Brunswick: Agency Business Report 2015

The former king lost its UK crown but expansion plans bode well for the future.

Sir Alan Parker: Chairman, Brunswick
Sir Alan Parker: Chairman, Brunswick

Principals: Sir Alan Parker, chairman; Susan Gilchrist, group CEO
Ownership: Independent
Offices: Global 23; UK 1
Revenues: Global £154.3m (estimated); UK £48m (estimated)
Headcount: Global 900; UK 232

Brunswick is notoriously reluctant to raise its head above the parapet, and the UK-based consultancy declined to be interviewed by PRWeek for our profile. What we can say for sure is that 2014 was a notable year for the firm as it lost its crown as the UK’s biggest PR agency by fee income.

In truth, this was probably more due to Edelman’s impressive growth than the performance of the London-headquartered financial PR specialist. Brunswick gave no figures, stating simply: "Performance was in line with expectations."

2014 certainly started well for the agency’s chairman and founder, with Sir Alan Parker being knighted last January for services to business, charitable giving and philanthropy. Parker, a close confidant of Prime Minister David Cameron, founded Brunswick in 1987 and has overseen its growth to a UK PR powerhouse and a significant international comms player.

Brunswick was once again involved in some headline-grabbing deals in 2014. In August, PRWeek reported that Brunswick was aiding Burger King with comms surrounding its potential $22bn (£14.7bn) takeover of Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons. Among the thorny issues to contend with were accusations that Miami-based Burger King planned to move its corporate headquarters to Canada as part of the transaction, allowing it to save on taxes.

There have been notable account losses too, including Inmarsat, the UK-based satellite operator that rose to international prominence when it helped to plot the predicted course of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in March 2014. Instinctif became the retained PR agency for the six-figure account.

Meanwhile, in April 2015, PRWeek reported that Brunswick client Bupa was looking for one or two new UK agencies with global networks. Brunswick has handled financial comms for the healthcare company for the past ten years and is repitching for the work.

Last year was also a notable one for senior personnel, with a major shake-up in the management team in both the US and UK. Nick Lovegrove, a former senior partner at McKinsey, joined as managing partner in the US. The role, which had been vacant, included overseeing Brunswick’s four US offices.

The agency also named Simon Sporborg as UK managing partner, replacing Nick Claydon, who led the firm’s London office for four years to work to integrate its client offering across Europe.

Other major appointments included Michael Krempasky, former Edelman GM and digital public affairs head in Washington DC, who joined as global lead of its digital practice.

There were additional heavyweight hires in the US with George Little, former Pentagon press secretary and director of public affairs and spokesman for the CIA, named as a partner in the Washington office. His remit is to grow the agency’s corporate data and privacy practice.

Ed Gillespie, former Republican Party chairman and counsellor to President George W Bush, returned to the agency in the role of senior counsellor.

Meanwhile, Keith Burton left his position as a partner in Brunswick’s New York office to run his own PR consultancy, Grayson Emmett Partners.

In the UK, Brunswick appointed Bryan Dumont, president of APCO Insight at APCO Worldwide, as a partner in London. His appointment hints at some new avenues for the agency, with Dumont given a remit to help deliver data-driven, corporate reputation campaigns to its global clients. He will also build on the firm’s opinion research offer, Brunswick Insight, across Europe.

Sporborg said at the time: "Bryan will develop new methodologies for measuring and valuing reputations. He will bridge our core corporate reputation work with research and corporate narrative development."

Finally on the appointments front, in March this year Brunswick promoted 14 directors across six offices to partners in the business.

Brunswick’s total headcount grew sharply in 2014, from 784 to 900. Of this, the UK added just five more members of staff.

In what is perhaps a nod to the agency’s global growth ambitions, the head-count grew much faster in the US, where employee numbers moved from 178 to 200, and Asia-Pacific, where it reached 101, up from 82 in 2013.

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