Golin US: Agency Business Report 2015

Golin doubled down on its g4 operating model in 2014, hiring more senior people than ever in one calendar year, and achieving an 8.5% increase in global revenue and a 7% uptick in US revenue.

Principal: Fred Cook, CEO
Ownership: Interpublic Group (part of Constituency Management Group)
Offices: Global: 53; US: 11
Revenue: Global: $150 million to $200 million; US: $100 million to $150 million
Headcount: Global: 1,200; US: 650

Golin doubled down on its g4 operating model in 2014, hiring more senior people than ever in one calendar year, and achieving an 8.5% increase in global revenue and a 7% uptick in US revenue. It carried this momentum into Q1 2015 with some eye-catching new-business wins and further hires.

"It was an up-and-down year, but we ended up passing all our targets in profit and growth, and we exceeded targets by the end of the year," says Golin CEO Fred Cook. 

Caroline Dettman was the most significant hire, coming over from Edelman as chief creative and community officer.

"She’s been a dynamo," he adds. "She’s rebooted g4, taken it to a new level, and hired a lot of creative people."

Golin introduced its g4 model in 2011, based around four communities – explorers, creators, connectors, and catalysts – but it didn’t take hold as fast as Cook wanted it to.

"We never had anyone in charge of it," he notes. "It’s much more structured to the organization now. It’s part of everyone’s day job rather than an extra part of their role."

Cook says the model differentiates Golin from other agencies in terms of new business, strategy, creativity, and quality. The firm also raided Edelman for 20-year veteran Neal Flieger, who joined as MD and executive director of client strategy in Washington, DC; Ryan Richert, who came over as executive director of global media; and Jon Silver joined in March as digital director.

Strong start to 2015
In Q1 2015, Golin also took business from Edelman, including the Humana and Crayola AOR accounts; it won a competitive global PR brief from existing client Unilever for its spreads business; and took Mattel’s Barbie and Hot Wheels work from Ketchum.

 "Humana was huge for us," he adds. "It worked with Edelman for a long time."

However, the agency lost T-Mobile after a pitch, Infosys, and United Egg Producers.

Other notable hires include Pamela Culpepper from Pepsi as chief people officer and Deanne Yamamoto rejoined Golin after 16 years at Ketchum to become MD of Los Angeles. The firm also moved international president Matt Neale from the UK to take on co-leadership of its New York office in addition to his existing duties, promoting Bibi Hilton to MD of London in the process.

"Matt and [current Asia president] Jon Hughes took London from a B player to the top of the tree and the chance to bring that magic to New York was undeniable," says Cook. "We’ve always wanted to be bigger
in that region and we’ve finally got the leadership in place to make that happen."

Americas president Gary Rudnick has a broader geographical remit in the Americas, and Neale will work closely with him on staffing decisions and new business.

Initial hires include Ashley Hurst from Coach and Dawn Langeland, FleishmanHillard’s former deputy MD of New York, to lead the office’s consumer practice – incumbent Andrea Morgan moved to MSLGroup in January – and g4 catalyst and creator communities. Keith Martin moved over from Architect, an Interpublic Group agency acquired by Golin in 2012, to head up the firm’s San Francisco office.

"We’ve never had a stronger management team in our 60-year history," asserts Cook.

The agency also added to its global office count with openings in Colombia, Panama, and Puerto Rico.

Anchor client McDonald’s had a tough time during the year and changed CEO in January 2015, but Cook says it enabled Golin to try new things, such as the Our Food, Your Questions initiative and real-time marketing at Super Bowl XLIX – "the biggest real-time media activation for McDonald’s around the Super Bowl."

"It’s been difficult for the business climate, but from a comms point of view McDonald’s is breaking new ground and trying to do new things, so it’s been exciting," he adds.

There was also a big change at another top five client, when the agency’s primary contact, VP of communications Dave Tovar, was forced out of Walmart after having been found to have lied on his résumé.

"There’s a lot of change in the client space," says Cook. "Internal personnel at a number of other clients switched over – it’s always an interesting ride when that happens."

Golin rebranded in June, dropping Harris from its name. "We’re not the same agency we were three years ago," he notes. "Our branding caught up with what we’re doing as a company. It’s more modern and simple."

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