FleishmanHillard: Agency Business Report 2014

FleishmanHillard spent much of the past year reshaping itself as a "complete communications company" following its rebranding.

President and CEO Dave Senay
President and CEO Dave Senay

Principal: Dave Senay, president and CEO
Ownership: Omnicom Group, as part of the Diversified Agency Services division
Subsidiary agencies: BlueCurrent, CCW, GMMB, High Road Communications, Lois Paul & Partners, TogoRun, VegaRun, Vox Global
Offices: Global: 86; US: 37
Revenue: Global: $500 million-plus; US: $350 million-plus
Headcount: Global: more than 2,600; US: undisclosed

FleishmanHillard spent much of the past year reshaping itself as a "complete communications company" following its first rebranding since 1990. The repositioning, accompanied by the tagline ‘The power of true,’ included PR, advertising, and a digital magazine to showcase the agency’s focus on integration across paid, earned, shared, and owned media channels.

"We would not dare go out and make ambitious claims unless we could execute them for ourselves," says president and CEO Dave Senay. "The campaign was completely integrated. In and of itself, it became exhibit A for employees and clients. We believe so much in this strategy we are going to pin our future on it."

Senay says that strategy helped the firm gain more than $129 million in new business revenue in 2013, with a 70% close rate. Fleishman typically sees a new business close rate between 57% and 62%, he adds.

However, the agency’s 2013 organic revenue was flat year over year. Revenue for the prior 12 months had been boosted by work from major events such as the 2012 US presidential election and the London Olympics, Senay says.

"It was quite a hole to fill," he explains. "It was a major victory just to match our performance in 2012."

Fifty-three percent of new business last year came from existing clients. Fleishman expanded work with General Motors, gaining its Cadillac brand, and with Bayer, picking up its global issues account.

Substantial new accounts
New account wins last year included Samsung’s global mobile business; chemical and biotech company Monsanto; Rubbermaid Commercial Products; trade association Farm Credit Council; the US Soccer Federation and FIFA World Cup; and TJX Europe.

"[The latter win] shocked a lot of people because it was so driven by creative," Senay says. "It was one of the most emblematic wins of [the rebranding]."

The firm was also awarded a $35 million assignment from the Illinois Department of Insurance to help promote its health insurance marketplace following implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Fleishman lost top 50 client Chobani last September when the brand shifted business to Weber Shandwick after hiring a new CMO. The firm also lost some Visa work after the company brought more of its comms in-house. However, the firm still partners with Visa on its Everywhere campaign in Asia and the Americas. It also lost Papa John’s, which took its work in-house.

Early last month, partners at Stratacomm reacquired majority ownership from Fleishman, which had bought the transportation PR specialist firm in 2004.

While competing for talent remains a big challenge, the firm’s integrated approach is helping attract people from "all walks of life," Senay says. US staff turnover was about 18%, compared with 14% in 2012.

Last year the firm hired Kris Balderston, former legislative director and deputy chief of staff for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, to serve as GM of the Washington, DC, office. Tim O’Keeffe returned from Horn Group to lead the San Francisco office, and Edelman’s Jerry Tolk joined as Atlanta GM.

Martha Boudreau, president of the Mid-Atlantic and Latin America regions, departed the firm, as did Boston GM Jason Glashow, and Atlanta GM Karen Kaplan.

Senay says the firm will continue to invest in and hire talent to bolster capabilities in analytics, planning, creative direction, content creation, and product development.

So far this year, Fleishman has won business from True North Salmon Company, Asian conglomerate Royal Golden Eagle, and Chevrolet’s sponsorship of Premier League football in Europe. After opening offices in Bangkok, Thailand, and Kiev, Ukraine last year, Fleishman is looking to expand in Taiwan, Myanmar, India, and the Middle East, Senay says. The firm is also eyeing an acquisition in Brazil.

With holding company Omnicom’s merger with Publicis Groupe looming large, Senay says the deal will not change much for the agency’s operations.

"I don’t see it as earth shattering for us or the sector. PR is about 10% of the deal," he adds. "What we’re doing is bringing another competitor to the family."

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