MSLGroup: Agency Business Report 2013

MSLGroup reported healthy single-digit global organic growth, two-thirds of which was driven by clients including Procter & Gamble, United Technologies, eyecare company Alcon, and Microsoft.

Principals: Olivier Fleurot, CEO; Renee Wilson, president, North America
Ownership: Publicis Groupe
Group agencies: Kekst and Company, PBJS, Publicis Consultants
Offices: Global: more than 100 wholly owned; US: 16
Revenue: Global: $450 million to $500 million; US: $150 million to $200 million
Headcount: Global: 3,401; US: 613

MSLGroup reported healthy single-digit global organic growth, two-thirds of which was driven by clients including Procter & Gamble, United Technologies, eyecare company Alcon, and Microsoft. Profit met or exceeded expectations, while revenue came in slightly lower than anticipated.

Clients seek multichannel solutions, says Renee Wilson, president of North America, with “digital and social the big drivers now.” Those two areas now account for more than 20% of MSLGroup's business.

Last December, the agency brought on Stephanie Agresta from Weber Shandwick as its first global leader in social and digital. MSLGroup is also creating real-time news centers charged with providing relevant content for social and mainstream media.

Beyond social, the consumer practice, particularly consumer technology, remains strong, says Wilson, and healthcare opportunities are increasing.

Overall, Wilson is optimistic about the industry's health. “PR agencies can handle the sweet spot of a media spend $15 million and below,” she explains. “Companies will come to us because we can take the big idea across multiple channels.”

In San Francisco Schwartz Communications, acquired in September 2011, was fully integrated into MSLGroup. Atlanta and Chicago rounded out the agency's top-performing US offices in 2012.

“We are going to see greater spend in the coming six months,” reports Wilson. “Our pipeline is the fattest it has been for quite some time.”

Last September, Wilson replaced Jim Tsokanos, the firm's former Americas president. He was among senior male executives accused of behaving in a derogatory manner toward female staff in a $100 million class action lawsuit filed against the agency and its parent company. At press time, the ongoing suit has been joined by 33 plaintiffs.

Early 2013 saw AOR wins including Emirates Group in the US and PayPal
in North America. The agency also had a number of big wins abroad in 2012, including Facebook and eBay in India, a global win for Haier, Dongfeng Nissan in China, and Walmart in Asia.

Losses included Carrefour France, Heineken in the US, and corporate work for
the World Gold Council in the UK, US, India, and China. The agency chose not to repitch in March 2013 for the Underwriters Laboratories global PR account.

MSLGroup increased its global presence last year from 88 offices to more than 100 with acquisitions including China's Kings Harvest; Luminous with offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macau; and CNC Communications and Network Consulting with offices in Germany, UK, India, and Japan. CEO Olivier Fleurot says 2011 acquisition Ciszewski MSL in Warsaw has racked up wins including BNP Paribas, Discovery Networks, Hyundai, and Poland's biggest insurer, PZU.

In Germany, the agency has been working with Siemens and Fleurot is now eyeing partners in Indonesia to address the growing consumer business there.

“Money is moving away from big campaigns that take a long time to create and going toward real time, digital and social,” he says. “The opportunities are huge.” 

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