First quarter 2014 PR and public affairs revenue at WPP firms inched up 1.9% to $352M on a like-for-like basis as revenue overall at the marketing conglomerate rose 7% to top $4.2B. 

WPP said the PR/PA sector continued an improvement seen in the fourth quarter of 2013 with all regions except Latin America and the Middle East growing in Q1. The UK, Asia Pacific and Africa were top performers.

WPP, owner of major PR operations like Ogilvy PR, Burson-Marsteller and Hill+Knowlton Strategies, reported North America, the UK and its advertising and media investment management operations showed particularly strong growth during the period.

While PR climbed 1.9%, advertising/media jumped 13% ($1.8B), branding/identity/healthcare rose 5.1% ($1.2B) and data investment 0.9% ($939.6B). 

WPP said personnel rose 1.1% to 121,055. Debt is $4.1B against $1.3B in cash.

WPP chief Martin Sorrell turned up the heat on merging rivals Omnicom and Publicis today, calling the planned merger a “soap opera” that has resulted in more business for WPP. He told the UK’s Evening Standard that his two main competitors are sending mixed signals. “Both companies have said if they merge, it’ll be find and if they don’t merge, it’ll be fine. The PR positioning has dramatically changed.”