Fickle reporting reveals chinks in SOX's armor

Four years after the holding companies decided to refrain from releasing their operating unit revenues to the media, PRWeek's rankings, as part of our Agency Business Report, still tell an important story.

Four years after the holding companies decided to refrain from releasing their operating unit revenues to the media, PRWeek's rankings, as part of our Agency Business Report, still tell an important story.

Financial benchmarks are a vital way to measure the PR industry's performance, particularly now that such important gains are being made. Combined with limited data from the holding companies, we can build a reasonably good picture of the state of the industry.

But what began as a united front among holding companies is now fraying a bit - not enough to hope that we'll have a full rankings table soon, but enough to show that individual priorities are more compelling than the legislation that reportedly motivated the decision initially.

The most interesting variation in agency response is in disclosure of headcount. None of the Omnicom firms disclosed staff numbers, in a show of unity that can only be truly mandated at the top. Interpublic, on the other hand, had all but one, Weber Shandwick, disclosing headcount. One IPG firm, MWW Group, even disclosed revenues, in a flat-out repudiation of the Sarbanes-Oxley mandate.

WPP was consistent only in its inconsistency. Ogilvy disclosed headcount, but Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, and GCI Group did not. Cohn & Wolfe, taking the whole issue to the extreme, declined even to participate in our annual Agency Profiles, for reasons related to internal decision making at the financial level.

We ask for holding-company agency revenues, but know better than to expect it. We continue to dedicate significant space to PR's largest players, in spite of their refusal to put their numbers up against rivals. But the inconsistency in how they respond to corporate parents' edicts reveals much about the arbitrary nature of their position. We're determined to tell the agency business story in an inclusive, responsible way, and we'll continue to press holding companies to rethink their stance.

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