SAN FRANCISCO — There’s more shuffling underway at Edelman as Wayne Hickey moves from creating a Microsoft-only conflict brand for Edelman into the GM role for San Francisco, while the firm also forges a new Western region COO position.
Hickey launched the sub-brand Assembly in January after Microsoft put forth concerns that Edelman’s client portfolio included potential conflicts, for instance, Samsung as Microsoft takes over Nokia’s handset business. When Hickey becomes GM for Edelman San Francisco on July 1, Ken Birge will take over Assembly and become the global client lead for Microsoft.
As of now, Assembly exists only in the North America across Edelman’s offices in Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver. Meanwhile, Microsoft works directly with the Edelman brand in overseas markets. It’s unlikely Assembly will grow to other clients, but instead, could expand into other regions on Microsoft’s discretion.
“Microsoft came to us because of some challenges with some other clients that aren’t traditional competitors but are encroaching now,” Hickey said, adding that Samsung and Microsoft have always maintained separate teams. “We came up with Assembly, Microsoft approved it. We were going to establish it in other markets, but it was their decision not to go in that direction right now.”
Assembly operates more like Edelman sub-brands Krispr (a conflict shop built for Kellogg) and Edible (a food-focused sub-brand with Nestle as a client) rather than existing as a full-fledged shop like the Zeno Group. While most Assembly employees work full-time on Microsoft, some of the speciality talent also work on non-competitive Edelman business.
Before becoming managing director of Assembly, Hickey was Edelman’s global client relationship manager for Microsoft, and prior to that, he led the global Xbox account.
When Hickey steps into the San Francisco GM role at the start of the Edelman’s new fiscal year, Kristine Boyden, who was the office’s interim lead since Michael Kuczkowski stepped down last year, will become COO of Edelman’s Western region.
Boyden will report into Edelman’s US chief operating officer Julianna Richter.
“The COO role is about making sure the internal structures are in place and where they need to be achieve what we’re looking to do,” Richter said. “The president role was a blend of that but also very external facing with clients and new business. I think eventually we’ll have a regional president again.”
Edelman’s last Western region president Curt Kundred departed the firm in 2013 when Richter took over as COO, and before that, it was Gail Becker, now Edelman’s president of strategic partnerships and global integration.
Edelman’s Western region is a $110 million market with seven offices. Creating the COO role for Boyden was a reflection of the “maturity of the firm and making sure the structure and infrastructure is as strong as it could be,” Richter said.
In particular, Edelman’s San Francisco office -- whose anchor client has long been eBay -- has grappled with leadership churn. Last year Edelman more tightly integrated its San Francisco and Silicon Valley operations (led by Maria Amundson) under Edelman Bay Area. Together, the Bay Area hub employees 225 people and accounts for about 36% ($40 million) of Western region revenue.
“We’re making sure we’re leveraging resources and talent across both offices by forming a more cohesive approach,” Richter said, adding that both offices have their own P&L but whether to maintain this is under consideration.
She declined to discuss the size of Edelman’s remaining Western offices, but says the agency is taking a nationwide approach to integrating its creative and digital talent with its traditional account services.
“It’s being driven by clients -- and how, when and what it looks like might differ between a hub office or smaller office,” Richter said. “But we’re moving in that direction.”