Global PR League Table

Here, again, is our take on the global PR league tables for calendar year 2009. As ever, Sarbanes Oxley is cited by the networks as a reason for not providing their numbers. PR Week and I believe they could publish if they really wanted to, but that’s a dull debate now.

Our sources for the table include bar room tittle tattle, holding company financial reports, analyst reports, client comments and the insights of employees we have hired from our competitors. We have been compiling this table for a few years and so we do have some pretty good data over-all, but we accept that there is a bit of guesswork involved. As usual we are happy to be corrected but make no apology to any firm whose numbers we have wrong as we believe that an industry that preaches transparency cannot keep secret its own financial numbers.

The headline is that all but one (which is flat) are down, but some are way down. Given the financial and economic environment, for most firms this represents pretty good management and much better than in previous recessions where huge revenue collapses occurred across the board.

• Weber Shandwick–$460 million—down 7%
• Edelman–$448 million—down 2% from $456 million
• Fleishman Hillard–$425 million—down 15%
• Burson Marstellar–$325 million—down 7%
• Publicis-MSL–$300 million—down 15%
• Ketchum Pleion–$300 million—down 7%
• Ogilvy–$225 million—down 9%
• Hill & Knowlton–$200 million—down 8%
• Porter Novelli (down 25%) and Golin Harris (flat)–$125 million
• Cohn & Wolfe/GCI–$120 million—down 7%

The big three are now arguably the big two with Weber Shandwick and Edelman moving away from Fleishman who were number one a couple of years ago. Momentum will see this gap widen this year. There is a significant gap of over $100 million to the second tier agencies of Burson-Marsteller, Publicis-MSL and Ketchum Pleon all at around $300 million. The third tier of Ogilvy and H&K is around $200 million, with Porter Novelli, Golin and Cohn & Wolfe/GCI at around $120-5 million.

These numbers are important not just to CFO’s but to clients also. To run global multi-market campaigns agencies need to have strength in depth outside the UK and the US. As you can see from the chart above, some of the big ‘so-called’ global agencies are too small in scale to be everywhere they need to be to deliver global campaigns. Clients have a right to know these fee levels because they relate directly to numbers of employees, ability to specialise and therefore capability.

Here’s our table from two years ago.

Categories Technology

14 thoughts on “Global PR League Table

  1. Interesting. Worth noting that at $150m Grayling should be probably be in there.


  2. Oh really good catch Arun. I think they I should be able to get the real numbers from their financial reports…..will double check.


  3. Yes, you should be able to get Grayling from Huntsworth figures.

    Great work David.


  4. Just been on their (Huntsworth) site and can’t see a Grayling number. Huntsworth reported £156 million, but big chunks of that will be Citigate, Red and Huntsworth Health.


  5. David:

    Your post is a monument to wishful thinking. On a GAAP accounting basis, I can assure you both Edelman and Weber, based on your numbers, are in our rear view mirror. Cheers.


  6. Perfect….and your numbers would be?


  7. Derek Creevey, Edelman US April 26, 2010 — 7:32 pm

    Hi David
    Ad Age (US) published their estimate of ’09 holding co., advertising, PR, digital firms US and worldwide revenues. They’re a little different than our (Edelman’s estimate) specifically–Weber issmaller, and Fleishman is higher. For PR only go here:
    For all firms/all disciplines go here:
    In my view the most interesting insight is how large the ‘smaller’ disciplines are relative to ad firms. For instance, Edelman US with $288M is much bigger than O&M at $175M in rev. This is a notable inverse in the pecking order in the last 5 years. Derek.


  8. On the Grayling website it states revenue at $148m. Difference with Huntsworth results might be explained by recent US acquisitions.


  9. Hi David,

    Here we go again. I had hoped that this year, with the backdrop of the recession, would be different.

    Throughout 2009 the public groups were reporting down. Sentiment only started to change in Q4. Yet we’ve ended up reporting growth for the industry overall for 2009. Sorry, but I don’t see it.

    By my reckoning there are at least 30 agencies that have disappeared from the table that I’m guessing are down (unless their performance is really woeful and they’ve dropped out) and then some of the estimates for the Sarbanes Oxley gang are surely optimist – as you suggest.

    The industry is kidding itself – and that means the tables aren’t helpful in guiding the development of the industry.

    Great post. Thank you.




    Here is Ad Age’s take which we think is significantly off for our friends at Weber at the very least.


  11. […] Hoje enviaram-me esta notícia, que é fonte de outra publicada numa news-letter digital. Fiquei curioso e perguntei a quem sabe se os números estariam correctos. Não estão… Tiro muito ao lado. Em relação à Burson Marsteller, apesar de não poder dizer os números de 2009, posso dizer que a facturação não decresceu face a 2008. Muito pelo contrário. Na Europa, então, o crescimento tem dois dígitos e o primeiro não é 1. […]


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