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WPP is the abbreviation for Wire and Plastic Products which tells you nothing about the company, except that it was a gutted off-the-shelf company name (and legal entity) bought by Martin Sorrell and converted into a public-relations giant -- and then into a global conglomerate.

In the late 1990s there was a global buy-up spree of all of the major advertising, public relations, polling, fundraising and campaign managing firms. This resulted eventually in them all being incorporated into three gigantic worldwide 'communications' multinational umbrella conglomerates.

The WPP Group swallowed up some of the biggest -- Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, and hundreds of other lesser firms in PR, and even more big names in advertising. Today it has a market capitalisation of over $45 billion. It says "WPP is the world's largest communications services group, employing 190,000 people* working in 3,000 offices in 113 countries."

Each company in these conglomerates keeps its own management and identity, and they regularly buy smaller firms as subsidiaries. So the effects of the concentration of power and control in these umbrella organisations is rarely obvious -- and it is rarely exercised except to service the largest of corporate interests. (The other two are the Omnicom Group with $20 billion capitalisation, and Punlicis)

WPP is "one of the world's leading communications services group, providing national, multi-national and global clients with advertising; media investment management; information & consultancy; public relations & public affairs; branding & identity; healthcare; and specialist communications. WPP's major brands include advertising agencies J. Walter Thompson Company, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Young & Rubicam and Red Cell; the global media investment management companies MindShare, Mediaedge:cia; market research companies Millward Brown, Research International, Kantar Media Research; the direct customer relationship and interactive marketing networks OgilvyOne Worldwide and Wunderman; public relations & public affairs firms Hill and Knowlton, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe." [2]

In October 2005, WPP announced that revenues for the third quarter, including acquisitions, had risen by 24% to £1.3bn [[3]]


"WPP Group, parent of international public relations firms Burson-Marsteller, Cohn & Wolfe, Hill & Knowlton and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, reported growth in its public relations operations of close to 14 percent in the first half of 2008, providing further evidence that the public relations sector has been surprisingly resilient despite the troubled global economy," reported the Holmes Report in August 2008. [1]

"Public relations now accounts for 10.8 percent of total group revenue, or £360 million. ... The group attributed PR's strong performance to 'the positive impact on the sector’s growth of fact-based polling techniques and social networking on the web, which demonstrates the increased effectiveness of editorial publicity over paid for publicity.'" [1]



Contact information

Website: http://www.wpp.com

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 "WPP Reports PR Revenue and Profit Growth as Ad Growth Slows," Holmes Report (sub req'd), August 25, 2008.

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