Agency revenue still rising in era of integration and transformation

PRWeek's annual Agency Business Report content is live - the big story is that PR is becoming one cog in a wheel of wider services.

Amid all the talk of transitional periods and marketing and communications integration, there is some consistency in the PR industry. For the third year running, U.S. PR revenue in PRWeek’s Agency Business Report rankings rose 7% — a solid growth ratio that speaks to an industry that is doing pretty well.

Globally, the situation is more turbulent, with 6% growth last year compared to 5% in 2015 and a more bullish 8% in the 12 months prior.

In terms of staff, U.S. numbers actually fell 3%, so agencies are getting more out of fewer people in this integrated services environment.

That’s just one trend revealed beneath the numbers. But the bigger story is that PR is becoming one cog in a wheel of wider services, as the big agency holding companies crunch vertical disciplines together and go to market with more holistic and horizontal offers.

It is left to independent mavericks such as Richard Edelman’s eponymous firm, still the largest in the world, and Andy Polansky’s Interpublic shop Weber Shandwick to fly the flag for an approach that isn’t predominantly built around agency groups or particular markets.

These two have put clear blue water between their firms and the rest, with Weber now significantly more than $200 million ahead of the number three player in the global market.

But the rest are placing their bets on more integration, and sages such as Cohn & Wolfe’s Donna Imperato and Havas PR’s Marian Salzman even suggest single-discipline agencies will no longer exist within a decade.

That’s a trend definitely worth watching.

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