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Weber Shandwick Acquires Swedish Creative Shop Prime

EMEA, Global, North America

Tom Beckman: "More international work."

Paul Holmes 06 May 2014

STOCKHOLM—Weber Shandwick, the Interpublic Group owned public relations firm that ranks number two globally, has acquired Swedish public relations firm Prime and its business intelligence arm United Minds. The deal will provide Weber Shandwick with access to Prime’s award-winning creativity while giving Prime an international reach for its strategic thinking.

The deal will also give Weber Shandwick a significant presence in the Nordic region for the first time. Prime reported close to $30 million in fee income last year and is by far the largest consumer PR firm in the market.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the deal is believed to be the largest since Weber Shandwick was formed—by the merger of Weber Group and Shandwick International—in 2001.

Weber Shandwick chief executive Andy Polansky says that while Sweden is “one of the most digitized economies in Europe” and a significant public relations market, the biggest attraction was the ability to incorporate Prime’s creative and strategic capabilities into the larger agency: “Prime has led the way as our industry transforms with an exacting focus to provide integrated, creativity-led concepts across platforms.”

Prime executive creative director Tom Beckman, meanwhile, emphasized that the deal would allow the firm to accelerate its international ambitions.

“We have been doing more international work for our Swedish clients like Electrolux, IKEA and Skanska,” Beckman says. “And about 20 percent of the work we do through United Minds is international.” But he acknowledged that despite opening offices in Brussels and New York, non-Swedish multinationals have generally not been willing to turn the lead strategic international role over to a firm from a smaller market.

That is despite Prime’s hugely impressive awards performance. The firm—founded in 1998 by Carl Fredrik Sammeli and with 130 employees—has won 14 Cannes Lions, 11 Eurobests, five Clios and 14 SABRE awards over the last few years. It ranked number 11 on our Creative Index of all agencies from around the world last year.

Sammeli and Beckman will become members of the firm’s global leadership team. Sammeli will report to Colin Byrne, Weber Shandwick’s CEO, EMEA; Beckman will continue to report to Prime’s CEO, Markus Gustafsson, and will be named chair of the Weber Shandwick global creative collective, reporting to Gail Heimann, president of Weber Shandwick, and working alongside UK and EMEA chief creative officer Gabriela Lungu—hired from another well-regarded European creative firm, The Pratice, a little more than a year ago.

“Our ambition with Prime was always to embrace change and disrupt existing structures in the industry, leveraging the new possibilities created by digital and social, and bringing together traditionally separate disciplines as marketing, corporate affairs, business intelligence and sustainability,” says Sammeli, Prime’s founder. “As part of the Weber Shandwick network, we now get the opportunity to create innovative concepts and activation programs in a broader global context for clients.”

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