Golin - new leadership, steady growth

IPG firm continues steady revenue growth while undergoing a leadership transition at the top

Principals: Fred Cook, global chairman (far right); and (from left) Jon Hughes, Gary Rudnick, and Matt Neale, co-CEOs
Ownership: Interpublic Group (part of Constituency Management Group)
Subsidiaries: The Brooklyn Brothers and Magic
Offices: Global: 53; U.S.: 9
Revenue: Global: $200 million to $250 million; U.S.: $100 million to $150 million
Headcount: Global: 1,500; U.S.: 725
U.K. revenue: £25 million; Headcount: 260
Asia revenue: $21.5 million; Headcount: 305

Senior leadership transition was the order of the day for Interpublic Group’s second-largest PR firm, Golin, as it celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016, but also mourned the passing of agency icon Al Golin.

Former CEO Fred Cook moved upstairs to become chairman and handed over co-CEO responsibilities to three of the agency’s senior execs, who now report to Interpublic’s EVP and CFO Frank Mergenthaler.

Jon Hughes maintained regional responsibility for Asia and became CEO+International, focusing on global expansion, practices, and partnerships. Matt Neale still oversees EMEA and New York and became CEO+Vision, looking after new products, thought leadership, and agency reputation. Gary Rudnick kept regional responsibility for the Americas and assumed CEO+Operations, overseeing finance, HR, and client management.

Cook is still active in the firm, but will spend more time on his external role as director of the USC Center for Public Relations at the Annenberg School. Ellen Ryan Mardiks continues as vice chairman.

"Fred will continue to focus on clients, new business, and innovation," says Rudnick. The former CEO is particularly involved with Nintendo, Humana, and McDonald’s.

After word of a proposed all day breakfast leaked out, McDonald's called upon its longtime agency partner Golin to correct course. The result ended up in The People's Launch taking home Campaign of the Year at the 2017 PRWeek Awards

Al Golin died in April aged 87. He will be indelibly linked with McDonald’s after he cold-called Ray Kroc in 1956 and helped the founder of the fledgling chain grow into one of the world’s most admired brands. He was still active in the agency, providing counsel in his final weeks, and had not formally retired.

U.S. growth keeps pace
Overall, IPG’s Constituency Management Group, which contains PR firms including Golin and Weber Shandwick, achieved a full-year organic revenue increase of 3.6% in 2016 for the second year running.

Golin posted "mid-single-digit organic" and "double-digit overall growth worldwide," says Neale, compared to 8% global organic growth in 2014 and 2015. The U.S. matched the global figures, attaining double-digit growth in New York and solid progress in Dallas and Washington, DC. Chicago was up modestly, while Los Angeles was down.

The firm’s New York office now houses 75 people, with a further 40 at its subsidiary The Brooklyn Brothers’ office in Manhattan.

The agency’s #AskGudmundur human search engine campaign won at Cannes Lions and was an honorable mention at the 2017 PRWeek Awards for Iceland’s national tourist office.

The firm’s global healthcare business didn’t grow as fast as expected, but New York’s healthcare education business had a strong year.

"The U.K. had a storming year, underpinned by another double-digit growth," Neale explains. Golin London grew more than any other office by revenue.

Consumer, corporate, digital, and content all grew well, especially via global accounts such as Hyatt, led out of Chicago and New York. China performed less well, which resulted in low single-digit growth across the Asia region. "There was uncertainty in the market and cutbacks due to the economy slowing down," he says. "But Magic had a really strong year in its first as part of the agency and looks strong for 2017."

Winning time
An APAC brief for Fox Global Networks led out of Hong Kong was a notable win in 2016. Other successes included Aecom, Johnson & Johnson, and Oracle across APAC; Atlantis Sanya and Barbie in China; Budweiser and Texas Instruments in India; and Heineken and Lipton in Singapore.

In April 2017, Chicago MD Patti Temple Rocks became Golin’s first client innovation officer, and Dallas MD Ginger Porter was promoted to president of the agency’s Midwest region.

The agency continued to work for McDonald’s, winning PRWeek’s Campaign of the Year in 2017 for its all day breakfast activation, which boosted the chain’s stock by 25% in one quarter and supercharged sales.

Golin doubled down on last February’s acquisition of U.K.-headquartered creative agency The Brooklyn Brothers, restructuring its management team in February 2017. "The firm had a double-digit growth year in 2016," says Neale. "It brings us scale in NYC and makes us a truly integrated agency in London."

The Brooklyn Brothers won lead creative, digital, and CRM duties for BMW/Mini U.K., pitching against big ad agencies — and also netted Iceland Fisheries. "They’re in almost every pitch we do," adds Rudnick.

See also: PRWeek staff talk with Renee Wilson, president of PR Council, about Al Golin's death, United's crisis, and more.

Significant wins for Golin included AB InBev’s Goose Island 312, Amazon Video, Essilor of America, Facebook Messenger, Horizon Organic, Koch Industries, Mount Gay Rum, and Premier Inn in the U.K.

In 2016, Golin said goodbye to U.S. clients Crown Imports, Libbey Glass, and Washington State winery Chateau Ste. Michelle. A regional remit for Toyota migrated to Allison+Partners, though Golin continues to work with the auto manufacturer globally.

"We took some hits at the beginning of 2016, but we had a good new business year," notes Rudnick.

The agency is targeting global automotive and airline briefs in 2017, as well as continuing to grow its Hyatt work and other regions for Facebook Messenger, which has already expanded to the U.K. The firm helped Pepsi launch its premium bottled water brand Lifewtr during the Super Bowl in Houston.

Golin opened offices in Belgrade, Serbia, and Toronto in 2016. It closed outposts in Orange County, Baltimore, and Richmond, Virginia, in the U.S.

The Brooklyn Brothers brings us scale in NYC and makes us truly integrated in London

Matt Neale

Noteworthy hires included U.K. head of digital Alex Brittain, who came over from Razorfish; San Francisco-based tech practice executive director Lisa Boughner; corporate executive director Sarah Vellozzi, who left FleishmanHillard; and Hong Kong MD Jane Morgan, who joined from Edelman.

Chief people officer Pamela Culpepper left Golin in 2016 to be replaced by executive director of HR Carrie Galli. Golin continued innovating on the people and culture front, introducing its Life Time employee benefits plan, a Returnship program to help women get back to work after years at home, and Golin B&B to support interns with living costs.

The latter is being tested in London this spring. Golin is sharing the idea with the PR Council and encouraging other firms to utilize the template.

"It is not our ambition to be the number one, two, or three [PR] agency by scale," Neale says. "But it’s absolutely our ambition to be number one by reputation. We want to be the defining agency of the decade and the most progressive marcomms brand."

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