GolinHarris: Agency Business Report 2014

GolinHarris continued to pick up momentum in 2013 with US revenue growth of 10.5%, compared to a 5.2% uptick in 2012.

CEO Fred Cook
CEO Fred Cook

Principal: Fred Cook, CEO
Ownership: Interpublic Group (part of Constituency Management Group)
Offices: Global: 50; US: 11
Revenue: Global: $150 million to $200 million; US: $100 million to $150 million
Headcount: Global: 1,000; US: 600

GolinHarris continued to pick up momentum in 2013 with US revenue growth of 10.5%, compared to a 5.2% uptick in 2012. Globally, the agency posted gains of 10.5%, compared to a 16.8% increase in 2012, driven in part by joint ventures.

Compared to its Interpublic Group PR peers, which reported 7.8% overall organic growth in 2013, the agency has landed in a good place, says CEO Fred Cook.

"London had an amazing year," reports Cook, citing the agency’s 2012 acquisition of Virgo Health as a game-changer. "It really opened up a lot of opportunity for us from the global perspective in healthcare," he adds. "It also added to our global roster for GlaxoSmithKline and Takeda."

In March 2013, Virgo Health opened its first US office in New York and a second hub in Singapore, naming Susan Cuozzo and Rachel Norager as executive directors of the respective offices.

The London office also had a number of wins beyond healthcare, including utility company NPower, Johnnie Walker, and corporate work for Virgin Media.

Beyond London, Golin’s top growth areas globally were China and Singapore. In the US, Dallas, Chicago, and Los Angeles were the best performers last year.

Five of the agency’s 2013 wins were across three or more countries – Cisco, Olympics work for McDonald’s, Mondelez International, Texas Instruments, and Unilever. In the US, wins included HTC, Lipton, Mountain Dew, Santander, and Walmart eCommerce. It also considerably expanded its role across Walmart’s consumer PR.

The agency lost France Telecom Group, Cox Enterprises, Orasure Technologies, Power Assets Holdings, Symmetricom, and Tetra Pak.

Organic growth, which accounts for 45% of business, was spurred on, in part, by Nestlé work expanding to the company’s entire prepared foods category.

The agency is bullish about beefing up its global network. Last September, Golin launched a joint venture with India firm LinOpinion, a division of Interpublic Group’s Lowe Lintas and Partners network. LinOpinion has five offices and about 60 staffers. Clients include JPMorgan and Discovery Networks.

"LinOpinion is part of a global growth strategy to do joint ventures rather than acquiring agencies," explains Cook. "These have worked out really well for us – there is a much lower risk financially."

Joint ventures continued at a rapid rate as at the end of 2013, Golin forged a partnership with China’s Magic Group, which, like Golin, has offices in Shanghai and Beijing.

 "It’s an important opportunity," says Cook. "We really want to expand in China."

Additional partnerships
In February 2014, Golin opened an office in Karachi, Pakistan, through a partnership with Lowe & Rauf, a firm that also works with several Unilever brands.

That same month, Golin made a significant deal regarding Latin America that includes 300 associates and eight agencies in countries including Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela. The agency is in conversations with firms in Europe and the US about partnerships that might materialize in 2014 and early next year.

Closer to home, Cook says the Dallas office benefited from a lot of work with Cisco. Golin handles the brand’s global social media. Chuck Hemann was hired from W2O as executive director of analytics in Dallas to work on the Cisco account.

The agency’s technology-client portfolio is also building momentum on the West Coast and Golin is looking to hire a global leader for the tech practice to be based in San Francisco. In March 2014, Caroline Dettman came on from Edelman as chief creative and community officer to run its g4 structure. Seventeen-year Golin veteran Judy Johnson, president of the Western region, left the firm in April to become chief marketing and communications officer at Caruso Affiliated.

Cook believes the firm will have a similar financial performance this year, but he is aware of the challenges out there.   

"We are competing with so many different kinds of agencies now," he adds.

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