Zeno Group: PRWeek Global Agency Business Report 2016

Zeno Group had a successful 2015, which CEO Barby Siegel credits to the firm's record of working collaboratively with clients of all sizes.

Barby Siegel, CEO, Zeno Group
Barby Siegel, CEO, Zeno Group

Principal: Barby Siegel, CEO
Ownership: DJE Holdings
Offices: Global: 22; U.S.: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Redwood City, California
Revenue: Global: $39.7 million; U.S.: $35,420,631

Zeno Group had a successful 2015 as the DJE Holdings firm recorded double-digit growth, 21.4% globally and 25% in the U.S., respectively. The firm derives 75% of its revenue in the latter region. It picked up wins including TGI Fridays, Pilot Flying J truck stops, Capital One, GoFundMe, and a global consulting gig with Philips Diagnostics Imaging.

It also expanded work with existing clients such as its key Anheuser-Busch account, including new brand work for Best Damn Root Beer, Oculto, and the reintroduction of Busch into NASCAR. It expanded work with Merck, Scotts, and AstraZeneca.

"We have a model that resonates with clients: midsize, global, hands-on, and collaborative," explains CEO Barby Siegel.

Tylenol work wound down in Q4 as the brand moved to Golin, but Zeno continues to work with Johnson & Johnson in other capacities. Food and beverage brands make up 22% of clientele. Tech is the fastest-growing sector at 20%; with healthcare/pharma next at 14% as Zeno branches out from its consumer roots.

U.S. staff hit 176, up from 154 the prior year, including EVP Frank Eliason, who many remember as Comcast Frank, the writer of the social media playbook for customer relations with @comcastcares in early 2008. Eliason is leading Human CX, a new customer experience digital offering.

Zeno kicked off 2016 by acquiring 3 Monkeys Communications in London, creating a combined U.K. staff of 75 with operations of around $12 million. Siegel describes it as a "tremendous platform from which to grow internationally." Its founding Chicago office remains its most profitable. A key hire in February 2016 was sister firm Edelman’s vice chair of client engagement Nancy Ruscheinski, who moved over to Zeno as its first COO.

Regrouping in Asia
However, the success story didn’t translate to the APAC region where the firm struggled. It shuttered the Shanghai and Beijing offices, hitting "pause" on China, a key global market. Siegel said it "didn’t have enough scale," and needed to "regroup."

Asia revenue, which up until January 1, 2016, had been reported within Zeno parent Edelman, but will now count toward Zeno, jumped 17% with clients including Asus, Lenovo, YouTube, and new work with Prudential. John Kerr, who runs the region, was promoted to a dual role as chief digital officer.

And following troubles in China for Edelman, Alan VanderMolen, the vice chairman of DJE Holdings, exited the group. He was tasked with overseeing DJE growth properties for Zeno Group and Edelman Digital, among others.

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