Polansky: Interpublic CMG PR firms' revenue 'slightly up' in Q4

For all of 2019, CMG's PR shops had low-single-digit revenue growth.

Andy Polansky
Andy Polansky

NEW YORK: The PR firms in Interpublic Group’s Constituency Management Group posted revenue that was slightly up on both an organic and as-reported basis in Q4 2019, Andy Polansky, the division’s chairman and CEO, said on Wednesday. 

"For the full year, CMG PR firms grew by low single digits on an organic and as-reported basis on top of low-single-digit organic growth in 2018," he said. "The group as a whole registered growth in 2019 in every geographic region and registered growth in every quarter of 2019."

The PR firms in CMG are Weber Shandwick, Golin, DeVries Global, Current Global, Rogers & Cowan/PMK and the Axis Agency. The unit also includes marketing specialist firms such as Jack Morton, FutureBrand and Octagon. Other Interpublic PR firms operate outside CMG.

CMG posted a 3.3% organic revenue increase in Q4 to $345.7 million and a 2.3% improvement for the full year to $1.3 billion.

"Healthcare, technology and the food and beverage sectors were big engines of growth across the portfolio," said Polansky. "Rogers & Cowan/PMK, Current Global and ReviveHealth had a particularly strong year, all registering double-digit growth."

Weber had low-single-digit organic and as-reported growth in 2019. In Q4, Weber was slightly down on an organic and as-reported basis, said Polansky. However, the firm saw strong momentum in its corporate and healthcare practices.

"Weber did particularly well in the U.K., Germany, Mexico, Chicago and Kenya," he said. "Notable wins for Weber included Kellogg, Michelin, USAA, Shutterfly, Lockheed Martin in partnership with McCann and content marketing work with Disney."

Weber also recently began providing public affairs support for the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products. 

The agency has also let five senior executives go in what the agency described as "a small staff reduction," and there have also been senior departures at Weber in Europe. U.K. chief executive Rachel Friend said in January that she is leaving the agency.

Golin is "poised to have a good year," said Polansky. The second half of 2019 was particularly strong for the agency in the U.S., with recent account wins including Lego and Twitter. 

Rogers & Cowan/PMK has "been on a tear" over the past 12 months, said Polansky. After the two firms merged last summer, the combined firm won large accounts such as Intersect by Lexus, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, Beyond Meat and Red Bull Gaming.

"We are seeing an increasing demand for their entertainment marketing expertise and influencer expertise," said Polansky.

Client wins for Current Global included FedEx for U.S. corporate, Pfizer for a U.S. health assignment, LinkedIn and Microsoft in India and Oracle in Brazil. The firm’s consumer practice took on work from Brown-Forman and L’Oreal.

"They really diversified their business," Polansky said.

Interpublic as a whole reported a net revenue increase of 2.9% to $2.43 billion in Q4 and 3.3% to $8.63 billion for all of last year. Net income was down slightly year-over-year in Q4 to $342.2 million. 

The holding company’s revenue performance was mixed in the fourth quarter by geography, up organically by 2.1% in the U.S., 4% in the U.K. and 6.2% in continental Europe while dropping by 3% in Asia-Pacific. U.S. revenue increased by 1.9% for all of 2019 and was up by 3.7% in the U.K. and 7.3% in continental Europe. Revenue decreased by 0.3% organically in Asia-Pacific last year.

Polansky said the company is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and taking "every necessary precaution" to safeguard its staffers, many of whom in the affected area are working from home.

"We will really need to see how things develop in the first half to get a gauge on whether projects are just getting pushed back or whether there will be any other impact [from the coronavirus]," he said.

Polansky said he has not seen an impact from Brexit on CMG agencies. "Our agencies in the U.K. had a very strong 2019," he said.

Polansky noted that CMG firms made leadership changes last year, "looking to elevate on our success."

In July, IPG promoted Polansky to chairman and CEO of CMG, and Gail Heimann replaced him as chief executive officer of Weber. She is also the firm’s global president, a position she has held since 2013. In December, Golin named Matt Neale as its sole CEO, abandoning the "CEO+" model it adopted after Fred Cook stepped down as chief executive three years ago. Future Brand promoted international president Nick Sykes to global CEO last June.

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