Cohn & Wolfe: Agency Business Report 2011

CEO Donna Imperato says her firm had to undergo strategic restructuring to achieve what she calls Cohn & Wolfe's best year of new business in the latter part of 2010.

Principal: Donna Imperato, CEO
Ownership: WPP
Subsidiary agencies: AxiCom, GCI Health
Offices: 54 wholly majority owned globally; 13 in the US
Revenue: Global: $100 million to $200 million; US: $50 million to $100 million
Headcount: 1,000 globally

CEO Donna Imperato says her firm had to undergo strategic restructuring to achieve what she calls Cohn & Wolfe's best year of new business in the latter part of 2010.
 
A second-half surge was not only driven by new business, but also strong organic growth as work expanded with existing clients, specifically in the consumer and corporate affairs practices, Imperato says.
 
Key wins included American Girl, GM/Buick, Grid Net, ITU Telecom, Lincoln Financial, and Quaker Oats.
 
The firm faced some key client losses when 2010 began. They included ADP, AstraZeneca, Medicis, and, controversially, Hilton's DoubleTree and HHonors, for which it declined to repitch.
 
While numbers remained flat for 2010, Imperato says it was in line with expectations and the firm hit its goal for WPP.
 
The agency's business breaks down as healthcare (28%), consumer (32%), tech (21%), and corporate (19%).
 
Management decisions
Part of the strategic restructuring to turn the firm's year around included making management changes in key business areas. Staff turnover was about 25%. Imperato says it is typically around 20% and terminations accounted for the 5% increase.
 
She was also able to make strategic hires early enough in the year to have an impact on business in the second half of 2010.
 
Hires included Chad Latz as global digital practice president; Mark Cater rejoining as New York office president; Scott Wilson as UK CEO and MD of EMEA; and Michael Bayer as EVP, corporate practice lead.
 
Key promotions
Promotions were also vital in the restructuring as Imperato sought ways to refocus some staff members. The promotions included Geoff Beattie to global corporate affairs practice leader; Ariana Tirri to SVP of healthcare in New York; and Barbara Cohen to EVP of consumer in New York.
 
Departing executives were New York president Stephanie Marchesi; Matt Wolfrom, EVP of corporate in New York; Fiona Nobel, UK CEO; and Michele Schimmel, consumer health SVP in New York.

A confident Imperato is promising 5% revenue growth for 2011. To that end, the firm has three priorities: transforming into a digital agency, specific growth in China and India, and to focus on talent.

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