Awards 2005: business annual report – WPP

A fresh approach to its annual report paid dividends for WPP. Last year’s
runner-up of our annual report and accounts award is this year’s winner.

Although the report uses graphics to make its pages more interesting, it does
not skimp on the details. It starts with a highly compressed six-page version
before covering reports from WPP’s divisions in greater detail.

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‘WPP says it regards the annual report as its most important communication
document, and it shows. The market background is great and it will satisfy both
lay people and professionals,’ said our judges.

The report makes great efforts to be accessible; its approach is summed up by
informal section headings such as ‘Why we exist’ and ‘How we’re doing,’ which
make it easy to navigate, especially for those with little experience of reading
company reports.

It helps that there is good news to report. WPP saw its revenue rise by 5% in
2004, and profit after tax increase by more than 30% to £457m.

As one of the world’s largest communication services groups, WPP has clearly
applied its presentation skills to the accounts. Revenue from different sectors
and locations is shown in charts and graphs that illustrate the company’s
success story.
The report also features WPP’s mission statement, as well as breaking down

the company’s operations by brand and giving each brand manager the chance to
explain his or her strategy. It emphasises that each of these companies has its
own clear identity and specialist skills.

In sections where graphics could distract, the design is clean and easy to
The financial statements and information on share ownership are presented
without unnecessary visual details.

Our judges said: ‘It’s a consistently good report. It’s challenging to get
the design to support the message, but it works with WPP. It’s full of
interesting stuff, good on analysis.’

While the visuals are attractive, the content also delivers. The report
identifies the prospects for WPP’s CEO Martin Sorrell and sets out the reasons
why he believes the outlook for the communication services industry is

Last year marked the full recovery of the sector from the internet bust, and,
if Sorrell is correct, it will be followed by three years of even better growth.
The company has high hopes for sales in Asia in the run-up to the Beijing
Olympics, and even Western Europe is likely to pick up, thanks to the 2006 World
Cup in Germany.

The centrepiece of the report is an essay by Jeremy Bullmore, a member of the

WPP advisory board, on the dynamic expression of ideas.

The article stresses that impressive-looking slogans and new techniques are
useless if they do not prompt change. Too many supposed insights, it claims, use
complicated language but offer nothing enlightening.

Bullmore poses the question: ‘Why is a good insight like a refrigerator?’ The
answer he gives is: ‘Because the moment you look into it, a light comes on.’ The
same might be said of WPP’s annual report. The attention-grabbing visuals serve
a purpose. Rather than obscuring the content, the visuals illuminate it.

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