Cohn & Wolfe: Agency Business Report 2012

Cohn & Wolfe added more of an international flavor to its offerings in late 2011.

Principal: Donna Imperato, CEO
Ownership: WPP Group
Subsidiary agencies: AxiCom and GCI Health
Offices: Global: 59 majority-owned; US: 15
Revenue:
Global: $100 million to $150 million
US: $65 million to $100 million
Headcount: Global: 1,100; US: 550

Cohn & Wolfe added more of an international flavor to its offerings in late 2011. In Q4, it bought Impactasia, an agency with offices throughout China, and merged them with C&W's Beijing and Shanghai offices. Weeks later, it bought Singapore-based XPR, a digital shop, to expand its presence in Southeast Asia.
 
“In China, healthcare is going strong,” says CEO Donna Imperato. “We have established ourselves as a real player in healthcare in China. We're making sure we are one of the strongest players there in terms of healthcare, corporate, and digital.”
 
Acquisitions lead growth

The acquisitions were a highlight of 2011, a year in which C&W grew 11% in the US and 8.4% overall, beating its forecasts of 5%. The firm said it retained or grew 19 of its top 20 clients, including Walmart, 3M, Panasonic, and Valvoline. Of that group, the firm only lost work for Buick. The agency also won new business from Hennessy, LG Electronics, Sam's Club, the US Olympic Committee, and 3M Display and Graphics.
 
“We're off to a good start in 2012 and continuing the trend from last year, so things are looking good,” says Imperato. “I was nervous with the talk at the end of the year about the economy, particularly in Europe, but we haven't had any major cuts or client losses. New business is healthy and I have projected 7% growth for this year in terms of revenue. That was a little bold, but I was feeling good on the heels of 2011.”
 
Although C&W lost Annie Longsworth, president of the firm's San Francisco office, to Saatchi & Saatchi in January 2012, it replaced her with Anna Cahill Leonard shortly after. It also brought on Jim Joseph in February 2012 as its North America president, hiring him away from Lippe Taylor. Mark Cater, C&W's former New York president, left last July to return to the UK for personal reasons.
 
C&W named its London, New York, and Asia-Pacific markets as top performers. WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell cited C&W, along with sister firm Ogilvy PR Worldwide, as a top performer in its 2011 year-end earnings report.

“PR is being taken more seriously at client companies,” notes Imperato. “That's driven by social, which in a day could make your brand go up or down. They are starting to see PR as the most valuable content manager. That's great for us and the industry.”

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