WPP is a large public relations (PR) and advertising conglomerate that describes itself as “the world’s largest communications services group, employing 200,000 people working in 3,000 offices in 113 countries”.
WPP was founded in the 1980s and has acquired many powerful PR firms. In 2018 it was the parent company of more than 400 companies.
On its website, WPP states:
“Marketing is a powerful tool- with the ability to influence attitudes and behaviour. So it is important that our companies apply high ethical standards in all their work and particularly when marketing sensitive products such as alcohol or tobacco, or when creating advertising directed at children”.
WPP Companies That Worked for Tobacco
WPP is the parent company of several companies with longstanding links to the tobacco industry, including:
PR company that worked with the tobacco industry for many years. Examples:
- In the 1990s, the company was responsible for setting up several fake grassroot organisations (an activity called Astroturfing) to lobby on the tobacco industry’s behalf including the National Smokers Alliance. For more information, see: Fake Grassroots in the 1990s.
- The company also tried to cast doubt in the media about the science around second hand smoke. More information on: Commissioning Content.
- It supported Philip Morris in its reporting on corporate social responsibility activities. See: Global Reporting Intitiative.
In 2010, Burson-Marsteller publicly stated it had ceased to work for tobacco companies.
Hill & Knowlton
See: Hill & Knowlton
Ogilvy and Mather
See: Ogilvy Group
WPP Company With Indirect Link To Tobacco
Former WPP Chairman Tobacco Executive
- Fake Grassroots in the 1990s
- Commissioning Content
- Global Reporting Intitiative
- Ogilvy Group
- Hill & Knowlton
- Philip Morris International
- Foundation for a Smoke-Free World
- WPP, Who we are, WPP website, undated, accessed May 2018
- WPP, Marketing standards, WPP website, undated accessed May 2018
- WPP, What we do, WPP website, undated, accessed May 2018
- Burson-Marsteller, Our purpose and values, 2018, accessed May 2018
- M. Wroe, Advertisers split on promotion of tobacco products (corrected), The Independent, 26 January 1993, accessed May 2018
- WPP, Landor-Cape Town, WPP website, undated, accessed May 2018
- P. Patton, Corporate Logo, Or Smoke Screen?, 10 July 2003, accessed May 2018
- D. Tovar, Reuters feature article. Feature: Even pros struggle with corporate re-naming games, 28 November 2001, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2085240199-2085240201, accessed May 2018
- Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, New Global Survey Points to key issues, needs and gaps in fight to end smoking, 19 March 2018, accessed May 2018
- Unknown, Resolutions Honoring Hamish Maxwell, April 1995, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2073921447, accessed May 2018
- WPP, WPP AGM trading statement, 25 June 2001, accessed May 2018