Publicis trumpets the past while WPP analyses the future

Publicis Groupe’s ability to continue building revenues at a seemingly faster rate than its global competitors – reflected in its third quarter results announced today – may well have been helped by favourable currency movements – not least the decline in the euro – and aggressive investment in digital acquisitions, but the fact remains that the growth is real enough.

Equally real is its gloomy prognostication for the rest of 2012, a view shared by WPP.  The one consoling glimmer is the impression gained so far that UK businesses may have been less vulnerable to adverse economic influences than either those in the US or continental Europe.

The US economy and its presidential elections are both creating negative vibes.  The eurozone is in a mess.   And nails are being bitten while we wait to see how China’s economic slowdown evolves.    All of these concerns will have a knock-on effect on UK business – particularly those with sizeable exports – so it is a time for caution rather than complacency.

It is also time a bouquet was sent to WPP for the fulsome manner in which it shares details of its performance and predictions about its prospects.   There is no other public company in the marketing sector that explains its thinking so fully.   Indeed many companies seem to adopt the policy that sharing anything but the most essential facts will prove a hostage to fortune and should therefore be avoided.  Today’s announcement from Interpublic is a good example.

Interpublic not only reported a serious fall in domestic revenue and a 15% fall in profit (leaving out the one-off gain from the sale of Facebook shares), but it offered no commentary on likely future trends.

In reporting on the past there will always be plenty of room for fudge and for overlooking the less cheering events by companies that choose that course.  But a more open approach is likely to build confidence. As for the future, whether the reader agrees with WPP’s economic analysis or not, it provides a valuable contextual backcloth against which future performance can be assessed.

Bob Willott is editor of “Marketing Services Financial Intelligence