Hill+Knowlton Strategies: Agency Business Report 2013

"We have to do a good job of getting to places before our clients, which means we have to be more entrepreneurial," says Jack Martin, global chairman and CEO at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

Principals: Jack Martin, global chairman and CEO (r); Dan Bartlett, US president and CEO
Ownership: WPP
Subsidiary agencies: Public Strategies, Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, Blanc & Otus, Soho Partners, PBN Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Dewey Square Group
Offices: Global: 85 wholly owned; US: 15
Revenue: Global: $350 million to $400 million; US: $100 million to $150 million
Headcount: Global: 2,250 to 2,500; US: undisclosed

“We have to do a good job of getting to places before our clients, which means we have to be more entrepreneurial,” says Jack Martin, global chairman and CEO at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

The agency's 2012 story is a global one, with significant investment in Africa, India, and China, particularly in talent. Last year, Chad Tragakis was promoted to global head of talent and development from SVP of the sustainability practice in the agency's Washington, DC, office.

“My main priority for talent is to promote, develop, and recruit from within,” says Martin. The firm is looking to move someone to Africa to work with CEO Alexander Döll and recently promoted Canada VP Mona Gauvreau to GM in Dubai. 

In Africa, job one is to get infrastructure and talent right first and then consider potential acquisitions in the future. The firm's biggest office is Nairobi, with recent openings including Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. Most work in the region focuses on the consumer side and marcomms.

Recognizing the importance of China, the region was pulled out of the agency's APAC division into a separate unit headed by co-presidents, Ivy Soonthornsima in Shanghai and Ye Yu in Beijing. Martin says H+K's goal in India is to double in size in the next 18 to 24 months. He says the agency is well positioned to supply counsel in needed areas including public affairs, research, and digital. He also cites Latin America as a strong performer in 2012, with Mexico City showing growth north of 40%.

Martin is optimistic about the rebuild happening in the US. In 2000, revenues were about $150 million, but dropped to $70 million by January 2011. “We had to integrate Public Strategies into H+K, but the US is on an upward trajectory and winning business,” he explains, adding that EVP and New York GM Ian Bailey is a key contributor to that success.

Key account wins last year included Ford, AON, Diageo, Dish Network, Hyundai, GlaxoSmithKline, InterContinental Hotels Group, Merck, Pacific Gas & Electric, Polycom, and Whirlpool. The agency lost the HP business in China.

Senior hires in 2012 included John Morgan, president and CEO, Asia, and Gary Goldhammer, chief US digital strategist. Global COO Ken Luce, Asia region president James Heimowitz, and EVP, US region, Jody Venturoni left the firm.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Weber Shandwick settled a long-running legal dispute out of court in mid-2012. Weber accused former employees, H+K's Luce and Venturoni, of stealing confidential information, clients, and employees. Luce and Venturoni have since set up their own firm, LDWW Group, at the start of the year.

Going forward, Martin says the agency will increasingly separate business functions from its core business of servicing clients.

“The better you are at client work, [the more likely] you get promoted to jobs that don't allow you to do as much client work,” he explains. “We must fix that.”

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