WPP won some respite today, with results and forecasts that were not as bad as feared lifting its shares after a year of turmoil at the world's biggest advertising firm. 

Rival Publicis alarmed investors with a weak showing last month and WPP said its underlying net sales would fall by as much as 2% in 2019 after dropping 0.4% in 2018.  

However, traders said that was to be welcomed after a 12 month period in which the British group lost its founder and boss Martin Sorrell, 40% of its market value and several of its biggest clients.  

Shares in the group rose 7.5% in early trading, more than recouping the losses it suffered when Publicis spooked the market on February 7. 

"It's early days in what we need to do but I would say the initial signs are promising," chief executive and company veteran Mark Read told Reuters. 

WPP, the owner of agencies including JWT, Finsbury and Ogilvy, is in the middle of a three-year overhaul launched by Read following several profit warnings in 2017 and 2018. 

Clients have complained that WPP, in 112 countries, is too complex due to its holding company structure where multiple networks, agencies and businesses all compete with each other to win work.

This means that clients often deal with hundreds of people across the group to get one service. 

Investing to hire new creative staff while merging agencies and cutting jobs and costs, it had already flagged that 2019 would be a difficult year.

Read said that the group would see particularly strong headwinds in the first half of 2019, with the whole year expected to be down between 1.5-2%. 

Under his plan he hopes to bring WPP back in line with peers by the end of 2021. 

While Publicis has struggled, posting a sharp drop off in trading in the fourth quarter, US rivals Omnicom and IPG have performed strongly. 

WPP is facing its toughest challenge in the US, where net sales fell by 4.2% in 2018. 

The changing dynamics of the global advertising market, which has been shaken up by the presence of Facebook and Google, and consultants such as Deloitte, has also affected the way clients want to work with their advertising agencies.  

Read said the group had seen some early success after offering clients a more joined up offering, including a contract to handle Volkswagen's creative work in North America.