Ogilvy PR: Agency Business Report 2014

During a year in which parent company WPP saw a 1.7% revenue decline in PR and public affairs, Ogilvy Public Relations had a flat year globally, which was forecasted.

Global CEO Christopher Graves
Global CEO Christopher Graves

Principal: Christopher Graves, global CEO
Ownership: WPP (part of Ogilvy & Mather)
Subsidiary agencies: Feinstein Kean Healthcare
Offices: Global: 89; US: 8
Revenue: Global: $250 million to $300 million; US: $100 million to $125 million
Headcount: Global: 2,200; US: 600

During a year in which parent company WPP saw a 1.7% revenue decline in PR and public affairs, Ogilvy Public Relations had a flat year globally, which was forecasted.

Global CEO Christopher Graves notes Asia and Europe as the firm’s top performing regions, while highlighting London and South Africa as notable growth markets. 

"Africa reminds me of Asia 20 years ago," says Graves. "I lived through the giant growth boom then and can see it happening now in Africa." He adds that France, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and China were also solid 2013 performers. Combined, all the markets grew in the 15% to 20% range.

Offsetting that, however, was a 10% revenue decline in the US, which was mainly attributed to struggles in the Washington, DC, office where around 20 staffers were let go last May. Rob Mathias, North America regional CEO, cites sequestration and a frozen government budget as key factors. "There was a hesitation to spend on both existing and new contracts," he explains. "Absolute inaction on behalf of Congress meant corporations weren’t spending money in Washington."

Encouraging signs emerged in Q4. An effort two years back to diversify its portfolio of government-agency clients led to new work with Health and Human Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security, among others.

The year also saw Ogilvy successfully repitch for the global LG Electronics account. Meanwhile, US-based work was won for Ford Warriors in Pink, Pfizer, Castrol, and Brand USA. Expanded efforts with existing accounts included DuPont and its Food Security Index and the National Association of Broadcasters.

Ogilvy’s contract with the Mexico Tourism Board expired last summer and was awarded to MSLGroup in October.

The firm’s three top practices continued their growth in 2013. Both the brand marketing and corporate areas were up 5% globally, with the latter seeing an 11% US uptick.

Meanwhile, Social@Ogilvy remains the firm’s strongest performer, growing 32% globally last year. However, the practice did experience a notable staff loss as global MD John Bell left the firm to become VP of enterprise digital marketing at Travelers Insurance.

"John shaped our philosophy that you build a social practice through education," says Graves. "That helps you not only grow the offering, but also establish incredible bench strength."

That depth was tapped as Thomas Crampton was promoted to replace Bell in December after leading the practice in Asia-Pacific. Other notable Social@Ogilvy moves included hiring Kathy Baird as SVP of strategy in DC and April Scott as New York lead. Lindsay Garrison also joined the firm as SVP of brand marketing.

In another nod to the agency’s depth, Graves credits Luca Penati, MD of content and social, and Amy Messenger, MD and US tech practice head, for the August debut of Espresso. The new offering is designed to give emerging brands and startups access to big-brand thinking, consultation, and measurable results. SpotRight, Rock Health, and CliQr are among companies benefiting from the new service.

Emphasis for 2014
With content, insights, and brand marketing being key points of emphasis for 2014, the firm debuted a North America insight and strategy group this February, led by 15-year Ogilvy veteran Michael Briggs.

"Data-driven insights predicate the PR solution you’ll put into place," explains Graves. "We’ve long had this capability. This new group is about building that capacity at the local level."

In fact, many recent staff moves were made to bolster Ogilvy’s content and social offerings. Penati, for example, assumed his current role after serving as global MD of the tech practice for eight years. In addition, Todd Cullen was hired last August as Ogilvy & Mather’s chief global data officer.

Graves predicts revenue growth for 2014 in London, France, South Africa, Kenya, and China. He also forecasts a US rebound, citing New York as a key revenue generator.

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