Weber Shandwick: Agency Business Report 2012

A decade after Weber Shandwick's merger with BSMG Worldwide, the firm reported double-digit growth in each of its major regions in what its executives called a landmark year.

Principals: Harris Diamond, CEO; Andy Polansky, president; Jack Leslie, chairman
Ownership: Interpublic Group (part of the Constituency Management Group)
Offices: Global: 85 wholly owned; US: 19
Revenue: Global: more than $500 million; US: more than $350 million

A decade after Weber Shandwick's merger with BSMG Worldwide, the firm reported double-digit growth in each of its major regions in what its executives called a landmark year. They cited especially strong business in China, South Korea, and Germany, as well as Chicago and northern California. Although it did not provide specific revenue numbers for 2011, Weber's US earnings surpassed $350 million last year and exceeded $500 million globally. It noted that some government-related work in international markets was “less robust.”
 
“In terms of business growth, there was consistency across the board,” explains president Andy Polansky. “Usually, a few offices, regions, or practices make the difference, but we saw consistent double-digit growth.”
 
Weber invested heavily in digital in 2011, bringing its total staff of strategists, community managers, producers, writers, developers, bloggers, and syndication and analytics experts to more than 300. In co-ordination with sister agency GolinHarris, it also bought Brazilian shop S2Publicom.
 
“The new services we have introduced to the client and the ability to go beyond our traditional business has resulted in deeper relationships,” says CEO Harris Diamond, who adds that Weber saw strong growth in its corporate practice as clients began to focus more on reputation management. “To a certain extent, people know the names and the images of the parent company now – and it drives them to buy the product.”
 
Significant client wins in 2011 included BAE Systems, Bank of America, Cargill,
Citrix's online services business, Eli Lilly, L.L. Bean, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Netgear, Novartis' Excedrin, and RadioShack. The firm lost work for Ceridian; DreamWorks Animation; HSBC's account for North America, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific; and Waste Management. Juniper Networks left for Edelman last July. Weber also resigned Kellogg's US work shortly after winning it last fall, due to a conflict within parent company IPG.
 
Last year, Weber hired Michael Stopford, former deputy assistant secretary general for strategic communications services at NATO, as EVP and senior global corporate strategist. It named Allyson Hugley EVP of its measurement and analytics practice. It lost KRC Research CEO Peter Shafer and Japan CEO Akihiko Kubo. Shortly after Southwestern regional president Jody Venturoni left for Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Weber obtained a restraining order against H+K, COO Ken Luce, and Venturoni, alleging they stole confidential employees and clients.
 
Diamond adds that Weber increasingly went up against shops from other marketing disciplines as it pitched for business in 2011.

“The biggest trend I noticed was the willingness of the client to let us pitch for assignments that were perceived to be the domain of the digital, direct, or ad agency,” he says. “In the past, we were perceived, somewhat narrowly, as the people who did the PR. Now they see us as people who can lead marketing services to a certain extent and who have the ability to understand the online and offline world in a much broader context than the other disciplines.”

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