Porter Novelli: PRWeek Global Agency Business Report 2016

The third year in a three-year strategic plan shows its worth in top- and bottom-line growth

Principals: Karen van Bergen, CEO, Omnicom Public Relations Group; and Brad MacAfee, CEO
Ownership: Omnicom Group, part of its Diversified Agency Services group
Subsidiaries: Paradigm Communications and Voce Communications
Offices: Global: 37; U.S.: 14
Revenue: Global: $150 million to $200 million; U.S.: $100 million to $150 million
Headcount: Global: 720 (estimate); U.S.: 510 (estimate)

February 2016 marked major leadership changes at Porter Novelli. In recognition of rebuilding agency growth in revenue and client wins, CEO Karen van Bergen was put in charge of the newly created Omnicom Public Relations Group.

The CEOs of 10 primary PR agency brands, including Ketchum’s Rob Flaherty and FleishmanHillard’s John Saunders, now report to her. The promotion set off a domino effect as former Porter Novelli North America regional president Brad MacAfee succeeded van Bergen as CEO.

Former president of sister Omnicom firm Ketchum’s Emanate unit, Nick Propper, became global COO and Jennifer Swint was promoted to president of North America. Swint had been MD at Porter Novelli’s Washington, DC, office and has had stints with APCO Worldwide and Powell Tate.

"This is the third year in a three-year strategic plan and we’ve grown steadily, but last year we grew top and bottom line substantially," says van Bergen. She declined to give specific numbers.

Omnicom Group’s PR agencies saw full-year organic PR revenue down 1.4% compared with 2014.

Within the U.S., growth was driven by the DC office, led by Swint, Boston, and Southern California, according to van Bergen.

In DC, health and wellness, food and nutrition, public affairs, and reputation management saw the biggest growth with work from McCormick, the CDC, and ViiV Healthcare, a specialist global HIV company majority owned by GlaxoSmithKline.

MD Albie Jarvis led the Boston team to expanded work with HP and solid growth in health and wellness. Southern California saw organic growth from clients in food and drink, nutrition, consumer, and reputation management.

North America and Mexico were Porter’s strongest growth regions. China followed, where the agency added boots on the ground via a partnership with Utop, which has 300 staff in offices in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Latin America is doing well, according to van Bergen, with Brazil especially strong thanks to work through Omnicom DAS around the Olympics.

Technology and health and wellness are running neck and neck in terms of strongest growth sectors, followed by food and nutrition, with reputation management a strong third, van Bergen adds.

Existing clients made up 55% of overall growth. Cli­ent wins included Astellas, Shire, Hotwire, and Skechers in the U.S., and Sainsbury’s in the U.K.; 30% of wins were across three or more countries. The agency lost Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Bristol-Myers Squibb, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Amer­ican Television Alliance, and Timberland.

Cathy Fink, EVP, Diana Scott, SVP, and Verónica González, Latin America practice head, number among new hires in its growing health and wellness practice. On the MD front, Dan Benelisha came aboard to head up Singapore and Cory Curtis now leads Seat­tle. Van Bergen says healthcare needs more talent.

Women lead 54% of Porter Novelli’s offices including New York, Mexico City, and Atlanta. Karen Ovseyevitz is president of Latin America and Angie Schneider is president of Asia-Pacific. Senior executives departing during the year included Katie Huang Shin, EVP of technology, who went to WE Communications; Ed Hoffman, EVP, New York, who left for PadillaCRT; and Christine Cea, global consumer practice lead, who left the firm after just 10 months.

Van Bergen cited work for T-Mobile’s Pets Unleashed as compelling creative that saw the mobile comms company mentioned in 77% of April Fools’ Day tech and general consumer coverage.

She also states that more opportunities exist for Porter in consumer marketing and is looking for a global leader for that sector. In public affairs she would like more global integrated projects.

"A lot of clients are asking for integrated services from holistic teams and more creative, digital, and strategic planning from day one," says van Bergen.

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