Fifteen of the 25 largest PR firms taking part in the O’Dwyer rankings posted double-digit gains in 2012 led by Edelman which grew 12.4% to $655 million or nearly four times the size of the next ranked firm, the strategic communications practice of publicly-held FTI Consulting.
FTI Consulting, a newcomer to the rankings, had $168M in fees and 686 employees in 2012. It provides consulting services related to financial and communications, public affairs, creative engagement and strategy consulting and research.
Among the more than dozen firms joining the list is Max Borges Agency of Miami, specializing in technology and having revenues of $6,910,743, a gain of 36%, and a staff of 36.
Founded in 2002, it has more than 80 clients in consumer electronics and business technology. It has experienced double-digit growth since its founding, winning a place on Inc. magazine’s 2009-2012 list of fastest growing private companies.
Richard Edelman, president and CEO, said the majority of the firm’s practices had “significant growth” but that the “biggest increases” were in digital.
Said Edelman: “This is being driven by the inclusion of digital components into the majority of the work we do for clients. We’re seeing a changed competitive landscape where clients are turning to PR, digital and media buying shops for big ideas, and no longer just the creative agencies.
"We are accepting that challenge and structuring ourselves accordingly, with the hiring of Michael Berland and launching of our new research unit, Edelman Berland, naming Jackie Cooper Global Chair, Creative Strategy and appointing Steve Rubel our Chief Content Strategist.”
W2O’s Weiss Says Talent Drives Growth
Jim Weiss, chairman and CEO, W2O Group, said the firm’s 30% growth was driven by its continuing policy of “hiring and developing the best and brightest talent in the business, adding experts in all areas of digital/online/social and mobile communications.”
Said Weiss, in explaining the firm’s name change from WCG: “We established W2O Group as a means to broaden our footprint and commercialize new businesses and foster entrepreneurial ideas and risk-taking . . . with a net. We formed Twist Marketing to add a new dimension to client marketing and formed W2O Digital to enhance a core competency and eventually reinvent the whole space. We also invested in new technologies and platforms to envision, optimize and measure content and deliver visual storytelling in new and fresh ways.
Weiss said W20 developed the next generation of analytics providing clients in diverse industries with game-changing insights to better understand and grow their businesses. "Beyond our foundational business in healthcare, we introduced new capabilities in corporate and strategy and expanded our technology and consumer practices. We gained more than 20 new clients representing major global brands and business sectors we never had access to," he said.
W20 also continued to broaden its global footprint by further enhancing the agency's London and EU presence and strengthening, deepening and expanding its network in other key countries and markets around the world.
It also formed a partnership with Syracuse University’s Newhouse School called the Center for Social Commerce imparting industry-leading skills and acumen to students, professors, staff and clients. Weiss said W20 also initiated a formal client Satisfaction effort to gain specific insights from clients on its work, thinking and partnership.
“It’s going to get even more interesting in 2013 with more game-changing hires, partnerships, alliances, acquisitions and accomplishments," he said. “As we enter our 12th year in business, we expect the same or similar diversified revenue growth this year as we have every other year in our history. To foster, support and sustain healthy growth into the future, we are also making infrastructure investments and improvements from formalizing our learning and development process under W2O University; to establishing career progression and performance appraisal programs; to strengthening everyone’s skills to perpetuate individual and firm growth; and enhancing HR and finance systems and processes designed to make doing what we do every day easier and more streamlined to benefit our people and our clients.”
Big Wins Fueled MWW’s Growth
Michael Kempner, president and CEO of MWW Group, said the firm’s 11% growth was driven by major client wins including Atkins Nutritionals, Verizon, Booking.com, and Virgin America.
The West Coast team won a number of consumer and technology accounts including Kendall-Jackson, Sanuk, Danhov, Twist, Blurb and Nimbuzz.
Also helping growth was the acquisition of two firms, Enso Communications, Los Angeles, and Capital Public Affairs, Trenton, one of New Jersey’s leading PA and government relations firms. Partner and president Steven Some joined as SVP and GM of the Trenton office along with core members of CPA's leadership team including Stephen Reid and Tom Cosentino. MWW absorbed CPA's clients including Atlantic Wind Connection, BEST Transportation, Corizon Health, LS Power Development, Rite Aid, Stop & Shop and Langan Engineers, among many others.
The New York office doubled in size, adding 18,000 square feet, and the San Francisco office moved into new space reflective of the Silicon Valley tech culture in the Financial District.
MWW launched a new corporate identity, including a new logo and tagline - "Matter More" - that reflects the agency's independence and commitment to building and accelerating relevance for clients. The rebrand included signage rights atop longtime headquarters in New Jersey as well as a new logo, tagline, and a revamped website and digital presence.
“The rebrand was an important step in redefining the agency's image and establishing MWW's Matter More philosophy,” said Kempner.
The firm launched NetRelevance, a proprietary measurement and analytics tool that helps brands anticipate actions and guide outcomes. The platform, in use by a number of clients, is distinct from existing measurement tools in its ability to provide more than just measurement of message volume after a program is complete, said Kempner. It was developed by MWW's communications leaders and Ph.D's on an "active analytics" platform that provides insights into relevance and propensity for future actions, not just the traditional approach that uses historical data to measure messaging via ad equivalency or other standard metrics, he said.
Over the past year, MWW won more than 100 industry awards including International Business Awards "PR Agency of the Year", American Business Awards "PR Agency of the Year", Bulldog Stars "Digital Agency of the Year", PR News "Top Place to Work in PR," and Best in Biz "PR Campaign of the Year".
Kempner says the firm will continue to focus on growth of its core practice and will invest in new program offerings, talent acquisition and retention, and new business development including expanding existing client relationships.
Areas of focus include: corporate communications and consumer marketing, research and analytics, consumer technology and digital content, and digital marketing/social media.
Finn Partners Grew 36% to $32M
Peter Finn, founding partner of Finn Partners, said that although the firm only launched late in 2011, “It has already gained the momentum, talent and forward-looking planning that will ensure exponential success in 2013 and beyond.”
Its 36% growth rate to $32 million was helped by the acquisition of tourism marketing specialist M. Silver and Assocs., New York and Ft. Lauderdale, and Healy & Schulte, Chicago. Prior to its launch, Finn Partners had acquired the Rogers Group, Los Angeles.
Finn said the firm’s strategy is to build its U.S. foundation, focusing on key practice areas and geographies, and then putting emphasis on building each core competency through collaboration. The firm will continue to look for strategic acquisition opportunities in 2013, making non-organic growth a strategic pillar of its future.
Finn Partners also expanded globally in 2012 – adding its second international office – by hiring former WagEd technology leader Chantal Bowman-Boyles to open and run its London office. The London office is the agency’s gateway to Europe and is already working with several of the firm’s U.S. based clients by effectively expanding scope to include global work, said Finn.
In the U.S., Finn Partners is advancing its position in the ranking of independent firms, and is keeping steadfast to its commitment of being a Best Place to Work in the industry.
Employee benefits have been expanded to include a personal wellness subsidy for every employee. This includes free fruit and healthy snacks in the office for the staff; updating its 401K plan; absorbing all cost increases for healthcare benefits; introducing a remote work policy; and growing its bonus pool by more than 50% percent. This is in addition to fostering optimal work/life balance though extra time off for staff during the summer and December holidays.
Finn points to the firm’s prestigious and expanding client list as proof of its commitment to excellence. The top 15 clients account for approximately 30% of the firm’s revenue and include Hyundai, Vonage, Rosetta Stone, Jamaica Tourist Board, Logitech, IEEE, Pinnacle Vodka, the Embassy of Korea and Blue Cross Blue Shield. New business wins since the start of 2012 include the launch of Google’s Lunar X Prize, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Hotels, the Verizon Foundation, Exact Target, Fifth Third Bank, Fujitsu America, FTD and the American Association of Orthodontists.
Finn says the agency will continue to grow faster than competitors through a combination of organic and non-organic growth. “We will also stay focused on hiring, training, retaining and rewarding the industry’s best talent,” said Finn. That policy, he said, will deepen client partnerships and evolve the agency’s portfolio of services. He says the firm has “a unique collaborative culture” and notes it was named a best new agency in 2012 by an industry trade publication.
Account Wins Boosted Allison
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Scott Allison, chairman and CEO, and Andy Hardie-Brown, co-founder and COO, Allison+Partners, said about 80% of the firm’s 29% growth to $25 million came from new business wins.
Every office had growth with record gains in San Francisco, New York, Phoenix, Washington D.C. and San Diego, they said.
The consumer, technology and corporate practice groups had major wins including Pioneer, ASICS, Toyota, Microsoft, Omnifone and General Mills, among others.
Zeno Spurted 49% to $20.7M
Barby Siegel, CEO of Zeno, sister company of Edelman which spurted 49% to $20.7 million, said growth was fueled by a range of new business wins and organic growth of both cornerstone and legacy clients.
"We saw significant expansion of top-ten clients ranging from 40-60%," she said. "In addition, the opening of Zeno Redwood Shores in Silicon Valley enabled us to re-start our technology practice, which contributed to the firm’s overall performance as did our growing consumer marketing and healthcare practices.”
Gibbs & Soell Broadened Strategy
Luke Lambert, president and CEO, Gibbs & Soell, said, “Last year was the primary launch year in our transition from a business model focused on public relations services to one encompassing a broader business communications strategy."
"The transition included a rebranding of the agency, along with an expansion of our service offering, strategic hires to strengthen key aspects of the business, and the addition of new practices," he said.
Lambert said the 34% increase in revenues to a record $19.7 million was evenly divided between organic growth and new clients.
"We feel business communications, which aligns business and communications strategies to drive results for our clients, is a unique approach in our industry," he said.
French | West | Vaughan Added Accounts
French | West | Vaughan, Raleigh, grew 29% to $17.1M, its second best year ever in its 15-year history. This followed a year when billings were flat.
About 60% of the gain was from an “impressive slate of new business wins,” said chairman and CEO Rick French. These included Arena, a global performance swimwear brand that gained prominence at the London Olympic games; Skins athletic apparel; SaS, the world’s largest privately-held software and data analytics firm; the Southwest Athletic Conference, North Carolina State University; TigerSwan, a global security and contract defense company, and Strata Solar.
Longtime agency clients that increased their PR/marketing spend included Wrangler, the world’s largest-selling denim brand; Swiss energy giant ABB; New Delhi-based Gemesis Diamond Company, Italian coffee and filter maker Melitta; and Hood River Distillery, makers and distributors of a large portfolio of spirits brands.
FWV was ahead of most PR firms in adding creative, media buying and digital media via its 2003 acquisition of leading regional ad shop West & Vaughan, said French. He said the firm’s digital and social media practice grew 46% last year and this trend continues in 2013 as the agency adds additional SEO, PPC and digital media planning specialists.
Atomic Boosted Staff to 117
Atomic, a Grayling agency, boosted staff to 117 from 92 in growing 13% in revenues to $17M.
Andy Getsey, co-founder and CEO, said the firm made important new hires including Chris Knight, previously at Cohn & Wolfe, and Scott Samson of MWW Group, who became VPs in the San Francisco office.
Joining as senior digital strategists were Chris Brown of Grey Digital, New York, and Shane Jordan of Draft FCB, San Francisco.
Martha Shaughnessy, a seven-year Atomic veteran, was promoted to SVP/managing director in San Francisco. Michaela Gross joined as MD in Munich. She was MD at Harvard PR, Munich.
“We’re working more closely with Grayling which has 70 offices in 40 countries,” said Getsey, noting that Grayling recently added Pete Pedersen of Edelman as global CEO.
The enlarged Atomic is now “attracting a broader range of brands and a broader span of client size,” he said.
“With the additional scale and resources Grayling brings us, we’re enthusiastic about what the future holds,” he said.
Atomic opened an office in Orange County, Calif., and completed development of ComContext 4, the firm’s own analytics platform. It has a new user interface, data visualizations, a PDF-based reporting format and additional social data fees from Sysomos and Traackr. An Energy and Sustainability Group was started in the fourth quarter.
Coyne PR Tops $20M
Coyne PR topped the $20M mark in 2012 as fee income jumped 11 percent. CEO Tom Coyne noted that the Parsippany, N.J.-based firm’s consumer lifestyle division grew 64 percent, while its social media division increased 60 percent in both revenue and staff by adding clients including Mary Kay, Stanley Steemer, Playmobil and Novartis.
Winning multiple Chrysler brands helped the automotive division revenue rise 31 percent. The healthcare team also landed big wins, including Chapstick, and business results for clients last year included 4.5 million new Facebook likes for Burger King and more than 1B billion media impressions for Disney Cruise Lines.
Key account wins for the agency included Skinnygirl Cocktails, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Heathrow International Airport, Daytona International Speedway, United States Golf Association, UPS Sustainability, David’s Bridal and VTech.
Coyne also partnered with Grammy-winner CeeLo Green to reintroduce the iconic Meow Mix cat food jingle after a 16-year hiatus and generated 535 million media impressions in three weeks.
It served up Red Robin as the first national chain to use Ghost Pepper and launched the brand’s Beer Milkshake for two of their most successful launches to date.
The firm elevated the image of Heathrow Airport in the U.S. as the host airport of the 2012 London Olympic Games with key national broadcast placements including Bloomberg TV, CNBC, CNN and “The Today Show,” reaching over 171 million viewers.
Coyne delivered twenty, nine-person pedal buses to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions on behalf of Humana’s Freewheelin’, the nation’s largest bike-sharing program, giving more than 2,500 rides - totaling 1,849 miles.