Ad Giant WPP Ceasing Operations in Russia

The London-based firm said its ongoing presence in Russia “would be inconsistent with our values as a company.”

WPP—which owns Ogilvy, Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R, as well as media-buying business GroupM—said it employs nearly 1,400 people in Russia. Russia accounted for 0.6% of its global net sales last year, the company said.

“The world has watched the invasion of Ukraine with growing horror and disbelief,”

Mark Read,

the company’s chief executive, wrote in a memo to employees on Friday. “WPP stands with Ukraine and the international community in condemning this unjustifiable aggression, which has created a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe.”

WPP is the latest in a series of companies pausing or ending operations in Russia amid sanctions against the country and a desire by some to protest the invasion of Ukraine. Among the group are

Apple Inc.,

Ford Motor Co.


Dell Technologies Inc.,


PLC and McKinsey & Co.

Another advertising holding company,

Interpublic Group

of Cos. Inc., said on Friday that it was considering its next steps in Russia.

“As you would expect, our Russia operations are abiding with all sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the broader international community,” a spokesman said. “Our agencies in Russia involve approximately 200 employees, and we are assessing the most appropriate course of action that is both responsive to the gravity of the situation and also seeks to take into account the welfare of our colleagues.”


International, another ad company, said it was reviewing relationships with Russian companies to ensure it is fully compliant with international sanctions.

“In regards to global businesses closing their Russian operations, we are closely reviewing this situation to better guide our clients and also make informed decisions for our business and communities as a whole,”

Giulio Malegori,

Dentsu’s chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in an emailed statement.

Mr. Read said last week on WPP’s earnings call that he was looking at the situation in Ukraine “with great concern,” adding that Russia’s attack on the neighboring country could have a broader macroeconomic impact.

On the call, Mr. Read said WPP has about 200 staffers in Ukraine and the company is providing them with financial and other assistance.

In Friday’s memo, he said the company is determining how to wind down its business in Russia.

“We will work with our people, clients and partners to consider all options including transfer of ownership and divestment, and we will provide additional and enhanced financial support to anyone who loses their employment as a result of this decision,” Mr. Read said. “Local agency leaders are discussing next steps with their teams directly.”

WPP said it was working with the U.N. refugee agency to run an emergency fundraising appeal “to help people forced to flee their homes in search of safety in other parts of Ukraine or neighboring countries,” and is also matching donations made by WPP employees.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, the U.S. and allied countries have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday dives into how these sanctions are affecting everyone from President Vladimir Putin to everyday Russian citizens. Photo: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Write to Megan Graham at [email protected]

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