CHICAGO: Edelman’s global revenue grew by 2.1% in 2019 to $892 million on an organic basis without taking into account the impact of currency fluctuations.
"Every region grew, and I’m really glad we are back to growth and I want to keep the momentum going," said Edelman CEO Richard Edelman.
In 2018, global revenue dropped 1.1%, and was down across all regions except for Canada and Latin America. At the time, Edelman blamed the slowdown on a reduction in spending by big brands and a few significant client losses in EMEA.
However, Edelman said revenue from the agency’s 12 to 15 largest clients grew by 2.5% last year. It boasted account wins such as FedEx in U.S. and Europe, ViacomCBS, Scholastic and Dolby in the U.S., DP World in London and Dubai, Standard Bank in South Africa, Heineken in Brazil and Airbnb’s influencer business won by subsidiary United Entertainment Group.
Geographically, Edelman said Washington, DC, New York and London were among the best-performing offices. South Africa, Mexico and China all saw double-digit growth, he added, as did the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. Edelman was also surprised, given Brexit, that U.K. revenue grew by 7%.
Edelman also called out revenue growth for agency practices, stating that research was up 11%, United Entertainment Group increased by 9% and financial comms scored 33% growth. In addition, tech grew by 8%, financial services and energy revenue was up 5% and corporate work grew by 5%. However, he said Edelman’s core brand business was flat, as was public affairs, and digital revenue dropped 3%.
Edelman added that the promotion last month of Megan Van Someren to global chair of brand and the hire of Pfizer’s Kirsty Graham as global CEO of public affairs were both meant to address the weak results of the two practice areas.
"I don’t like that brand was flat for the year and public affairs was flat for the year," he said. "We have to do better. Strategically, we are going directly against the Bursons and APCO and Mclartys."
Edelman said he wants overall revenue in the mid-single-digits by this time next year.
"I want and hope for next year that we’ll be able to get back to 4% growth," he said. "But I am much more pleased with the direction of the firm."
The last time Edelman revenue increased near the 4% range was in 2015.
More specifically, Edelman said that he would like to see the public affairs practice, which represents 5% of the agency’s business, to reach 10%. The firm’s influencer work makes up 1% to 2%, but he wants it to be 5%. He is also hoping to see research and analytics hit 8% to 10% of the agency’s billings from the 3% to 4% it is now.
Last April, Kellogg gave Weber Shandwick a significant account that belonged to DJE Holdings conflict shop Krispr since 2012. Edelman dropped Geo Group, which runs for-profit prisons and has contracts to operate immigration detention centers, as a client in July after employee backlash. Former We Company CEO Adam Neumann and cofounder Rebekah Paltrow Neumann hired Edelman in September for communications support.
Edelman promoted global COO Matthew Harrington to global president in October, making him only the third person to use the title at the firm after global CEO Richard Edelman and his father, the agency’s late founder, Daniel Edelman. In September, Edelman U.K. and Ireland CEO Ed Williams took over as EMEA chief from Carol Potter, who took the newly created role of global vice chair of brand. Last February, the agency hired Leo Burnett North America chief creative officer and Canadian CEO Judy John as its first global chief creative officer and it named Yannis Kotziagkiaouridis, formerly of Wunderman Thompson, as its first global head of data and analytics in October.
This story was updated on February 10 with additional information and quotes from Edelman. It was updated on February 11 to correct Richard Edelman's title as CEO.