Martin Sorrell Says China’s Move to Stop Graft Creates Opportunities for WPP

Transparent media-buying model pays off

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WPP CEO Martin Sorrell told CNBC that China's anti-graft campaign is benefiting WPP. 

"[In terms of] public relations and public affairs, every time there's a crisis, to be honest, there's an opportunity for us. Not an opportunity that we relish, but an opportunity," Sorrell told the business cable channel.

The anti-graft drive that began in China in 2012—aimed at eliminating bribery and alleged price-fixing—has afforded just such an opportunity for the agency. WPP's method of buying media directly, rather than through brokers, is paying off, Sorrell claims. "We are now benefiting because the state-owned enterprises are saying, 'We have to be open and transparent. Can you help us develop open and transparent systems in the context of China?'" he said.

Sorrell also said that he is not concerned about the weakening economic conditions in the country, where recent industrial production numbers were the worst since the global recession of 2008. "Having said that, it has been volatile," he added. "The first quarter of this year we were flat. I can't remember when we've had a flat quarter in China. It's been 10, 15 years."

WPP recently reported that its revenues increased 2.7 percent in the first six months of 2014, to $9 billion. The agency claims a $1.5 billion business and 16,000 employees in China. 

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.