A few weeks ago I commented on US PR Week’s editorial about the fact that the big advertising groups still use Sarbanes Oxley as an excuse to hide the figures for their PR companies. My post is here but to reiterate the main point I and US PR Week made: “How can we preach to clients transparency and then pretend we can’t produce our own figures? It makes it more difficult for clients to make agency purchasing decisions and the industry appear to have something to hide”.
PR Week in the US is pulling together the global rankings at the moment, but we understand that this will again not include the PR firms owned by the publicly listed advertising groups. So we thought we’d help out. We recruit people from our competitors in all our markets, as do they from us. In the course of that, we learn quite a bit about what they are doing. From those sources we have over the last couple of years cobbled together our own league table to benchmark how we have been doing. We actually have this broken down for every market and region to varying degrees of accuracy. Below is where we believe the big groups are now globally, together with the last published official figures from 2001. Just to be clear on this, we have zero proof that these numbers are accurate (other than our own of course), in fact we are pretty certain they are not accurate. We do think though that they are approximate. Obviously we would be delighted to be corrected by the accountancy folk that run the holding companies though letting PR Week in on the secret would be the simplest thing.
As a point of comparison here is Advertising Age’s published data on the advertising companies. Look how useful that is for a buyer. And they are part of the very same groups that claim not to be able to publish PR figures because of Sarbanes Oxley! I must have missed the paragraph of that legislation that said “thou shalt keep top secret all thy PR revenues”. Incidentally looking at these numbers, I find it interesting that though the advertising agencies are bigger than the PR companies it is not by as much as we might have thought. In the US for example, JWT is only twice the size of Edelman in the US when you measure them like for like on revenue (fees).
This post is in no way meant as a criticism of my peers and competitors who actually run the PR firms, by the way. Most I have talked to are desperate to provide numbers for the PR Week rankings but the holding company bean counters they have to report to will not let them. Most have been growing and doing very well like us and one of the things these numbers show is that the big 3 at least now have the scale to be able to offer real depth of specialist capability globally. As an industry we should be able to point to this as a significant landmark. Clients should know these numbers and the regional and market breakdowns to help them make a choice of the right partner. If you only have $30 million revenue spread across Europe for example, you absolutely cannot offer a full specialist service across multiple practices and sectors in all the key markets – – you simply will not have enough people to – – and clients should be able to see that. So here is our league table and I very much look forward to being corrected.
|PR Firm||2007 Rev (USDM)||2001 Rev (USDM)˜|
|Hill & Knowlton||220||306|
˜ 2001 was the last year that PR firm released their worldwide revenues, which was published by the Council of PR Firms, PRWeek and O’Dwyers
* includes BSMG Worldwide
[tags] PR Week, PR global rankings, Weber Shandwick, Fleishman-Hillard, Edelman, Burson Marstellar, Hill & Knowlton, Ogilvy PR, Ketchum, Porter Novelli [/tags]