NEW YORK and PARIS—There was good news for the public relations sector this week, as three major holding companies—Omnicom, Havas and Publicis Groupe—reported strong first quarter earnings that suggested a return to growth after a difficult year for international PR agencies in 2009.
Omnicom—parent of Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum, Porter Novelli and others—reported first quarter results that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Overall revenue was up by 6.3 percent over the first quarter of 2009, and public relations revenue was up by 5.9 percent, with organic growth of 2.4 percent, after a year in which the company’s PR operations underperformed the market as a whole.
“The general business environment continues to stabilize and improve, and as we look at individual countries and regions, we are cautiously optimistic about continued growth,” says chief executive John Wren
Havas, parent to EuroRSCG Worldwide, also reported organic revenue growth of 1.5 percent in the first quarter, compared to the same quarter last year, the first sign of growth since the fourth quarter of 2008.
And finally, MS&L Group, the global public relations network formed last year by the combination of Publicis Groupe resources including MS&L, JKL and Publicis Consultants, made a solid contribution to renewed growth at the French holding company during the first quarter of 2010.
The Groupe reported consolidated revenue for the first quarter of 2010 of €1,162 million, up 8.1 percent over the corresponding period in 2009. Organic growth was 3.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010, after a 4.4 percent decrease for the corresponding period in 2009 and 5.4% negative growth in the fourth quarter of 2009.
According to chairman and chief executive Maurice Levy, “The numbers published by Publicis today exceed even our most optimistic forecasts… It is too early to say that the global economy has put the crisis completely behind it. The recovery is still fragile and subject to a complete recovery of the global financial system. However, it should be stressed that companies have reacted with great speed, energy and eagerness to exit the crisis.”
In a press release, the company said it had seen “the beginning of good recovery by MS&L Group which has started the year well particularly in terms of new business.” It cited wins such as What's on in India and the World Gold Council in China.