Seven of the ten largest PR firms reporting their 2007 net fees to the O'Dwyer Company had gains of 10% or more including three that were up more than 20% – Edelman, Qorvis and ICR (formerly Integrated Corporate Relations). APCO Worldwide, third largest firm, grew 19% to $97.5 million.
Twenty-one of the 50 largest firms [see table below] had gains of 20% or more. This compared with last year’s “top 50” when 20 reported gains of 20%+.
A record 182 firms substantiated their net fee and employment totals for the O’Dwyer rankings, up from 140 last year.
The top ten, whose combined fees, led by Edelman’s $395.4 million, totaled $881M, averaged a gain of 16%.
Edelman was up 22.2%, Qorvis up 27.6% to $30.4M, and ICR, the financial specialist, up 40% to $24.6M.
Edelman’s total is almost four times as big as the $106M revenues of the No. 2 firm, Waggener Edstrom.
Edelman fees include $256.8M from 11 U.S. offices and $139M from 26 offices abroad. Employment grew from 2,456 to 2,860.
WeissComm Biggest Gainer in Top 50
WeissComm Partners, a healthcare specialist with offices in San Francisco and New York and which operates nationally, a newcomer to the list, had the biggest growth among the top 50—up 77% to $13 million.
Ruder Finn, the fourth biggest independent with $93.5M in fees, declined 5.8%.
Peter Finn, co-CEO, said the firm has undergone a realignment that puts more focus on larger accounts. In the past 120 days, RF has added eight accounts of $1M or more, he said, as the firm enjoyed its best new business streak in more than 20 years.
Broad categories are now health and wellness; lifestyle including consumer and travel; global connectivity including the internet and technology, and corporate and public affairs including the environment.
Strong Growth Outside New York
While 26 of the 50 biggest ranked PR operations are headquartered in New York, only ten of the next 50 are, indicating that locally-owned independent PR operations are enjoying growth across the U.S.
Many of the firms only recently sprang up and a number of them are headed by former employees of the ad/PR conglomerates.
The principals are active in the firms. Profits, instead of being forwarded to a parent company, are available for adding staff and services.
While many of the independents don’t have their own offices abroad, many are members of networks of independent firms that provide worldwide coverage for clients.
Worldcom, the biggest network, has 93 member firms with 112 offices in 40 countries. Fees of the group totaled $189.2 million in 2006. The fee total for 2007 is not yet available.
Pinnacle Worldwide, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, reports member firms in 30 countries, 60 major cities, and 1,200 employees.
Other networks include IPREX, listing 33 partner firms in the U.S. and 22 abroad; Public Relations Organization International, and Public Relations Global Network.
39 Firms up 30% or More
Sixteen of the 181 firms had gains of 40% or more; 23 grew from 30%-39%; 27 grew from 20%-29% and 36 grew from 10% to 19%.
The total with double-figure gains was 84.
Only 17 firms reported declines while 12 reported keeping even with the previous year and 21 reported gains of 5% or less.
Conglomerate PR Firms Absent
For the sixth straight year, PR firms owned by the five conglomerates (WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic, Publicis, Havas), were not allowed by their parent companies to report any statistics including employment figures.
They have cited the danger of being in violation of Sarbanes-Oxley because accounting rules differ from country to country. The last figures reported for about 20 major PR operations and hundreds of smaller PR firms owned by the conglomerates were in 2001.
Many of the conglomerate PR firms have either stopped publishing client lists or have greatly reduced them. Only PR firms that provide client lists are in the O’Dwyer rankings.
Omnicom and WPP, the only holding companies that provide overall PR figures, have been reporting annual growth of about 10% but in some instances half of this growth is from acquisitions.
WPP reported fees of its PR units grew 5.9% organically in 2006 and 12.4% including acquisitions. The fees of all its PR units totaled $1.15 billion in 2006.
Organic and growth via acquisitions is not always broken out by them. The other three provide no PR statistics at all.
Standouts in Top 15
Standout performances in the top 15 ($14.7M or more in fees), besides Edelman, Qorvis, ICR and APCO, were registered by Waggener Edstrom, up 11% to $106M; Text 100, up 12% to $60M; Schwartz Communications, up 13.5% to $30.4M; Regan Communications, up 14% to $21M, and Taylor, up 12% to $20.1M.
Six Soar in 16-25 Category
The best growth in any single category was turned in by the 16-25 range which saw six of the firms grow by more than 20%.
WeissComm grew 77% to $13M; French/West/Vaughan grew 27% to $12.2M; Capstrat grew 37% to $12M; Peppercom grew 42% to $11.8M; 5W PR grew 24.3% to $11.5M, and CRT/Tanaka grew 21.4% to $11.3M.
M Booth & Assocs. just missed the 20% mark in this category by registering a 19.8% jump to $11.3M.
Access PR, the 16th biggest firm, grew 9.5% to $14.1M.
Cubitt, Jacobs Tops 26-50 Category
Fourteen of the firms in the 26-50 category ($7.1M or more in fees) had increases of 10% or more topped by Cubitt, Jacobs & Prosek PR, New York, specialist in financial, technology and issues management, which grew 50.1% to $8.1M.
Shift Communications, Brighton, Mass., handling tech, business-to-business and consumer PR, a newcomer to the list, grew 43.1% to$10.5M.
Imre Communications, Rowson, Maryland, grew 38% to $8.7M; Jackson Spalding, Atlanta, grew 36% to $7.1M; Healthstar, New York, grew 35.4% to $8.9M; the Hoffman Agency, San Jose, grew 35% to $10.1M; Makovsky & Co., New York, grew 32% to $9.2M; Levick Strategic Communications, D.C., grew 28% to $8.5M, and Kaplow Communications, New York, grew 22% to $10.3M.
Kwittken Tops 51-100 Category
Biggest gainer in the 51-100 range ($3.3M to $7.1M) was Kwittken & Co., New York, which handles corporate, marketing PR, IR and editorial services, a newcomer to the list, which gained 55% to $3.39M.
Quinn & Co., New York, grew 48.9% to $4.8M; The Jeffrey Group, Miami, 47% to $5.4M; Formula PR, San Diego, 46.7% to $4.9M; Lewis PR, San Francisco, 34.8% to $6.3M; Page One PR, Palo Alto, newly listed, 33.9% to $4M; CooperKatz, New York, 32.1% to $4.1M; New West, Louisville, Ky., 31.3% to $4.2M; Hager Sharp, D.C., 30% to $5.4M; Pierpont Communications, Houston, 29% to $5.8M; Schneider Assocs., Boston, 28.8% to $3.7M, and Lou Hammond & Assocs., New York, 28% to $6.5M.
Haystack Grows 246%
In the $2M to $3.1M category, The Haystack Group, Atlanta, had the biggest growth—up 246% to $2,004,766.
Other big gains under $3 million in fees were registered by Richard Dukas Communications, New York, newly listed, up 90% to $2.3M; Roman/Peshoff, Holland, Ohio, newly listed, up 60% to $1.7 million; Idea Hall, Costa Mesa, Calif., newly listed, up 45% to $1.7M; Ground Floor Media, Denver, up 37% to $2.3M; Linhart PR, Denver, newly listed, up 34.8% to $2.8M; JS2, Los Angeles, up 34% to $2.1M; v-Fluence Interactive PR, San Diego, up 32% to $2.7M, and Adfero Group, D.C., newly listed, up 26.4% to $2M.
Complete ranking of independent PR firms >>