LONDON—WPP has reported a like-for-like revenue increase of 1.7% from its PR and public affairs businesses during the first five months of 2014.

The trading update was released at the company's AGM today. 

In constant currencies public relations and public affairs gross margin or net sales, were up 2.2%.

The group noted that all regions were up except for Western Continental Europe and the Middle East, with North America strengthening compared with the first quarter. 

Earlier this year, WPP reported a 1.9% like-for-like increase in PR revenues for the first quarter of the year.

In an interview with the Holmes Report in Cannes last week, WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell noted that his PR networks — Hill+Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, Ogilvy PR and Cohn & Wolfe — were emerging from a "tough time".

"Given the circumstances, they’ve done OK," Sorrell told the Holmes Report. "Would I like them to do better? Of course I would."

Overall, the group's revenue grew 7.6% on a like-for-like basis during the first five months of this year, "Following the Group’s record year in 2013, 2014 has started stronger and similar to the final quarter of 2013, with all geographies and sectors growing revenues and gross margin or net sales on both a constant currency and like-for-like basis," said WPP chairman Phil Lader in the trading update.

"The pattern for 2014 looks very similar to 2013, perhaps with slightly increased client confidence, enhanced by slightly stronger global GDP growth forecasts and the mini-quadrennial events of the Winter Olympics at Sochi, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil (which will position perceptions of Brazil and Latin America, just as the Beijing Olympics did for China, the World Cup did for South Africa and London 2012 did for the United Kingdom) and the mid-term Congressional Elections in the United States," said Lader of the group's outlook.

Lader also made specific mention of the Cannes Lions Festival, noting that  "much of the business world, much of the financial world and even much of the media world, has still not fully grasped the nature of this word 'creativity'."

"I believe there are still businesses that still see creativity as little more than a cosmetic: a final touch of lipstick to make a product look more appealing. They are profoundly wrong: and the world is full of case studies to prove them wrong. Applied creativity can be as central, as integral and as functional as any operating system; and should be expected to be so."

"And secondly — and this is where my exasperation shows itself: to misrepresent commercial creativity as just a bit of fancy window-dressing is hugely to underrate the talents of those who create it. To make entrancing things within the unforgiving discipline of a marketing brief is a very, very difficult thing to do; and all the more so, since it's often made to look so easy."