Porter Novelli: Agency Business Report 2013

To say 2012 was a year of transition for Porter Novelli would be an understatement as the firm underwent significant personnel changes.

Principal: Karen van Bergen, global CEO
Ownership: Omnicom Group, as part of its Diversified Agency Services division
Subsidiary agencies: Voce Communications
Offices: 28 wholly owned globally; US: 14
Revenue: Global: $100 million to $200 millionUS: $100 million to $150 million ;

To say 2012 was a year of transition for Porter Novelli would be an understatement as the firm underwent significant personnel changes. CEO Gary Stockman departed at the end of July, following global president and CFO Anthony Viceroy, and short-lived CMO Michael Goldberg out the door.

Susan Hayes, global director of health, SVP of public affairs Michael Heimowitz, and Sonia Sroka, SVP of Hispanic marketing, also left.

Michael Ramah stepped in as interim CEO and steadied the ship before Karen van Bergen was promoted internally from senior partner and MD of New York to be Porter's global CEO from the start of 2013.

“‘Year in transition' has been used many times,” says van Bergen, “but by the end of 2012 we were already starting to build the talent we need for growth.”

Patrick Resk moved from Porter's parent Diversified Agency Services division into its CFO seat; Joe Russo was promoted to global COO; Paul George joined as global director of health and wellness; Joe Shantz left Yahoo to become SVP, digital analytics; Diana Valencia took over as SVP, multicultural communications; and industry veteran Rich Jernstedt came on as senior counselor for food, drink, and nutrition. In 2013, van Bergen brought on Edelman exec Fred Shank as Porter's new SVP of consumer and Jesse Soleil as SVP digital.

Van Bergen is fairly sure the staff exodus is over. “We have a great leadership team in place, are very motivated, and poised for growth,” she says. “We built our three-year strategic plan together.”

Pre-tax profit grew by double digits in 2012, with 60% of revenue growth organic, 40% new business. Porter won accounts with Aston Martin, camera accessory manufacturer BlackRapid, Dun & Bradstreet, spirits distiller William Grant, and San-Disk, and expanded existing work with Almond Board of California and Bayer. It lost the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Piedmont HealthCare, Public Health Institute, and Royal Mint in the UK.

Porter came out well after the high-profile global realignment of HP's account, taking over the troubled computer giant's PC and printer business.

Despite losing Procter & Gamble's important Gillette US account in 2011, Porter continues to work with 30 P&G brands across 16 countries, including the US, UK, China, Mexico, France, and Singapore. It works with brands such as Braun, Venus, Pampers, Oral-B, Ariel, and Tide, as well as Gillette in non-US territories.

Van Bergen reaffirmed her commitment to Porter's roots in health and wellness, food and nutrition, technology, and consumer PR, aligned with public affairs, social marketing and CSR, and strategic planning, analytics, and research where “we have always been the leader.”

The UK had a good year, but EMEA was negatively impacted by Spain and the Netherlands. Holding company Omnicom's overall PR organic growth in 2012 was 3.3% and Porter was below that average. In Q1 2013, it achieved high single digit year-over-year growth. “We've got good prospects of organic growth,” van Bergen says.

Change affected New York most, but new client wins have boosted morale. “We're geared up for a great year,” she adds. 

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