GLOBAL – WPP has released its preliminary results for 2017, which chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell has described as “not a pretty year” for the advertising agency network.

martin sorrell

WPP’s reported billings for 2017 were £55.5bn, down 3.9% in constant currency and 5.4% in like-for-like compared to 2016’s figures.

The company recorded a 0.3% drop in annual revenue while net sales fell by 0.9%.

Sorrell (pictured) said: “2017 for us was not a pretty year, with flat like-for-like, top-line growth, and operating margins and operating profits also flat, or up marginally.”

He played down the influence of the Google and Facebook duopoly and increased competition from management consultancies in the marketing sector, instead attributing the company’s lacklustre performance to the impact of “technological disruption” and “the short-term focus of zero-based budgeters, activist investors and private equity”.

2017 was a year of consolidation and reorganisation for WPP, including the merger of MEC and Maxus to form Wavemaker and the launch of Superunion, which combined five of its existing design agencies.

Sorrell said the company would place more emphasis on further simplifying its structure and operations to allow for “greater flexibility, efficiency and speed”.

Additionally, WPP is focusing on improving client co-ordination across the company, issuing more authority to global client teams and country managers, and developing its capabilities in digital marketing, digital production, e-commerce and shopper marketing, he added.