Gibbs & Soell: Agency Business Report 2013

For Gibbs & Soell, 2012 proved to be a turnaround year.

Principal: Luke Lambert, president and CEO; Jeff Altheide, executive vice president
Ownership: Independent
Offices: New York; Chicago; Raleigh, NC; and Basel, Switzerland
Revenue: Global: $19,734,890; US: $19,593,416
Headcount: Global: 119; US: 115

For Gibbs & Soell, 2012 proved to be a turnaround year. Having seen US revenues decline 8.5% in 2011, the agency posted record revenues in 2012 with 40% growth in the US and a 34% increase globally with worldwide revenue just shy of $20 million.

To achieve this, Gibbs & Soell underwent a "very serious transition" at the start of 2012, launching a new business communications strategy and rebrand, says Luke Lambert, president and CEO.

The agency added practice areas that include business consulting, employee engagement, and sustainability consulting and bolstered the consumer marketing practice launched the prior year.

Gibbs & Soell's Switzerland hub was shifted to Basel from Zurich in June 2012 in a joint venture with int/ext Communications.

"We felt a rebrand of the business should not be just about a new tag. We wanted to provide our clients with a unique approach and go deeper into the markets we practice in to provide more value," says Lambert.

He says the growth that ensued was a blend of organic and new business.

Following its own relaunch, Gibbs & Soell's business consultancy practice worked on a global rebrand with agribusiness client Syngenta which entailed aligning brand identities, executive workshops, and strategy guides.

"This sort of work is atypical of our industry, but it is where we see it going," says Lambert.

Gibbs & Soell has focused on diversifying its expertise to align with changes in the industry. It made two strategic hires in 2012 from non-PR backgrounds. Michael Samec joined as director of digital strategy in March. He was most recently director of marketing strategy for RKON Technologies. Alan Hicks joined in May as the agency's first creative director. Hicks was most recently creative director of design agency Signal.

While one or two staff in each office works on digital strategy with a dotted line into Samec, the agency plans to hire additional dedicated digital strategy experts. The agency's in-house creative team lead by Hicks is now five-strong.

According to Lambert, and in contrast to last year, Gibbs & Soell is seeing growth in all of the sectors it operates in - home and building, agribusiness and food, advanced manufacturing, and financial services.

Gibbs & Soell picked-up nine new business wins in 2012 including online personal asset lender Borro, Florida East Coast Railway, Harris Interactive, and Panasonic Power Tools. This year, the agency won house and kitchenware company Trudeau.

Lambert says he is "very optimistic" about PR talent acquisition and impressed by what some of the US schools are doing to produce new talent with the requirements agencies now need.

For the remainder of the year and next, Gibbs & Soell will be making a big push in thought leadership to increase the visibility of the new practice areas.

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