The world's largest advertising group is playing down hopes of an early economic recovery for the industry, predicting a flat year of growth for its myriad of companies in 2003.
WPP this week unveiled disappointing preliminary results for last year, showing revenue down by almost three per cent to £3.9bn, with profits down almost 19% to almost £401m.
The group is predicting flat like-for-like revenues in 2003 in comparison to last year with a stronger second half of the year relative to the first. It believes that 2004 will see a modest increase in revenue.
The group's performance varied dramatically around the globe with the US, its biggest market, showing a revenue fall of 2.4%. The UK market showed a drop of 1.3%.
But in continental Europe, WPP saw a growth of 5.3% and in the rest of the world showed a 4.7% growth in revenue.
Across the service sector, WPP's operations in public relations were worst affected. The area saw an eight per cent fall in revenue.
The company said Burson-Marsteller, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Robinson Lerer & Montgomery in the US and Finsbury and Buchanan in the UK performed well.
Advertising and media investment management faired better and saw a 2.5% growth and the information and consultancy divisions recorded a four per cent increase.
The group is being extremely conservative in its predictions for recovery, stating that worldwide economic conditions are likely to remain difficult, particularly given the uncertainty created by the prospect of war in Iraq. It added: "The economy still seems to be paying the price for the over-expansion of the late '90s."