2015 rank: 26
2014 rank: 41
By Harold Burson, founding chairman, Burson-Marsteller
From its get-go in 1970 in Atlanta, founder Bob Cohn’s firm was known for its creativity, but current CEO Donna Imperato has taken it to astronomically loftier levels.
I have watched this stunning process for almost two decades after a client conflict facilitated her transfer from Burson-Marsteller, which acquired C&W in 1982 and made it an independent entity 20 years later. GlaxoSmithKline was the account Donna took with her and she soon made a healthcare showcase, while extending her influence across C&W’s spectrum.
On Steve Aiello’s retirement in 2002, Donna was a shoo-in as CEO. Her "can do, the client is king, and all for one and one for all" spirit permeated the organization and impressed clients.
One highly visible office in London soon had more than a dozen counterparts on the continent. Recognizing Asia’s potential, she expanded from two to 10 countries in two years.
Her crowning glory came in 2013 when PRWeek named dark horse Cohn & Wolfe as its Agency of the Year. All the while, Donna quietly went about making C&W a "go-to firm for the mobile marketer," just one of the firm’s niches in the digital world, and keeping demanding clients such as Colgate, ExxonMobil, JM Smucker, Merck, and Bayer happy. What a woman!