LONDON — In its preliminary results for 2023, released today, WPP has reported its PR division grew like-for-like revenue by 1.4% across the year.

The group’s PR division includes BCW and Hill & Knowlton – to be merged this July into Burson – as well as FGS Global, GCI Health and AxiCom. The division reported like-for-like revenue for the fourth quarter of the year was up by 2.4%, after a decline of 0.9% in Q3.

PR outperformed other divisions in the group; its global integrated agencies had like-for-like revenue growth of 0.7% and specialist agency revenue fell by 6.8%.

WPP said in its statement that FGS Global “continued to grow strongly in 2023”, while Hill & Knowlton “delivered modest growth lapping strong performance in 2022”; this was “partially offset by a weaker year for BCW”.

Across the group, revenue was £14.8 billion for the full year, up 2.9% from £14.4 billion in 2022, representing like for like growth of 3.2%.

WPP CEO Mark Read said: “At our recent Capital Markets Day we detailed our strategy to capture the opportunities of AI, data and technology, while harnessing the full power of our offer to clients, building world-class agency brands, and driving strong financial returns through efficient execution.

He reiterated that “AI will be fundamental for our business and we are embracing the opportunities that it presents, putting it at the heart of our operations and our work for clients.” Read said WPP’s AI-powered platform, WPP Open, was now being used by more than 30,000 people across the group, with growing adoption by clients.

Read said while 2023 was “more challenging than we expected” due to cuts in spending by technology clients, operating margins ended the year at 14.8%, representing 0.9% like-for-like growth.

He said new business of $4.5 billion in 2023 included new assignments with clients such as Allianz, Krispy Kreme, Mondelēz, Nestlé, PayPal and Verizon, and concluded: “We are optimistic about the strategic opportunities ahead of us and are confident that we can deliver accelerated and increasingly profitable growth over the medium term.”

Regionally, North America revenue was down across the group’s business by 2.7% across the year and down by 4.5% in Q4, “reflecting lower revenues from technology clients and in the retail sector”.

The UK was one of the strongest regions, growing by 5.6% over the year: Ogilvy UK, including its PR division, was cited as having “performed well” during 2023.

Germany, WPP’s largest market in continental Europe, was down by 0.1% for the year but had a “challenging end to the year,” down by 5.4% in Q4 thanks to “a more uncertain macro environment weighing on client spend in the second half”. France returned to growth in Q4 after several quarters of decline.

Revenue growth across the rest of the world in 2023 was driven by India which was up 7.7% with "strong double-digit growth" in the second half. This was partially offset by China, which declined 3.3%.

For the year ahead, WPP said structural cost savings from the creation of VML and Burson and the simplification of GroupM were expected to deliver net cost savings of around £125 million in 2025, with 40-50% of those savings expected to be realised in 2024, and “targeted efficiency savings across both back office and commercial delivery” would deliver savings of around £175m over the next three-to-five years.

All PRovoke Media’s coverage of the Burson merger can be found here, including an interview with the new firm’s leaders, Corey duBrowa and AnnaMaria DeSalva.