Cohn & Wolfe: Agency Business Report 2013

Despite economic uncertainty in the latter half of 2012, Cohn & Wolfe, PRWeek's 2013 Agency of the Year, saw a 6% revenue increase year over year - compared to holding company WPP's overall 1% drop in PR revenue - as well as significant new business growth, organic expansion, and new hires.

Principal: Donna Imperato, CEO
Ownership: WPP Group
Subsidiary agencies: AxiCom and GCI Health
Offices: 55 wholly/majority owned; US: 13
Revenue: Global: $100 million to $150 million; US: $65 million to $100 million
Headcount: Global: 1,100; US: 550

Despite economic uncertainty in the latter half of 2012, Cohn & Wolfe, PRWeek's 2013 Agency of the Year, saw a 6% revenue increase year over year – compared to holding company WPP's overall 1% drop in PR revenue – as well as significant new business growth, organic expansion, and new hires.

“We started 2012 feeling really bold and had double-digit growth in the first half,” says CEO Donna Imperato. “Then as we got to September, clients started to get worried about the economy and we ended the year really strong.”

Imperato says some of the blue-chip accounts that were brought on last year were Burger King in the UK, BMW in China, and Iroko Pharmaceuticals and Sensa Weight Loss System in North America.

Other business wins in North America included Pete & Gerry's Organic Eggs, Hipmunk, and LexisNexis. In Asia, the agency won accounts with Guinness, Scholastic, and Havaianas, among others.

Expanding work within existing clients was a strong point for C&W in 2012, says Imperato, with 20% of the agency's growth organic. The firm retained its top 20 clients, such as 3M, JM Smucker, Panasonic, Colgate-Palmolive, and Merck, and saw no business losses.

C&W extended work into new regions, initially working with Solta Medical in the US and then entering seven markets in Europe and Asia. The agency's work with Rolls-Royce also expanded to new markets in Asia, while its efforts with Hotels.com, which began in Switzerland and Greater China, have entered Mexico.

Global office count slipped from 59 to 55 because the agency is now servicing Saudi Arabia out of its India and Cairo offices and has consolidated its Nordics region, which is being run out of Stockholm. C&W also consolidated its US AxiCom business into the San Francisco office.

In 2013, the firm will expand its corporate offering and make corporate hires in Asia, since the consumer practice is already strong in that region. Globally, C&W will amplify its technology practice because the firm is “getting invited to more tech pitches” than ever before, says Imperato.

The agency will also focus on Southeast Asia, Indonesia, India, and the Middle East.

Staff-wise, C&W will add more integrated marketing talent this year due to high demand from clients for this type of work. Last year, the firm brought on Amy Inzanti as SVP of insights and strategy. It named Charlotte Chunawala as CEO in India; Gabrielle Lovering, head of digital and social media in the UK; Mark Burr as EVP for West Coast digital; Matt McGinnis as EVP in Austin; Roberto Gonzalez as CEO in Mexico; Dick Wolfe as SVP for the corporate practice; and Dolly Tayal as client director in Mumbai.

The firm's executive departures from 2012 and early 2013 include Anna Cahill Leonard, global technology practice leader and president of the San Francisco office; Michael Bayer, EVP of the US corporate practice; John Hollywood, EVP of strategy; Gloria Janata, EVP of health and wellness; Brad McCormick, EVP and senior digital strategist in Austin; and Jeff Smith, MD of UK healthcare.

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