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WPP plc is a British multinational advertising and public relations company and the world's largest advertising company. It's main management office in London, England, and executive office in Dublin, Ireland.[4]

WPP plc
Public limited company
Traded asLSEWPP
FTSE 100 Component
Public relations
Founded1971; 48 years ago (1971)
(Wire and Plastic Products plc)
(Sorrell acquisition and entry into advertising)
FounderMartin Sorrell (as an advertising company)
HeadquartersLondon, England, United Kingdom (Head office)
Saint Helier, Jersey (Registered office)
Dublin, Republic of Ireland (Executive office)
Area served
Key people
Roberto Quarta
(Executive Chairman)[1]
Mark Read
(CEO & ED)
ServicesBranding & identity
Consumer insights
Market research
Media planning and buying
Public relations
Relationship marketing
Revenue£15,602.4 million (2018)[2]
£1,431.4 million (2018)[2]
£1,139.4 million (2018)[2]
Number of employees
130,000 (2019)[3]
SubsidiariesGrey Global Group
Young & Rubicam
J. Walter Thompson
Kantar Group
Hill & Knowlton
Cohn & Wolfe
Brand Union
Buchanan UK

WPP plc owns a number of advertising, public relations, media and market research networks, including Ogilvy, J. Walter Thompson, Young & Rubicam, Grey, IMRB, Millward Brown, Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, TNS, GroupM, Kantar, and Cohn & Wolfe.[3] It is one of the "Big Five" agency companies, alongside Dentsu, Publicis, Interpublic Group of Companies and Omnicom.[5] WPP has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It has a secondary listing on NASDAQ.

On 14 April 2018, Martin Sorrell retired 33 years after founding the company. Roberto Quarta, chairman of WPP, became executive chairman.[1]

On 3 September 2018, Mark Read was appointed as CEO.[6]



The company was founded as Wire and Plastic Products plc to manufacture wire shopping baskets in 1971. In 1985 Martin Sorrell, searching for a listed company through which to build a worldwide marketing services company, bought a controlling stake of just under 30% at a cost of $676,000.[7][8][failed verification] Sorrell had been the financial director for the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi from 1977 to 1985, managing its takeovers of companies in the US and the UK. The holding company was renamed WPP Group and in 1987 Sorrell became its chief executive.[7]

During 1986 WPP became the parent company of Picquotware, a manufacturer of teapots and jugs, based in Northampton. In November 1987 a fire destroyed the Northampton factory and production was restarted at Burntwood in Staffordshire. On 25 November 2004 WPP closed the Burntwood factory and stopped manufacturing Picquotware: all assets were sold on 14 December 2004.[9]

In 1987 the company acquired J. Walter Thompson (including JWT, Hill & Knowlton and MRB Group) for $566m.[7] The company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1988.[7] In 1989 it acquired Ogilvy Group for $864m[7] and in 1998 formed an alliance with Asatsu-DK Inc. of Japan.[7]

In May 2000, WPP agreed to acquire the United States-based advertising company Young & Rubicam for $5.7 billion, in what was at the time the largest ever takeover in the advertising sector.[10] The takeover made WPP the largest advertising company in the world measured by billings and revenue, overtaking Omnicom Group and Interpublic.[10] In 2006, WPP took over majority share of China's largest field marketing and brand activation agency, Always Marketing. Always has since been placed under the J. Walter Thompson group to provide breakthrough into the Chinese market and full on field marketing and brand activation support to JWT offices around Asia. In 2007, WPP Digital was created to develop the Group's digital capabilities. In October 2008, WPP acquired market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres for £1.6 billion.[11][12]

During 2009 WPP reduced its workforce by around 14,000 employees, or 12.3% of its then total staff numbers, in response to the onset of the 2008–2012 global recession.[13][14]

In June 2012, WPP agreed to acquire the digital advertising agency AKQA for US$540 million.[15][16] In March 2014 WPP agreed to acquire a minority stake in Swedish broadcaster FlowNetwork.[17] In July 2015 WPP agreed to acquire a majority stake in the digital healthcare agency ABS Creative.[18] Then in November 2015 WPP agreed to acquire a majority stake in Essence, a global digital agency.[19]

Many of WPP's constituent agencies use Microsoft Windows, and the organisation was hit hard by the 2017 cyberattacks on Ukraine, with some staff's computer access limited to webmail only as much as ten days later. It was suggested that poor patch management and user access administration following IT staffing cuts may have contributed to the scale of the infection affecting WPP.[20]

In April 2018, Martin Sorrell retired after 33 years, following allegations of personal misconduct and misuse of company assets. Sorrell has denied the allegations.[1]

WPP leadership decided in November 2018, to merge J. Walter Thompson with digital network Wunderman; the resulting organization will be known as Wunderman Thompson and be headquartered in JWT’s offices on Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue.[21]


WPP's advertising agency company holdings include the Grey Group, Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam Brands, Landor, Wunderman, and JWT (formerly known as J. Walter Thompson Co.).[22]

WPP's digital company holdings include Wunderman, Gorilla Group, Possible, AKQA, Geometry, OgilvyOne and VML.[23]

WPP's government lobbying and public relations company holdings including Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Burson-Marsteller, and Cohn & Wolfe (the last two being part of Young & Rubicam Brands).[24]

WPP's media investment management company holdings are operated by GroupM and include Mindshare, MEC (formerly Mediaedge:cia), Maxus, MediaCom (originally part of Grey Group) and Essence.[25]

WPP's research insight and consulting companies, forming a separate umbrella group known as Kantar, comprise BMRB, Added Value, Kantar Video, Indian Market Research Bureau, Millward Brown, Management Ventures Inc., Research International (which no longer exist as an entity after the merger with TNS) and TNS.[26]

Delfinware Domestic Wireware, which was established in 1969 and manufactures kitchen and bathroom wire racks, is also a subsidiary of WPP Group.[27]

In September 2017, five WPP brand consultancies – Brand Union (formerly Enterprise IG), The Partners, Lambie-Nairn, Addison Group and VBAT – were combined to form a brand agency.[28]


2012 shareholder revolt on executive remunerationEdit

With a number of shareholder revolts over executive pay having already happened at other public companies' AGMs earlier in the year, the media coverage of Martin Sorrell's intended £12.93m compensation package drew increasing public attention.[29][30] The result was a 59.52% shareholder vote to reject the resolution.[30][31]


It has been reported that WPP goes to great lengths to lower its own corporate tax bill. The Guardian reported that between 2003 and 2009 the company paid £27m in UK corporation tax, compared to what the newspaper "might expect" based on reports of the firm making 15% of its profit in the UK, of around £126m.[32]

Television Audience MeasurementEdit

In 2012 the Indian broadcasting NDTV filed a lawsuit against Television Audience Measurement (TAM), a joint venture of the former competitors Nielsen and Kantar Media Research which for years has provided the only TV audience measurement system in India. WPP Plc was listed among the defendants as the holding group of Kantar and IMRB. NDTV's lawsuit, filed in the New York State Supreme Court under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and seeking $1.4 billion for negligence and hundreds of millions for interference and breach of fiduciary duty, cited a public conversation between Vikram Chandra, CEO of NDTV, and Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, in which Chandra had described ways in which the system was prone to tampering and bribery; his request for a halt to the publication of the allegedly compromised data was unsuccessful.[33][34][35][36][37]

WPP responded that the lawsuit had not been served on WPP or any of its operating companies, the New York court had no jurisdiction in the case and that it would file for dismissal, seeking legal costs, and that it was considering a lawsuit against NDTV for defamation, a threat which NDTV in turn called "baseless".[38] The motion to dismiss was filed a week later, with the statement in its memorandum of law that "This case is nothing more than a desperate attempt by the plaintiff, a television station in New Delhi, India, to drum up media coverage in India to divert attention from the real reasons its programmes have had low audience ratings and its financial performance has been abysmal for five years ... New Delhi TV has crossed the globe and come to New York State Supreme Court to complain about an Indian company, TAM, and how it measures the ratings of television programmes in India."[39] Nielsen later filed its own petition for dismissal, writing that "NDTV attempts to transform a potential contract claim against TAM into tort and oral contract claims against the Nielsen defendants. Nothing in the law supports such a magic trick. Simply put, NDTV fails to allege a legal duty independent of a contract and fails to allege all of the elements needed to support each cause of action."[40] The lawsuit was dismissed in its entirety on 4 March 2013.[41]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "WPP CEO Sorrell Quits After Three Decades at Top of Ad World". 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Preliminary Results 2018" (PDF). WPP plc. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b "At a glance". WPP plc. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  4. ^ Burke, Risn (30 September 2008). "WPP moves HQ to Ireland in tax-cut bid". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  5. ^ "Advertising's Big Four: It's Their World Now". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "WPP names Mark Read as CEO".
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Group history". WPP plc. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  8. ^ "Sir Martin Sorrell: advertising man who made the industry's biggest pitch". The Guardian. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  9. ^ Piquotware History Archived 11 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b "Young & Rubicam Agrees to $5.7 Billion Takeover by WPP". The New York Times. 9 May 2000. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Stockopedia. Stock Screens, Stock Ranks, Stock Tips & Tricks". Stockopedia. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  12. ^ "WPP Bid Garners 82% TNS Shareholder Approval". Ad Week. 8 October 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  13. ^ "WPP stable after 'brutal' 2009". The Guardian. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  14. ^ "WPP profits fall despite job cuts". The Telegraph. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  15. ^ "WPP Acquires AKQA to Beef Up Digital Marketing". The New York Times. 20 June 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  16. ^ "WPP buys majority stake in AKQA". The Guardian. 20 June 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  17. ^ "WPP buys stake in Swedish broadcast content provider FlowNetwork".
  18. ^ "WPP acquires majority stake in digital healthcare agency ABS Creative – WPP". Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  19. ^ "WPP agrees to acquire a majority stake in digital agency Essence – WPP". Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  20. ^ Hall, Kat (7 July 2017). "Largest advertising company in the world still wincing after NotPetya punch". The Register. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  21. ^ Coffee, Patrick (26 November 2018). "WPP Will Merge J Walter Thompson with Wunderman to Form Wunderman Thompson". Adweek. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  22. ^ "J. Walter Thompson Company Profile". WPP. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  23. ^ "WPP buys $7m stake in". Campaign Live. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Cohn & Wolfe Company Profile". WPP. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  25. ^ "Essence Company Profile". WPP. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  26. ^ "Kantar-TNS Company Profile". WPP. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  27. ^ The Bubblegate Company Ltd. "About us". Archived from the original on 27 June 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  28. ^ "Brand Union, The Partners, Lambie-Nairn, Addison Group and VBAT to combine". WPP. 14 September 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  29. ^ "Sir Martin Sorrell finds out that it doesn't always pay to advertise". The Guardian. 17 June 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  30. ^ a b "WPP shareholders vote against £6.8m pay packet for Sir Martin Sorrell". The Guardian. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  31. ^ "AGM Total Proxy Votes". Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  32. ^ "Seeing double: Avoidance scheme allegedly used by UK ads agency". The Guardian. 4 February 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  33. ^ Shamni Pande and Anusha Subramanian (2 September 2012). "Taming TAM:What is holding India back from improving TV audience measurement?". Business Today.
  34. ^ Anusha Subramanian (3 August 2012). "NDTV bells the cat, files suit against TAM". Business Today.
  35. ^ "NDTV sues Nielsen for viewership data manipulation". Business Today. Press Trust of India. 2 August 2012.
  36. ^ "NDTV-WPP war of words continues over ratings issue". Business Standard. 28 August 2012.
  37. ^ "Advertising firm WPP may sue NDTV for defamation". The Economic Times. 23 August 2012.
  38. ^ "WPP hints defamation case against NDTV". The Indian Express. 24 August 2012.
  39. ^ "NDTV suit a desperate attempt". The Hindu. 30 August 2012.
  40. ^ "Nielsen files for dismissal of NDTV lawsuit". 12 November 2012.
  41. ^ "WPP Statement on Dismissal of NDTV Law Suit". WPP. 10 March 2013.

External linksEdit