Maja Pawinska Sims 04 Mar 2022 // 4:44PM GMT
LONDON — WPP has announced that it is pulling out of all agency operations in Russia, in response to the attacks on Ukraine.
In a statement to the London Stock Exchange today, the holding company said: “WPP stands with Ukraine and the international community in condemning the Russian invasion, which has created a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe. The board of WPP has concluded that WPP's ongoing presence in Russia would be inconsistent with our values as a company, and we are therefore discontinuing our operations in the country.”
WPP, which owns the H+K Strategies, BCW and Ogilvy agency networks, has nearly 1,400 people in Russia including a substantial presence within PBN Hill+Knowlton Strategies in Moscow. The firm described its Russian employees as “dedicated and valued members of our organisation, and we thank them for their commitment to the company and our clients.”
It added: “We deeply regret the impact of this decision on our Russian colleagues. We will provide support to them and work closely with our clients and partners as we discontinue our activities in the country.”
In a note to employees, chief executive Mark Read said WPP had been “carefully considering” the future of its agencies in Russia over the past week, and that WPP would “work with our people, clients and partners to consider all options including transfer of ownership and divestment”. He said the company would provide additional and enhanced financial support to anyone who lost their job as a result of the decision, and that local agency leaders were discussing next steps with their teams directly.
The decision is the most conclusive yet from the global networks; yesterday FleishmanHillard distanced itself from its Russian affiliate FleishmanHillard Vanguard, but there has been otherwise little firm action taken by international agencies with offices and affiliates in Russia.
In relation to its 200 employees in Ukraine, WPP said it was “in constant contact with our leaders in Ukraine to provide financial and other forms of practical assistance for our employees” and that they had shown “extraordinary resilience and bravery in the face of the horrific attack on their country, and we have been inspired by their example and the outpouring of support from their colleagues in the region and worldwide.”
WPP has partnered with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to run an emergency fundraising appeal to help people forced to flee their homes in search of safety in other parts of Ukraine or neighbouring countries, and is match-funding all donations by WPP employees.