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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”.1


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”.2

WPP Companies That Worked for Tobacco

WPP is the parent company of several companies with longstanding links to the tobacco industry, including:3

Burson Cohn & Wolfe

PR company established in 2018 by a merger of two WPP PR agencies; Burson-Masteller (see below) and Cohn & Wolfe.

Burson Cohn & Wolfe’s work for industry includes:

  • Working with Imperial Brands since 2020.
  • Helping to facilitate a loan from a Philip Morris International to the Australian Retailers Association to lobby for the legalisation of heated tobacco and e-cigarettes in Australia.

See Burson Cohn & Wolfe page for more details.


PR company that worked with the tobacco industry for many years. Examples:

In 2010, Burson-Marsteller publicly stated it had ceased to work for tobacco companies.4

Hill & Knowlton

See: Hill & Knowlton


Advertising firm J. Walter Thompson has worked with many tobacco clients over the years including Gallaher, now Japan Tobacco International (JTI).5


WPPs’ research and data collection arm Kantar has worked for tobacco companies like JTI and British American Tobacco. For more information, go to Kantar.


A branding and design consultancy which in 2018 worked for Philip Morris in Africa 6 and helped Philip Morris Cos. rebrand to Altria in 2003.78

Ogilvy and Mather

See: Ogilvy Group

WPP Company With Indirect Link To Tobacco

Kantar Public, another WPP company, undertook a 2018 ‘State of Smoking’ survey on behalf of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World which is fully funded by Philip Morris International.9

Former WPP Chairman Tobacco Executive

Hamish Maxwell, WPP chairman between 1996 and 2001, worked for Philip Morris for 41 years. He served as chairman and CEO of Philip Morris between 1984-1991.1011

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Link

WPP website

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  1. WPP, Who we are, WPP website, undated, accessed May 2018
  2. WPP, Marketing standards, WPP website, undated accessed May 2018
  3. WPP, What we do, WPP website, undated, accessed May 2018
  4. Burson-Marsteller, Our purpose and values, 2018, accessed May 2018
  5. M. Wroe, Advertisers split on promotion of tobacco products (corrected), The Independent, 26 January 1993, accessed May 2018
  6. WPP, Landor-Cape Town, WPP website, undated, accessed May 2018
  7. P. Patton, Corporate Logo, Or Smoke Screen?, 10 July 2003, accessed May 2018
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Unknown, Resolutions Honoring Hamish Maxwell, April 1995, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2073921447, accessed May 2018
  11. WPP, WPP AGM trading statement, 25 June 2001, accessed May 2018