EDITORIAL: Hidden statistics of agency rankings

This week's issue comes with a special 64-page PRWeek Agency

Rankings 2001 insert. In it you'll find exclusive analysis and comment,

a myriad of interesting statistics, and enough numbers to make your head


However, here are five behind-the-scenes statistics to consider.

1. Despite doomsayers who predict the imminent demise of small and

medium-size PR firms, our analysis shows that last year, agencies

outside the top 10 actually grew at a faster rate, reversing a five

year-long trend of declining market share. Let's hear it for the small


2. Incepta is the largest PR agency outside the US. With revenues of

dollars 164 million, it has greater revenues in the rest of the world

than Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, Weber Shandwick Worldwide and

all the other US firms that have built global empires. Many people have

arrogantly dismissed Incepta because they've never heard of them or

don't bump into them on a regular basis in pitches. But with aggressive

expansion, this publicly-traded UK-based company is building a strong

showing in public affairs, investor relations and tech. And while it's

been affected by the US slowdown, its concentration in Europe could

become its strongest asset.

3. No one in the agency world can agree on how important - or not - the

Web is to this business. A question in the rankings form asked agencies

to state how much of their business was Internet-related. The answers

were so wildly varying as to be amusing. For example, Porter Novelli

said 100%. Clearly it subscribes to the now unfashionable view that 'the

Internet touches everything we do.' On the other hand, GCI (2%), Edelman

(3%), BSMG (4%) and Ketchum (6%) take a different view. It's not clear

if this is an attempt to rewrite recent history ('The Internet? We

wouldn't touch it'), or an honest assessment of PR's bit part in

Web-based communications.

4. As the PR industry attempts to encroach on new areas (HR, management

consultancy, Web development etc.) one of the most appealing

diversifications is to enter the advertising fray. There's a widely held

view among PR practitioners that PR should take the lead role in the

development of marketing strategy, with advertising deployed as a

potential PR 'weapon.' To this end, there are several PR agencies that

talk about their future as integrated marketing shops. Yet the

statistics show how far PR has to go before it can be taken seriously as

a potential one-stop shop. Media commissions on consumer and b-to-b

advertising amounted to dollars 45 million.

That's a mere fraction (1.5%) of US PR income. (And incidentally, these

revenues were not included in the revenue figures reported.) The

rankings also show what a red herring corporate and issue-based

advertising is in the debate that has raged about 'inflated' revenues in

agency rankings lists. This revenue stream accounts for dollars 30

million, or 1%, of industry revenues.

5. And who needs advertising anyway? With 32% growth in the US versus

12.4% for ad agencies (according to Advertising Age), PR agencies should

abandon all thoughts of advertising leadership and focus on


(Fleishman-Hillard's US revenues of dollars 266 million would make it

the 13th largest ad agency after Saatchi & Saatchi if measured by gross


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