IPG Defies Crunch, Lifts Q2 Revenues 11%

01 August 2008

NEW YORK: The received wisdom used to be that the ad biz trailblazed the global economy, both on its southbound curve and again on the way up.

But judged by the results recently posted by three of the Big Five marketing services conglomerates, that trend has gone into reverse.

Interpublic Group is no exception. Defying the slowdown, its Q2 revenue was up 11%, thanks to higher spending by clients in Asia and the UK.

Despite which the company experienced a 31% year-on-year fall in net income to $95.1 million (€61.12m; £48.0m). But this wasn't due to any downturn in trading. Quite the reverse.

In reality IPG did much better than its numbers suggest, the downturn being wholly attributable to an exceptional benefit in the year-ago period – an $80 million tax benefit.

Interpublic's US revenue rose 3.5% reflecting upticks both in new and existing business. While international revenue soared 21%, thanks in part to the weakness of the US dollar but mainly from higher worldwide billings.

As to future expectations, IPG expects to hit its full-year margin target of 8.5% to 9% but stressed it is managing costs aggressively in case adspend shrivels in H2.

Bernstein Research analyst Michael Nathanson covered his butt: "Given our expectation for slower organic revenue growth in the coming quarters and into 2009," he wrote, "we are concerned that IPG will have difficulty driving margins outside of the benefits from lower professional fees and severance charges."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff