WPP reports solid Q2 growth

The Canadian market was one of the company's strongest, with GroupM performing particularly well during the first half of the year.

WPP reported strong performance across the board in Q2, as well as 61% growth in commerce media.

The company, which owns agencies such as GroupM, Ogilvy, Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R, reported first half revenues of £6.1 billion (approximately CDN$10.6 billion), up almost +10% from 2020, compared to -9.5% in the first half of 2020.

The company stated that it’s back to 2019 revenue levels a year ahead of anticipated, with EBITDA up 48.5%. WPP also raised its guidance to the upper end of the range it set out at the beginning of the year.

During the company conference call, CEO Mark Read said WPP’s strong performance in the first half of the year led its peers in terms of net sales growth, with its investment media brand, GroupM, performing particularly well.

GroupM was up 17% for the first half of the year and up 28.6% in Q2, reflecting “strong global recovery in ad spend,” the company said, with growth being driven by leadership in programmatic and CTV.

The second quarter also saw double-digit like-for-like growth at Hogarth, Wunderman Thompson and Ogilvy.

The U.K. led like-for-like Q2 revenue growth (minus pass through costs) in WPP’s biggest markets (31.8%), followed by Germany, and the U.S., while the Chinese market was a laggard, up only 1.4%. However, according to CFO John Rogers, it is seeing “an improving trajectory” in the latter market and predicting higher growth to come through in the second half of the year.

Canadian revenue, meanwhile, was second only to what Rogers called “massive growth” in Italy (52.7%) among its other major  markets for Q2. The Canadian market, which saw growth of 15.7% for Q1 of 2021, reported 33.5% growth on a two-year basis.

According to Rogers, WPP is also seeing increasing demand for strategic advice through its public relations arm, with an increasing client focus on purpose. In fact, nine of its top 10 clients, it said, are working on “purpose-related activities.”

While the PR side of the business was up only 2.6% for the first half of the year compared with 2019 levels, WPP said that’s a result of relatively strong prior year performance, as well as investments in people and merger-related costs.

WPP also reported significant growth at CMI, its specialist healthcare media business.

Tech and digital, healthcare and pharma, CPG and automotive, and retail represent the company’s main H1 revenue drivers.