Art & Commerce

Nobody at a recent transoceanic e-meeting/conference call asked WPP Group about the Internet. These twice-a-year sessions permit institutional investors to get underneath the company’s financial reports, and the meeting goes until the analysts run out of questions. WPP’s results for the first half were good, in line with the gains in volume, profits and
margins we’ve seen from the earlier-reporting U.S. operators. Management hopes investors will recognize the progress WPP has made toward improving profitability and view the two- or three-percentage-point gap with Omnicom and Interpublic as an opportunity, not a failing. And judging by the questions, that’s the case. A year and more ago, there was significant focus on new media and, perhaps, speculation that WPP might have missed the boat. Now, at least judging by the discussion, investors may think there is no boat–which is odd. Sure, the new-toy fascination with the Internet as an ad medium has largely faded. But just when ad analysts might be thinking it’s safe to ignore the issue, one of the world’s leading ad buyers, Procter & Gamble, will hold a brainstorming session to stir up ways for conventional advertisers to use the new technologies for “real.” –Alan Gottesman (westendal is principal of West End Consulting.
WPP posted operating profit gains everywhere but Asia in the first six months of this year.
1997 1998 Change
North America £47.5 £58.3 22.7%
United Kingdom 15.0 20.9 39.3%
Rest of Europe 20.2 24.5 21.3%
Rest of world 9.5 4.8 -49.5%
Total 92.2 108.5 17.7%
Source: WPP Group. Figures in millions of pounds