Ad Giant WPP Going Global

U.K.-based WPP Group, the world's second largest advertising and marketing company. reported its earnings Friday.

WPP revealed that so far, it hasn't been hit by the global economic slowdown.

European and U.S. companies are pulling back on their ad spending, but WPP has been growing enough in emerging markets to offset that falloff. (In emerging markets, including China and Brazil, revenues excluding acquisitions grew 10.7 percent while those in the U.S. rose only 2.1 percent.)

In the first half of 2008, WPP posted a 14.5 percent increase in net profits from the year-earlier period, and announced it's raising its interim shareholder dividend by 20 percent -- to 10 cents a share.

Reacting to the fact that WPP is heavily focused on the U.S. and U.K. economies that have been suffering, WPP Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell is now increasingly looking overseas. This year alone, the company has invested in several Chinese companies, helping it profit from the Olympic ad boom.

The firm also bought stakes of other companies in India, Vietnam, Russia, Kenya, and the Czech Republic. It's also hoping to acquire market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres, making a hostile bid in July, hoping to merge it with its own research division.

The question is now what becomes of the company in 2009, after the Olympics and in a non-election year. The company is still holding to its forecast of 16 percent profit growth for 2009, but it did warn that, due to the economic slowdown, business results are "less certain."

By 2010 things should get better, with the World Cup in South Africa and the World Expo in Shanghai, and by then the global economy should be back on track.

The stock traded slightly up today.

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