Principal: Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO
Offices: Global 12; U.S.: New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC
Revenue: Global: $67.4 million; U.S.: $39.5 million
Even though Ruder Finn had no significant client losses, global revenue dropped nearly 9% to $67.4 million in 2016 from $74 million in 2015.
"There was uncertainty from a lot of our clients, whether it was about the economy or politics," says CEO Kathy Bloomgarden. "Clients would get budget increases, but would sit on it. We had budgets that were approved and held for six to eight months."
Also, the number of product launches from healthcare clients last year was 24, half of the 2015 number.
Still, Bloomgarden feels the firm is well positioned for a turnaround: Investments were made in new practices, analytics, and senior talent. "We wanted to get ahead of how the industry is shifting," she explains.
Healthcare, tech, consumer, and financial services are the firm’s core sectors. It launched Bloom for incubating comms ideas for startups, particularly in healthcare tech. Clients number about 50, including Polaroid Swing, a new photo app backed by Twitter cofounder Biz Stone.
Global reputation and risk management is another newly launched practice, led by Christine Dusek in New York, who was promoted from EVP, corporate comms, and Charles Lankester, EVP, global reputation and risk management, in Hong Kong.
The firm developed a predictive, real-time data collection tool for crisis PR. "It is increasingly important for multinationals to understand what is happening in some remote region before it turns into a viral firestorm," Bloomgarden notes.
Insight and analytics expertise
In December, the firm acquired Hong Kong-based Daylight Partnership for its expertise in insights and analytics. It was merged with the agency’s digital arm, Ruder Finn Innovation Studios, and branded RFI Daylight. Reporting to Jean-Michel Dumont, chairman of Ruder Finn Asia, Daylight founder David Ko leads 50 people in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India.
Among 18 new hires were Keith Hughes, EVP and head, U.S. corporate practice, from Burson-Marsteller; Sally Ann Barton, EVP and head, U.S. healthcare practice, and Cindy Oertel, SVP, healthcare, both from Ogilvy PR. Stephen Downs, MD, RFI; Maryann Watson, RFI president; and Susan Goldstein, chair, global healthcare practice and president, growth initiatives, left the agency.
Notable work included the opening of Disney’s first resort in China and being named global PR AOR for Subway.
Given so many clients are multinationals, Ruder Finn is focused on continued collaboration across regions. "We’ve been working hard to get away from individual P&Ls," Bloomgarden notes. "That has been an important cultural shift for us."