Latest agency financials paint rosier picture for 2013

Every year around this time we look to the world's largest PR firm to gauge the health of the overall communications industry and act as a bellwether moving forward.

Every year around this time we look to the world's largest PR firm to gauge the health of the overall communications industry and act as a bellwether moving forward.

PRWeek's exclusive access to Edelman's full-year 2012/13 financial data shows the firm grew 11.6% organically in the agency's financial year from July to the end of June, hitting revenues of $707 million. When you include Edelman's Zeno subsidiary the number rises to $733.9 million.

This performance was significantly better than Edelman's 2012 calendar year figures that we profiled in May's Agency Business Report, so it seems the market has improved in the last six months and the prospects of us seeing the first $1 billion global PR agency are growing steadily closer.

IPG's recent Q2 figures also reflected a more healthy business environment for the sector, with revenues at the network's Constituency Management Group unit, which contains PR agencies such as Weber Shandwick, GolinHarris, and DeVries Global, up 9.3% organically year over year.

Digital and big ticket integrated marketing work for major global companies are driving the increases at both organizations. At Edelman, technology has firmly taken second place in terms of practice size, after consumer. Weber Shandwick's eye-catching contract wins for work to promote health exchanges in light of the Affordable Care Act have yet to really kick in, so Q3 should continue the positive momentum.

Many agency leaders at the large firms say the business pipeline for July and August is busier and stronger than they can remember. The integration of major digital and social work on big projects, aligned with content generation and often with an additional paid-for advertising component, is supercharging growth that is likely to be sustainable.

Omnicom, which numbers FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, and Porter Novelli among its PR agency brands, did less well in Q2, with organic growth of just 3.8% way below its competitors at IPG and Edelman. However, that figure was much better than the year prior, when Omnicom's PR revenues grew just 0.9% y-o-y, so they will be thankful for smaller mercies over at the John Wren-helmed holding company.

WPP does not report its Q2 figures until the end of August, so the jury is still out on the Martin Sorrell-led network's performance, though he will no doubt be hoping for better than the 4.1% y-o-y drop his stable of PR and public affairs firms posted in Q1. Publicis and Havas do not break out PR revenues. And MDC's unit that contains its PR operations was up a healthy 9.5% year over year.

Clearly the picture is not totally consistent across the board, and there is still a talent merry-go-round in full motion as the leading agencies swap senior executives. But the Edelman and CMG results certainly suggest there is more receptivity to the modern PR and communications agency offer if it is presented and executed well.

Here's to a similarly positive second half of the year.

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