And finally...

For well over a year now, long before the word recession was officially permitted to re-enter the global economic vocabulary, WPP companies, both singly and in collaboration, have been priming themselves to apply their skills and experience to their clients’ new needs.

There are well over 150 papers published by WPP people and others on the impact of recessions on marketing. Both the parent company itself and its operating companies have filleted these papers – and indeed have added to them. There are no magic solutions and no great surprises. In essence, the way for marketing companies to survive recessions, and even to emerge stronger from them, is to do what the best of marketing has always done: be obsessed by the ultimate individual user. Not markets, not consumers, not target groups, not plural anything: the individual.

If there is a characteristic that straddles all our companies, it is a fascination with the human mind and how it responds to different stimuli. We have stressed before in this letter the crucial importance of insight: some new understanding that in turn reveals an opportunity.

It will be the driving purpose of our own talented individuals, in all our operating companies of every discipline, to help our clients identify those opportunities – the opportunities that all recessions, when looked at in retrospect, invariably open up – and seize upon them: individual by individual, one by one.

These are the people whose talents were sought and valued by our clients in 2008 and to whom our success is due. We thank them for their skills and their resourcefulness. They will be even more valued, by both their clients and by the Board of WPP, in the months to come.

Philip Lader

Sir Martin Sorrell
Group chief executive

Paul Richardson
Group finance director

This letter to share owners should be read in conjunction with and as part of the management report set out in the section headed Directors’ report.