10 bonus soundbites from Agency Business Report 2019

From ethics to holding companies to culture, the benefits of midsize firms and much more.

Rescuing gems from the cutting room floor would be the wrong way to describe it, but we simply gathered so much valuable material and intelligence for the PRWeek Agency Business Report that not all of it made the initial cut.

Here are a few bonus outtakes that add even more value to what is the most comprehensive review of the PR agency environment, which in turn reflects the PR sector as a whole.

Edelman president & CEO Richard Edelman on... acquisitions

"We had disappointing results with two acquisitions, in Germany and the Middle East. We saw significant declines in both: Ergo and D’Abo. We’re going to do a couple of acquisitions this year, likely in skill areas such as public affairs or purpose. We’re looking within and outside the U.S. We also need some digital bolt-ons rather than investing in raising more flags in different countries.

"We have to do a better job of integrating cultures with our acquisitions and identifying identity of interest in acquisition. They work well where people really want to be with us, not just a financial transaction. I like these people. Elan Edelman in France is a big success, growing through work with the likes of Sodexo and Danone. It took us three years to get it right."

Edelman on... collaborative journalism

"It’s not a substitute for media; it’s going direct, especially to employees, and then letting them go out and talk. Our work with Mitsubishi, Unilever, the WNBA, it’s all great. It is way different from custom publishing - it’s much faster, shorter-form digital stuff."

Edelman on... social media and Budweiser’s corn syrup ad attack on MillerCoors

"Brands have to be careful not to jeopardize their categories, for example the corn sugar debate around beer brewing. I didn’t realize there was an issue around that until it was raised in those ads. That’s a risky thing for a category leader to do – it’s the sort of thing a challenger brand would do. That was odd."

BCW CEO Donna Imperato on... the changing face of crisis communications counsel

"You need strategists, but the future of crisis really is folks that understand the online world to do it right. We’ve used creative, content and traditional earned media to help clients like Chipotle get through their crises."

Imperato on... agency culture

"What do clients want when they think about positioning? And what do our internal people want? Cohn & Wolfe was successful because of its culture. Everybody knew each other around the world. There was a consistency and the HQ was there to support the rest of the world.

"At Burson-Marsteller, everybody built their own thing, so there was no global consistency. It’s hard to grow from there as a strong company. Culture has to be authentic and operationalized consistently throughout the global organization."

Imperato on... agency ethics and deciding which clients to work with, specifically cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris International

"Every legal entity has a right to representation. If people don’t want to work on it, that I totally understand. Philip Morris is an ethical business. If people smoke, they can choose whichever brand they want. Philip Morris isn’t telling them to start smoking."

Imperato on... working with clients in the Middle East/Saudi Arabia

"It’s important to help Westernize the Middle East. It’s good if Western companies are investing there. It will help modernize the governments and culture if you bring Western ideas, thinking and products into that part of the world. Scolding them is not going to help them modernize and make their people freer.

"I would take on education, destination, and tourism assignments in the Middle East. We’re particularly proud of the Ford ‘Women in the Driving Seat’ work in Saudi Arabia where women got to drive for the first time."

M Booth CEO Dale Bornstein on... the USPs of midsized firms

"It’s the ability to truly work across disciplines, practices, silos, but more importantly, with our size and entrepreneurial DNA, the culture is a magnet for talent and clients. We invest in people, and relationships, to create a progressive workforce. It’s energizing and inspiring - and it works.

"We bring passion to the table every day and that’s contagious. To solve business challenges innovatively, entrepreneurially, creatively, you’ve got to inspire relationships with your clients. Culture is beyond the four walls of the agency. You have to be fleet of foot, nimble-sized and have a collective passion for what you’re doing."

Bornstein on... the merging of corporate and consumer

"It’s no longer corporate and consumer: it’s corpsumer. It’s how you create these blended teams. The corpsumer mindset is really important these days. We are authentic to who we are, which is to do a little more zig when others zag, and even in the corporate space that creativity comes through when you look at their challenges."

Holding company Huntsworth’s CEO Paul Taaffe on... margins at his constituent agencies and the PR sector in general

"Operating margins in the communications bucket are much smaller than the other three [Huntsworth] categories [marketing, medical, immersive]. The margin across the main holding companies in PR has been going down every year. The margins in marketing services are going down across the board, except at Huntsworth, where it’s going up, and Next 15. There aren’t many marketing services groups where margins are going up.

"WPP has dropped about half a margin point a year over the past couple of years, that’s notwithstanding the fact it has things like Finsbury, which has a 40% margin. There’s a gentle erosion of margin across marketing services because of procurement."

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