Weber Shandwick: Agency Business Report 2010

With CEO Harris Diamond at the helm, Weber Shandwick maintained its solid reputation despite a tough year. The firm not only added new clients, but built upon its existing client relationships, Diamond says, increasing revenues by 1% in the US.

Principals: Harris Diamond, CEO; Andy Polansky, president; Jack Leslie, chairman
Ownership: Interpublic Group
Offices: 81 wholly owned offices globally; 19 in the US
Revenue: Undisclosed

With CEO Harris Diamond at the helm, Weber Shandwick maintained its solid reputation despite a tough year. The firm not only added new clients, but built upon its existing client relationships, Diamond says, increasing revenues by 1% in the US. Meanwhile, global revenues were down approximately 4.5%, which was "mostly continental Europe and a little bit down in Asia," he adds.

Despite uncertainty at the end of 2008 and for the first few months of 2009, president Andy Polansky says client budgets stabilized as the year progressed. While wins spanned all practice areas, Diamond points to the healthcare, public affairs, corporate affairs, and consumer practice areas as being "the major drivers of our business."

"We won more new business in 2009 than in any of the prior three years, and that gave us momentum – not only for 2009, but a lot of that business was on-going," Polansky says. "So it has given us a good lift for early 2010."

Some of the new clients in 2009 included Samsung, MySpace, Symantec, Champion, and Juniper Networks, which helped offset the loss when telecom company Nortel filed for bankruptcy in January 2009. Polansky called the agency's 2009 win-to-loss ratio "impressive," while Diamond notes that expanded work with existing clients also contributed to growth. In 2009, the agency expanded work with Microsoft in EMEA and it is working on the Pepsi "Refresh" campaign.
 
Achieving objectives
"Our goal last year... was to get through the financial crisis," Diamond says. "Clearly, we did that. Then our goal was to enhance our relationships with our clients. Based on the growth we saw, we did that also."

While the agency declined to provide headcount, it experienced senior-level departures in 2009 including Jennylee Haines, SVP of healthcare; Ian Bailey, EVP of financial; and John Beale, EVP of corporate. The firm also made several senior hires, including Lisa Sepulveda as president of its global consumer marketing practice, and George Snell, SVP in its digital communications practice. In addition, the firm promoted Janet Helm to chief food and nutrition strategist in Chicago and named Laura Schoen as chair of Latin America, to supplement her global healthcare practice role.

"We had minimal turnover last year," Polansky says. "We had a few layoffs in the Seattle office. There were some pockets like that, but very minimal in relation to what was going on in the market overall."
 
Improving environment

Diamond predicts opportunities for the agency to continue to "help clients navigate a continuously changing communications landscape" and emphasizes that Weber will continue to focus on clients.
 
"The environment will continue to improve as the year progresses," adds Polansky. "It's still an environment where many are somewhat cautious. But many of the economic indicators we're seeing reflect a more optimistic view. That will have a positive effect on our business as we go on."

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