Ownership: Publicis Groupe
Group companies: Kekst and Company, PBJS, Publicis Consultants
Offices: Global: 88 wholly owned; US: 14
Revenue: Global: $450 million; US: $150 million to $200 million
Headcount: Global: 2,816; US: 655
MSLGroup placed big bets both internationally and domestically last year as it continued to build out the PR function of Publicis Groupe, its parent company.
Publicis acquired Boston-based Schwartz Communications last September, merging it into MSLGroup, and rebranding it Schwartz MSL. Schwartz, which reported $22 million in revenues in 2010, offered the firm healthcare and tech-sector expertise.
Jim Tsokanos, president of the Americas at MSLGroup, says the agency “acquired 17 SVPs in technology, clean tech, medical, and IT” through the Schwartz acquisition.
MSLGroup also gained staff and offices around the world via its acquisitions of Poland's Ciszewski PR, which specializes in financial and tech communications, and mainland China's Genedigi Group and ICL.
“If you don't play big in emerging markets as this economy turns around, you'll find yourself behind the 8 ball,” says Tsokanos.
Although the agency did not disclose exact figures, Tsokanos says its revenues today are north of $450 million globally.
Overall, it saw single-digit revenue growth in 2011, but nearly 20% in emerging markets. The agency places 2011 US revenue between $150 million and $200 million, noting that it saw 15% growth in profitability in the US in part due to strong showings from its New York, Chicago, and Washington offices. Tsokanos claims that MSLGroup is now the fourth-largest agency in the world.
He adds that while other major holding companies such as WPP, Omnicom, and
IPG have numerous large firms, MSLGroup's cornerstone status as Publicis' PR agency of note is an advantage over competitors.
“So while everyone else is trying to figure out who they want to be when they grow up, we already went through that,” explains Tsokanos, adding that the agency functions as a “$450 million startup with operations in 83 markets.
“There's so much uncertainty in the marketplace,” he notes. “To handle a portfolio business and handle the speed of change, you must be able to place giant bets on the table and make sure they pay off.”
Two thirds of MSLGroup's 2011 growth was organic, spurred by clients Procter & Gamble, Underwriters Laboratories, the World Gold Council, Eli Lilly, and business from GM. It also won global briefs from glassmaker Schott, Bosch power tools, and United Technologies. It lost work from the Moroccan Financial Board and Hennessy. Tsokanos cites initiatives for Microsoft, the Consumer Electronics Show, and Siemens, as well as its handling of concussion-concern issues for helmet-maker Riddell as 2011 highlights.
Headcount grew 30% last year. The firm names Schwartz MSL president Bryan Scanlon, SVP and director of insights creation and measurement Janelle Dixon, and sales and business development SVP Mike Russell as major hires. It also added Stephen Millikin, Jack Yeo, Anne Erhard, Kate DiRanna, Jon Cunningham, and Laura Chavoen in SVP roles. Former US Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) was named a senior adviser in the Washington office.
The agency lost SVPs Anita Bose, Allyson Hugley, Phillip Sontag, Jeanine O'Kane, and David Chamberlin to other firms in 2011.