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O'Dwyer's Newsletter - May 2, 2011 - Vol. 44 - No. 17 (download PDF version)

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WPP today reported first quarter revenue rose 7 percent to £2.2B ($3.7B) continuing a recovery started in 2010.

PR and public affairs at units like Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, Cohn & Wolfe, Ogilvy PR Worldwide and Public Strategies rose 5.5 percent on a like-for-like basis to £207.9M ($333.3M) during the quarter.

Martin Sorrell

WPP singled out PR business in Asia-Pacific, Western Europe and Mideast as performing well, with Ogilvy and C&W, along with its Buchanan U.K. unit and Hering Schupener in Germany, also getting a nod.

CEO Martin Sorrell said profits and margin are ahead of budget and “well ahead” of last year. He plans to lay out £200M in acquisitions this year.

“The pattern of revenue growth in 2011 has started similarly to the second half of 2010, with improvements across all sectors and geographies,” he said.

WPP is based in Ireland but is planning to move back to the U.K. as corporate tax rates are slated to be cut, Sorrell said.

Advertising (+9.3%) and WPP’s branding and identity, healthcare and specialist communications category (+6.9%) were the top gaining categories in Q1.

U.S. growth at 7% to £807.9M continued a strong performance akin to an “emerging market,” said Sorrell. The U.S. outpaced Western Europe (+1.9%) and the

U.K. (+5.4%), but was behind emerging markets like Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Africa, Mideast and Central/Eastern Europe (+11.5%).

Argentina and India surpassed 20% growth for the quarter, followed by Brazil, China, Korea and Russia (from 15-20%).

Looking ahead, Sorrel cited forecasts of stronger growth in Asia Pacific and Latin America “counter-balanced by lower growth in the U.S.”

Sorrell said new business in Q1 was “reasonably strong” at $1.3B, not as good as Q1 of 2010 but in line with the quarterly average for last year.


Burson-Marsteller has named Global Strategy Group senior VP Michael Bassik managing director and digital practice chair. He reports to Pat Ford, U.S. CEO.

Michael Bassik

At GSG, Bassik ran online marketing, reputation management and media relations for a diverse set of clients such as Google, IBM, Al Jazeera English, Dan Malloy’s successful run for governor of Connecticut, O, The Oprah Magazine and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

He played key roles in Democratic Presidential politics, handling digital programs for John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Bassik also served as chief digital officer for Air America Media and established America Online’s political advertising unit.


National Strategies has an open-ended $35K a month deal to back the Committee Supporting Democracy and Justice in Pakistan.

Pakistan flag
Pakistan flag

Paul Johnson, former vice chairman at Fleishman-Hillard, is among those working the business. He is CEO of K-Global, a sister company of NSI. Both are owned by Washington-headquartered Interpoint Group.

Though a formal agreement between NSI and the New York City-based Committee has yet to be ironed out, the mission of NS is to educate the media, political leaders and the public about the importance of backing democratic institutions in Pakistan. A key goal, according to the federal filing of NS, is to support the “Pakistani people’s chosen leaders whomever they may be, against misinformation, misrepresentation and unfounded attempts to undermine their authority.”

U.S./Pakistan relations are at an all-time low. Pakistan is demanding that the CIA curb its armed drone strikes against suspected terrorist groups and wants the

U.S. to cut the number of Special Operations forces operating within its borders.

The New York Times reported April 29 that President Obama’s selection of Gen. David Petraeus to head the CIA does not sit well with the Islamabad Government. The chief of Pakistan’s army has dismissed Petraeus as a “political general”

Johnson could not be reached for comment about the committee’s reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.


Tita Freeman, VP of communications and strategy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has moved to the National Retail Federation to build up its public affairs function.

Tita Freeman

Freeman will take the title of senior VP for communications and public affairs at the NRF, the top trade group for retailers which has created a new strategic plan geared toward advocacy, communications and grassroots engagement.

Freeman is charged with growing and enhancing the federation’s growing PA operation.

In a statement, NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said Freeman is “uniquely qualified” to advance the retail industry's agenda “and to bring NRF's public affairs to the next level.”

Freeman headed comms. strategy, media, advertising, marketing and online efforts for the Chamber, which she joined in 2008 from Google’s Washington, D.C., outpost. Previous stints included the Business Roundtable and APCO Worldwide.

The Chamber, which has been conducting a search for a PR agency and recently bolstered its digital capabilities, has not yet named a replacement for Freeman.

The NRF notes retailers include 1.6M companies and 25M workers who post sales of $2.4T/year.

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