Weber Shandwick US: Agency Business Report 2015

Weber Shandwick built on a strong year in 2013 by posting overall global growth of 15% and organic growth of 12% in 2014, on top of 10% growth in the previous 12 months.

Principals: Andy Polansky, CEO (pictured); Gail Heimann, president and chief strategy officer; Jack Leslie, chairman
Ownership: Interpublic Group (part of Constituency Management Group)
Subsidiaries: Prime
Offices: Global: 76 wholly owned; US: 19
Revenue: Global: more than $600 million; US: more than $400 million
Headcount: Global: about 4,000*; US: 2,500*
*PRWeek estimates

Weber Shandwick built on a strong year in 2013 by posting overall global growth of 15% and organic growth of 12% in 2014, on top of 10% growth in the previous 12 months.

This compared extremely favorably with Weber parent Interpublic’s Constituency Management Group, which also contains PR firms Golin and DeVries Global, where full-year revenue increased a much more modest 5.8% organically to $1.4 billion compared with 2013.

"Two-thirds of growth was organic, as we continue to deepen our relationships with key clients," says Weber CEO Andy Polansky. "And two-thirds of our growth is in the social, digital, and integrated marketing realm."

High-profile wins included Qualcomm, Transitions Optical, Wines of Ribera-Rueda, and John Hancock. Highlights of organic growth with existing clients included pharma giants Abbott and Novartis and CPG giant Unilever. Late in the year, Weber also won work for FIFA to promote the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"We won a lot of business in Q4, which has us feeling bullish about 2015," adds Polansky. "The new business pipeline and increasing levels of spend with major clients suggests there’s a fair amount of vibrancy in the sector."

Creative powerhouse
Weber launched full-service ad boutique Sawmill last year, borne out of legacy advocacy and issues advertising operation Sawyer Miller.

"Many clients were looking for creative thinking on the paid side," he notes.

The firm bought $300 million of paid media in the last two years, the majority for Healthcare.gov and Covered California, with the remainder comprising a mix of traditional and digital/social media.

Other advertising/marketing AOR relationships include Fisher-Price, AbbVie multicultural, Sealed Air, won from MSLGroup in January 2015, and the Maine Lobster integrated account.

Weber formed its content creation and distribution unit Mediaco in 2013, which now employs more than 700 people and is led by Jason Wellcome.

"It is one of our biggest engines for growth," Polansky adds. "We have emerged as a leader in content marketing, not just from a PR perspective, but also the broader marketing services industry."

Repositioning Ricoh from its hardware-based legacy to a software operation around an "information mobility" narrative illustrated the role of Mediaco’s content focus in the sales lead-generation process.

Weber lost one top 50 client in 2014, power holding company Ameren, as well as Getty Images after just a year, Partners Healthcare System, and Bausch + Lomb following its acquisition by Canada’s Valeant pharmaceuticals. Weber opened an office in Sacramento to bolster its presence in California, raiding Ogilvy PR for new leadership in Leslie Capstraw as EVP and GM in Los Angeles and Luca Penati as EVP and GM in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and Mediaco lead for the Western region.

Talent-wise, Weber also brought on Joe Frydl as EVP, strategic planning, consumer in New York; Valerie Pinto as India CEO; and Adam Clyne as head of digital in EMEA. On the debit side, Weber parted company abruptly with global tech practice chair Tim Fry in August. EMEA chief creative officer Gabriela Lungu left in November and VP Michael Gonda went to agency client Chobani as VP of communications.

In May 2014 Weber acquired Swedish creative PR firm Prime, the largest deal in its 13-year history. The agency’s work for Plumbers Without Borders, Civil Rights Defenders, and Kid’s Kitchen are among campaigns receiving awards at the Cannes Lions festival in recent years.

"We acquired Prime because it was among the most creative firms in the world," says Polansky. "In terms of acquisitions we’ll always be opportunistic, but we’re more interested in expertise – it’s more about adding new capabilities and deepening them."

Polansky notes that PR firms have traditionally been heavily siloed organizations, but Weber has built a culture that rewards people working together across practices and geographies, putting clients at the center.

"That’s had as much to do with our success in the past two years as anything," he adds.

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