WPP today announced a 3.5 percent boost in 2012 revenues to $15.6B and an eight percent rise in pre-tax profit to the $1.7B mark.

CEO Martin Sorrell said the ad/PR combine posted a “record year, but it felt very difficult.” WPP reached its financial targets, but “got there ugly.”

Sorrell said the year started off like off strong, but growth slowed and WPP “did not start to make the cost adjustments quickly enough to counter the increased staff investment” until second half of 2012.

WPP wrapped up 2012 with $2.9B in cash/short-term deposits and $7.1B in debt.

The Ogilvy, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, RLM Finsbury and Burson-Marsteller-led PR group posted a one percent dip in like-for-like revenues to 917M (about $1.4B) due to continuing pressure in North America and Continental Europe. That was partially offset by strong performances in the U.K., Latin American and Middle East/Africa sectors.

The lack of mega-events, such as the U.S. presidential elections and Olympics, makes 2013 “look like another demanding year,” according to Sorrell.

He sees better prospects in 2014 as the World Cup in Brazil and Sochi Winter Olympics may “reposition Brazil and Latin America and Russia and Central/Eastern Europe, in the world’s mind, just like the Beijing Olympics did for China and Asia and the World Cup did for South Africa and Africa.”