Porter Novelli: Agency Business Report 2014

Major personnel changes dominated Porter Novelli throughout 2012, a year of transition.

Global CEO Karen van Bergen
Global CEO Karen van Bergen

Principal: Karen van Bergen, global CEO
Ownership: Omnicom Group, as part of its Diversified Agency Services division
Subsidiary agencies: Voce Communications and Paradigm Communications
Offices: Global: 37 wholly owned; US: 14
Revenue: Global: $100 million to $200 million; US: $100 million to $150 million

Major personnel changes dominated Porter Novelli throughout 2012, a year of transition, but with new leadership in place, the agency came out strong in 2013.

Since taking the helm at the start of 2013, CEO Karen van Bergen has focused on activating a three-year strategic plan for the agency. The first priority for the year was strengthening talent, and with a slew of new senior hires and promotions, the firm undoubtedly met its goal.

Sally Ward was promoted to president of EMEA from MD of the London office and Brad MacAfee was promoted to president of North America from MD of Atlanta. Other hires included Mary Smiddy as UK lead of global health and wellness. Jennifer Swint was named MD of the Washington, DC, office. Kate Cusick joined as EVP and global director of business development, and Fenella Grey became deputy MD in the UK. Katie Huang Shin came over from FleishmanHillard as EVP on the HP account.

Departures included Ilene Smith, EVP of food, drinks, and nutrition. Alan Marcus, consumer SVP, left to join Shift Communications. The agency will likely make additions to its strategic planning, analytics, and research department, as well as to the global brand marketing practice and corporate communications team.

In terms of growth, 75% was from existing clients and 25% new business. Wins stretched across sectors, including pharmaceutical, hospital systems, advocacy, and education, with about 30% of wins spreading across three or more countries. 

Domestic and global growth
Porter would not reveal overall growth figures. Holding company Omnicom’s organic PR growth in 2013 was 1.5%.

Atlanta had year-over-year percentage growth in the high twenties in 2013 from clients such as Bayer and Hewlett-Packard. The firm’s Seattle office also saw strong growth with HP, as well as in the philanthropic sector with the Omidyar Group. Latin America’s growth was driven by food, retail, and healthcare.

Porter grew globally in 2013, extending its reach to Ireland through a partnership with Dublin-based Drury Communications, and expanding its footprint in the UK with the London launch of Paradigm Communications, a boutique health and wellness communications consultancy. Through an ownership relationship with fellow Omnicom agency BBDO, Porter added offices in the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah, and Beirut); Australia (Sydney and Melbourne); and New Zealand (Auckland).

Account wins include Reckitt Benckiser’s Durex brand in the US, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Beiersdorf, and the US Fund for UNICEF.

The agency lost BlackRapid, the Internal Revenue Service, US Department of Agriculture, Ole Smokey Distillery, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and Toyota’s Buckle Up for Life program.

In addition to digital integration and content creation, services van Bergen says continue to be requested by clients, Porter has seen a larger push toward measurement.

"We are seeing a shift in budgets from traditional advertising to communications," she explains. "With that comes more requests in [determining] ROI, so we now go to clients and prospects and say, ‘We will start with telling you how we are going to measure success.’"

Through Porter’s content-creation and brand-publishing service called PNConnect, which launched in 2013, the agency is able to help clients tell stories across earned, owned, and paid media, as well as build and manage digital-publishing programs that provide measurable business impact. PNConnect, which consists of roughly 90 staffers, is part of every pitch. The service has worked on brands such as PlayStation and DC Entertainment.

In November, the agency launched another new offering called Orange Palate, a specialty unit that works with culinary talent and food entrepreneurs. Last year, the division began working with former Top Chef contestant Eli Kirshtein, who is set to be executive chef and partner of Atlanta restaurant The Luminary when it opens this year.

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