and like-for-like revenue was down 8.1 per cent.

Pre-tax profits fell 21.4 per cent to £662.6m. The figures were boosted by a cut in the head count of 5.8 per cent in the first half of the year and an additional 7.4 per cent in the second half.

It has fared better since the second quarter of last year and hopes to arrest the decline with flat or small growth this year.

The firm, which owns brands including JWT and Ogilvy & Mather, said new billings for the first two months of this year already total £1.3bn – compared to £3.1bn for the whole of 2009.

Sorrell says the firm will focus on expanding its operations in emerging markets and will push its new media operations.

New media currently accounts for 27 per cent of revenues but WPP will increase this to at least a third within four years.

A company spokesman said: “Like-for-like revenues were almost the same in January 2010 against January 2009, which is an encouraging return to stability.”