IPG reports fourth-quarter revenue decline of 6.1%
Interpublic Group of Cos. today issued its first earnings report under new CEO Philippe Krakowsky, which showed fourth-quarter revenue fell 6.1% from 2019. Organic revenue declined 5.4%. The U.S. saw a 1.8% dip in organic net revenue, with a much steeper 10.5% falloff in international markets. For the full year, net revenue dropped 6.5% while organic net revenue decreased 4.8%.
Krakowsky attributed the revenue decline to the pandemic, but said “under challenging conditions, we reported a solid fourth quarter, especially in the U.S.,” adding that IPG’s full-year performance “should place us at the top of our sector.”
He added that “we fully expect to return to positive organic growth over the course of the year” and “to post full-year 2021 growth consistent with the industry, on top of IPG’s 2020 outperformance relative to our peer group.”
Hardest hit at IPG was its events business, which Krakowsky said “continued to bear the brunt of the health situation.” Bright spots were e-commerce, connected commerce, media planning and investment, health care and retail. IPG said it also expects expense reductions due to “a hybrid workplace environment, with a reduced need for real estate and an increased role for work from home in the delivery of our services.” The company said its headcount was reduced by 7.6% to 50,200 employees by the close of the quarter.
Addressing the 5.4% organic drop in net revenue, Krakowsky said “our Q4 2019 result was organic growth of 2.9%, which included significant headwinds from certain client losses, so for context, it’s worth noting that our continuing book of business from last year’s fourth quarter—which we were essentially lapping in Q4 2020—was a 5.6% growth number.”
For the fourth quarter, net revenue was $2.28 billion versus $2.43 billion for the comparable period the prior year. Net revenue for the 2020 full year was $8.06 billion, down from $8.63 billion in 2019.
In a call with investors, Krakowsky credited Matterkind, described as “an innovative offering that optimizes client media investment, holistically and in real time, across all addressable media channels,” for aiding a number of new account wins and client retentions it didn’t name in the second half. He also cited a “sizeable health care win with an existing client” that wasn’t named. Among other wins he called out were Mediahub’s win of the National Basketball Association business; Initiative’s win of T-Mobile; and R/GA adding Beam Suntory and Uber.
IPG’s I-A-N segment, which includes its creative shops, media, data, tech and digital specialists, declined 3.3% in organic growth. Its marketing services segment, called DXTRA, slid 15.1% in the quarter, due to the falloff of events and sports marketing.
In the investor call, Krakowsky also cited the effect of the ongoing client “project squeeze” and noted that trying to increase “share of wallet” among existing clients is a “smarter path to growth than to be reliant on reviews.”