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WPP returns to growth

WPP has returned to growth in its first quarter, the company announced this morning, beating analyst expectations with a rise in organic revenue of 1.3%. Like-for-like revenue rose in four out of its top five markets, up 3.9% in the U.K., 0.7% in the U.S., 2.5% in Germany and 18.4% in Greater China, only declining 0.5% in India. The holding company was boosted by $1.3 billion in net new business, including Absolut’s global creative and JP Morgan Chase global media. VMLY&R was the best performing integrated agency with organic sales growth of 2.8%.

WPP Chief Executive Officer Mark Read described it as “a strong start to the year with a return to growth in all business lines and most major markets,” although he added that there was “uncertainty over the pace of recovery”  as vaccines roll out. Read also cited this week’s launch of data company Choreograph as adding “a further dimension to the WPP proposition.”

The upbeat statement is another encouraging sign for the industry following Publicis Groupe’s return to organic growth in the first quarter, and comes ahead of results due later today from Interpublic Group of Cos. Omnicom, meanwhile, reported a decline of 1.8% in organic revenue last week but said it was optimistic about the future.

Kantar CEO departs

As WPP reveals its good news, meanwhile another ex-WPP business is having more of a bumpy ride. Former Heineken Chief Marketing Officer Alexis Nasard is stepping down as CEO of Kantar after only four months in the job, the company confirmed yesterday, saying the “board has concluded that the nature of the Kantar role is not the long-term fit he and the board had anticipated.” An initial report by Sky News cited unnamed Kantar sources as saying that Nasard's consumer marketing background was at odds with the culture of the data-driven research company.

Kantar hired Nasard  last October after private equity firm Bain Capital bought a controlling interest in Kantar from WPP in late 2019. News of his exit comes only a week after Kantar announced a $1.5 billion deal to acquire Numerator, which tracks online and offline product sales, but Ad Age’s Jack Neff writes that his departure doesn’t appear to imperil the acquisition.

Logo lookalikes

Not everything is sunny in the world of logos, as Walmart fights a trademark filing for a logo that Kanye West’s Yeezy made a year ago. The retail giant is saying Yeezy’s dotted-line sunburst logo might create confusion with its own 13-year-old spark logo.

Ad Age’s Jack Neff reports that Walmart, which filed a notice of opposition on April 21, has reached out to West over the lookalike logo but hasn’t heard back. Meanwhile, agency 72andSunny, which has its own dotted-line sunburst logo not unlike Yeezy’s, put out a press release saying—apparently in jest—that Walmart and Yeezy have appointed the shop as their joint “logo partner.”

Here come the data middlemen

Despite increasing concerns over privacy, the trade in consumer data is thriving, and now, writes Ad Age’s Garett Sloane, middlemen are emerging to funnel data from the likes of Facebook and Google and offer it to brands. Sloane reports that a new company called DataLucent “developed a new type of data brokerage that incentivizes internet users to download their personal information from platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn and share it with brands.”

Although DataLucent's solution may sound “like a privacy fiasco waiting to happen,” its executives say they are just empowering consumers to take control of their own data to generate value from it, instead of giving it away to Facebook.

Just briefly

Female leaders: Do you know a female executive who is empowering her team, driving change, advocating for diversity and inclusion, and galvanizing the business? Nominate her for Ad Age's annual Leading Women program (formerly known as Women to Watch) at adage.com/LeadingWomenUS. Entries are due by May 6.

Search power: Google’s parent Alphabet reported quarterly sales that topped Wall Street estimates, with first-quarter revenue at $45.6 billion. Bloomberg News reports that sales were powered by an increase in digital ad spending by businesses looking to expand during the pandemic reopening.

Bad trip: California marketing startup Iterable, whose clients include DoorDash and Zillow, has dismissed its CEO Justin Zhu for taking LSD before a meeting in 2019. Zhu told Bloomberg News he was experimenting by microdosing.

Confusing times: Emerging from a pandemic is confusing, so all the more reason to try an Impossible Whopper, says Burger King in a new TV spot directed by Juan Cabral. Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl writes that the ad, an evolution of an earlier radio campaign by David Madrid, includes a woman who “wants to go to the office, but she also needs to work in pajamas" as well as a man who can't cope with a real-life conversation because he can't mute or turn off his camera. Perhaps we can all relate.

That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call, thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter:@adage. From CMO Strategy to the Ad Age Datacenter Weekly, we’ve got newsletters galore. See them all here. 

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