Top agencies record fees slump for 2001

LONDON - Almost half of the top 50 agencies recorded zero or negative growth in 2001 with the top 10 showing the worst performance overall, according to the PRWeek Top 150 2002 league table.

The effects of the global downturn and September 11 have been keenly felt among the biggest players of the UK PR industry, with seven of the top 10 firms posting zero or negative growth in fee income and average growth for the top 50 firms reaching just eight per cent. Twenty-one firms in the top 50 failed to grow last year.

While many agencies experienced cuts in fees from existing clients, data gathered by agency submissions to the Top 150 shows many clients ceased to spend at all -- the PR market shrank by two per cent in terms of client numbers.

In 2000, the Top 150 serviced 6,568 clients, while last year the same agencies shared 6,429 clients -- showing 139 clients withdrew their PR budgets for outsourced support during the year.

Weber Shandwick has extended its lead of the table by more than £10m from its nearest rival, Citigate Dewe Rogerson.

WSW's merger last October with 2001's sixth-placed firm BSMG Worldwide accounted for most of the agency's improved standing but the combined company still registered a fall of 17 per cent in fee income to £41.2m.

Second-placed CDR dropped in fee income by six per cent with £31.2m, managing to hold onto its place for another year.

WPP flagship Hill & Knowlton retained third place as the best performer in the top five, with a growth rate of zero per cent. Chime's Bell Pottinger Communications and Omnicom's Countrywide Porter Novelli shrunk by -6 and -1 per cent respectively.

Total staffing figures fell in 2001, in line with the fall in clients. Last year there were 7,488 people employed in the Top 150 consultancies, a fall of more than 500 compared to the 7,902 consultants employed in 2000 when the consultancy sector was at its most buoyant.

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