WPP reports strong growth across 2021 despite Q4 stagnation in Australia

Global advertising group, WPP has reported ‘strong growth’ of 12.1% like-for-like across 2021, with revenue (less-pass through costs) totaling £10.4 billion (A$19.4 billion).

The preliminary results for the entirety of 2021 – as well as the company’s December quarter results – also saw negative growth in the Australian market of -2.2% for the same quarter in 2020.

WPP attributed global growth to “very strong growth driven by demand for digital services, ecommerce and technology”, as well as exceptional new business performance. It also reported that it returned more than £1 billion (A$1.87 billion) to its shareholders. Compared to total revenue in 2019, it was up 2.9%.

CEO of WPP, Mark Read said: “It has been an outstanding year for WPP. Our top-line growth, driven by strong demand for our services in digital marketing, media, ecommerce and technology, has resulted in our fastest organic growth for over 20 years. As a result, we are two years ahead of our plan, hitting our 2023 revenue target in 2021.

“As clients seek to accelerate their growth and transform how they reach customers, the depth, breadth and global scale of our offer – which combines creativity with technology and data, through Choreograph, and the largest global media platform in GroupM – is proving its value for existing and new clients. The talent, dynamism and commitment of our people have also shone through. Our extensive partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, the expansion of our work with Google and the continuation of our longstanding relationship with Unilever demonstrate the value that three of the world’s leading marketing organisations place in WPP

“We have made substantial strategic progress, creating the world’s leading board-level communications firm through the merger of Finsbury Glover Hering and Sard Verbinnen, and acquiring capabilities in AI, commerce and technology services to leverage across all of WPP for future growth. Cash generation continues to be very strong, underpinned by efficiencies achieved in our transformation program, allowing us to make significant investments in our offer and reward our people for their huge contribution, while returning over £1 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks.

“We look forward to 2022 with confidence. We are guiding to strong top-line growth, improving profitability and continued investment in our people and services.”

WPP also said that overall 2021 was an “extraordinary year for the global advertising industry” as GroupM estimates that global digital advertising spend grew by 30.5% in 2021, and now accounts for 64.4% of total spend, up from 59.3% in 2020.

Across the year, revenue was £12.8 billion, up 6.7% from £12.0 billion in 2020, and up 13.3% like-for-like. Revenue less pass-through costs was £10.4 billion, up 6.5% from £9.8 billion in 2020, and up 12.1% like-for-like.

By sector, it reported that technology, healthcare & pharma and consumer packaged goods represented more than half of revenue with 53% for designated clients. This was helped by new business wins, and extensions of existing relationships across the year, including Unilever, Bayer, Coca-Cola and Google.

Revenue by region

By sector, we have had continued momentum in technology, healthcare & pharma and consumer packaged goods which together represent 53% of our revenue less pass-through costs for designated clients.

WPP said that the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, continued to be negatively impacted by COVID restrictions. By market across Q4, the US grew 11.7%, UK 9.9%, Germany 3.4% and Greater China 13.6%.


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