The Weber Shandwick/BSMG merger welcomes in a new era for the
public relations industry. Imagine a firm with more than half a billion
dollars in revenue. It would have been unthinkable even ten years ago.
Today, it's reality. And in this new reality, WSW has distanced itself
by some margin from its nearest rivals, Fleishman Hillard, Hill &
Knowlton, and Burson-Marsteller.
But it's not the size that makes this a new era. It's the sheer scope of
the combined operations, and the daring of the vision that underscores
it. Larry Weber has had his critics. But while PRWeek has criticized
some of the style and execution, the concept of providing clients with
true global coverage and strength in depth across a multitude of PR
disciplines is compelling, mirroring the development of global
accounting, legal, and management consulting firms.
Now, with the BSMG merger, WSW has filled in a number of missing pieces
from the global and operational jigsaw, giving an underdeveloped vision
a greater sense of fruitfulness and viability.
Is the new, improved Weber Shandwick going to be the solution for every
client? No. Are there a lot of truly global agency accounts? No. But as
the RFP at IBM illustrates, there are moves afoot at Fortune 200
companies to consolidate PR, following in the footsteps of other
marketing services like advertising and direct marketing (as well as
legal and accounting services). And the sums of money we're talking
about are big enough to keep Weber Shandwick executives happy.
It will be interesting to see how long it is before other PR agencies
react to this move. Ironically, the idea of a PR superpower was mooted
by John Wren at Omnicom four years ago, when he proposed a merger
between Fleishman Hillard and Porter Novelli. The suggestion was met
with howls of protest in impassioned defense of incompatible "cultures."
The new Weber Shandwick, on the other hand, promises a new style of
culture that celebrates diversity over homogeneity, while putting
greater emphasis on collaboration and entrepreneurship. It's a brave new
world we are entering here for public relations agencies. Welcome to the