Edelman UK FY revenue grows four per cent as its work 'changes radically'

Edelman UK outperformed the global agency as a whole in 2018 to report a four per cent rise in revenue to £63.1m, PRWeek can reveal.

Edelman UK CEO Ed Williams: Investments 'have put us in that strong position'
Edelman UK CEO Ed Williams: Investments 'have put us in that strong position'

UK CEO Ed Williams described it as a "pretty solid performance" given the "economic and business uncertainties around Brexit".

Last month Edelman reported a 1.1 per cent fall in global revenue in 2018, with a decline in all regions, including a 2.4 per cent dip in EMEA. The company did not reveal UK revenue figures at the time.

Williams cited challenges in the UK market, with "caution and uncertainty" in the economy "now [flowing] through in terms of consumer spending and budgets". "I think projects are delayed; I think there’s a degree of caution there that all agencies will be experiencing."

He pointed to other trends: declining consumption of media; new rivals including management consultancies, professional services firms and media companies; and clients moving work in-house.

Williams said investments made in the past five years "have put us in that strong position to weather these quite uncertain times". This includes the research business, which grew 14 per cent year-on-year, and its planning capabilities, with "hardcore planners" now in every part of the business.

He also cited the agency’s investment in creativity in the year, including bringing key players from its former Swedish business Deportivo to the London office; and tools, including its new influencer and AI tools, alongside its Edelman Trust Management tool.

Williams said the type of work Edelman UK is undertaking is "changing radically", with the agency now being hired by large organisations "to deliver as agency-of-record on global strategy".

He said the agency’s tech revenue rose 10 per cent, with much of the growth organic through long-standing clients such as HP, Microsoft and Samsumg. Healthcare was one area that declined – revenue fell six per cent, with Williams pointing to the transfer of one major account, AstraZeneca, to the German business.

Williams said there had been "improvements" in margin but declined to give figures.

Margin changes are occurring as the agency has been "moving upstream, much more into the strategy space", requiring more experts in particular fields. He pointed to high-margin work carried out by Edelman’s financial shop, Smithfield, and expects revenue at that business to double in 2019, four years after it was acquired.

Asked about highlights of account wins, Williams highlighted its "deeper and more substantial" relationship with Shell - where it was appointed lead agency for Shell Retail. He also pointed to an extensive brief with Johnston Press around the publishing company's insolvency process.

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