LONDON and NEW YORK—Further evidence of a robust recovery in the public relations sector was presented this week by strong third quarter results from both WPP Group and the Interpublic Group, with public relations operations at both companies performing well.
WPP’s public relations operations—which include multinational brands Burson-Marsteller, Cohn & Wolfe, Hill & Knowlton and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide—were up by 5.1 percent during the third quarter, continuing a trend that began with 2.8 percent growth in the first three months of the year and continued with a 3.5 percent improvement in the second quarter.
WPP singled out Burson-Marsteller in particular for “excellent growth.”
Interpublic, meanwhile, reported that its constituency management group, which including public relations agencies such as Weber Shandwick, GolinHarris and MWW Group, had enjoyed 12 percent organic growth, and while that number was helped by a strong rebound in the company’s events business, it is believed that public relations revenues are up by about 6.6 percent in like-for-like terms through the first nine months of the year.
Overall revenues at WPP improved by 12 percent, the strongest quarter of growth in a decade, and through the first nine months of 2010, WPP’s reported revenues were £6.69 billion, up 6.3 percent. IPG, meanwhile, reported third-quarter revenues up 9.4 percent to $1.56 billion. Net income surged 88 percent to $45.3 million.
Harris Diamond, head of IPG’s constituency management group, sounded a bullish note on the company’s PR operations, which he said had now recovered to around their peak before the recession hit in 2008.
“We are seeing a much greater acceptance and understanding by CMOs of the kind of services we provide. They are really beginning to see the value of what we do, whether it is social media or content creation or even more traditional public relations. There’s no question we are getting a bigger slice of the overall wallet.”
Diamond says the consumer, healthcare and technology sectors are leading the way, while the corporate business remains strong and public affairs is expected to rebound in 2011, particularly in the event of a divided Congress. In geographic terms, the U.S. has been the star performer, but the recovery is also well under way in Asia, and even Europe is beginning to show signs of life.