FleishmanHillard - celebrating 70th in style

Omnicom firm celebrates its 70th anniversary in style by delivering its best year in terms of performance.

Principal: John Saunders, president and CEO
Ownership: Omnicom Group (part of Diversified Agency Services)
Subsidiaries: BlueCurrent, CCW, DDC Advocacy, GMMB, High Road Communications, Lois Paul & Partners, Specialist, TogoRun, VegaRun, and Vox Global
Offices: Global: 83; U.S.: 37
Revenue: Global: $550 million to $600 million; U.S.: more than $400 million
Headcount: Global: 2,800; U.S.: 1,750
U.K. revenue: £30 million; Headcount: 250
Asia revenue: $50 million; Headcount: 500

Agency president and CEO John Saunders says FleishmanHillard delivered its best year of performance "by some distance," including 21 new assignments worth more than $1 million each and a 76% new business close rate.

High-profile wins included Western Union, which consolidated its global PR brief into FleishmanHillard after a competitive review in late 2016. Edelman previously handled U.S. and Burson-Marsteller had Asia. Anheuser-Busch InBev brought Fleishman back
in the U.S. in July to handle corporate reputation, replacing Weber Shandwick and PMK-BNC. The agency wrestled the AOR account for PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats away from incumbent Zeno Group last summer following an RFP.

Other notable wins included a global assignment for Crocs; U.S. work for JPMorgan Chase, Levi’s, and Alibaba Group; Verifone in the U.S. and EMEA; and ADP in Canada.

Fleishman parent Diversified Agency Services, the Omnicom unit containing its PR firms, recorded organic year-over-year revenue growth of 2.8% in 2016 — a marked improvement on its 1.4% dip in 2015. Fleishman grew in the mid-single digits.

As usual in an election year, Fleishman benefited from non-recurring election-related media buying by its GMMB political advertising subsidiary. "It was a major contributor to Q4," Saunders says. "We’ll have to work hard to absorb the end of that in 2017, although this year started better than expected for GMMB."

As part of Chevrolet's Positivity Pump effort, FleishmanHillard enlisted the cognitive capabiities of IBM's Watson platform to develop the Chevy Global Positivity System - a website that evaluates users social media presence to gauge their positive impact.

Fleishman picked up some McDonald’s CSR and employee engagement work in Chicago as part of the initial rollout of Omnicom’s DDB-led holding company win of the burger company’s integrated business.

The firm instigated a global client leader initiative to align business priorities with its largest clients, including AT&T, Bayer, Bose, FitBit, General Motors, Huawei, Johnson & Johnson, Philips, and SAP. The blueprint will be rolled out further in 2017.

Expansion work
Bose was a Boston-led global assignment seized from Edelman in February 2016, which quickly grew into a significant account. Fleishman won a year-long seven-figure deal starting last September with fraud protection coalition Financial Fraud Action U.K.

In January 2017, Fleishman also took on crisis work for USA Gymnastics amid the sporting body’s sex abuse scandal. In February, Alcatel appointed FleishmanHillard Fishburn as its European creative lead. And in March, Fleishman took over global PR duties for Saudi Aramco on an extensive pre-IPO corporate brief. The energy giant previously worked with Weber Shandwick on a project basis "That’s going to be one of our most significant plays," Saunders notes.

Notable hires included Ali Gee, who became deputy CEO of the newly combined FleishmanHillard Fishburn operation in the U.K.

Former ABC, PBS, and CNBC news correspondent and anchor Barbara Pinto and former New York Times business editor Tim Race joined as SVPs.

We might not get the whole loaf of bread, but we're getting more slices than before

John Saunders

Dallas-based Mike Cearley was upped to global MD, social and innovation in October, replacing John Estafanous, who departed the firm. Dallas was Fleishman’s best-performing office by revenue growth in 2016, benefiting from more GM and AT&T work.

Della Sweetman was elevated to the new role of chief business development officer. Kris Balderston was also promoted, to president of global public affairs; Robert Hoopes took over his DC office GM duties.

Veterans move on
Global president of business development and partnerships Jack Modzelewski retired in January 2017 after 26 years at Fleishman. Another veteran, this time of 30 years, senior partner and EVP of global client relations Nancy Seliger, moved to M Booth in the same month.

Global CMO Stephanie Marchesi departed Fleishman in March 2016 after six years, subsequently joining WE Communications in October as president of its health sector and Eastern region.

In March 2016, MSLGroup hired away Fleishman’s Boston office GM and Americas technology co-lead Danielle Wuschke to be U.S. operations leader and global tech practice EVP. In the U.K., Caroline Winters left to join Danone UK and Ireland. Overall staff turnover was 19%.

In June, Fleishman revamped its Hong Kong and mainland China leadership into a new Greater China structure, promoting China president and senior partner Li Hong to chairman, with Rachel Catanach taking over Hong’s former role. Asia-Pacific had its best year, adds Saunders, fueled by extensive crisis work, consumer, beauty, and wellness assignments, and healthcare growth including work for the Ministry of Health in Korea, P&G as part of the MMK+ client service structure, and J&J’s Neutrogena.

In Europe this March, Fleishman, Ketchum, and Porter Novelli merged its networks in France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain under the Omnicom PR Group unit. Ketchum partner and European CEO David Gallagher became the group’s international president for growth and development in August.

"It makes commercial sense. None of us had critical mass in those markets," explains Saunders. "Having a single leader, back office efficiencies, and combined strength in pitches gives us a good shot."

Fleishman lost six of its top 100 clients in 2016, including HP, which ended its relationships with Fleishman and sister agency Porter Novelli in September and transferred its $14 million product and communications brief to Edelman. Fleishman SVP and senior partner Vanessa Yanez had moved to HP in March as head of corporate communications.

The agency also said goodbye to a multimillion-dollar PR AOR assignment for CFA Institute, which ended a seven-year relationship and moved to Ogilvy PR in October. Its subsidiary High Road lost American Express in Canada, and work on Russell Stover ended after less than a year. Other losses included Ulta Beauty, which moved to sibling Ketchum, and USAA, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Cree Lighting.

Fleishman lost Cadillac in January 2016, and Chevrolet’s social media business this February to an IPG consortium containing Weber Shandwick. But it had a mic-drop moment in winning GM’s overall brand AOR assignment in December after a hotly contested RFP against four other firms. The initially U.S.-focused three-year contract includes corporate PR, global product development, and advanced tech.

"OPRG has been very good for us," says Saunders. "We’ve worked closely with the group on opportunities such as McDonald’s. More of those are coming. We might not get the whole loaf of bread, but we’re getting more slices than before. It’s elevated the status of PR."

On the philanthropy front, Fleishman celebrated its 70th birthday in 2016 by donating $2 million and 5,000 pro bono hours to organizations supporting good causes through its FH4Inclusion initiative.

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