Arun Sudhaman 10 Dec 2018 // 5:10AM GMT
We continue our 2018 Review with our 10 most-read news stories of the year. As ever, we've excluded awards and ranking stories as they skew results. So what grabbed your attention this year? Well, one particular agency merger reigns supreme — to little surprise — along with senior leadership moves, major account shifts at IBM and Tata, and more agency consolidation from across the globe.
1. WPP Creates 3rd Largest PR Firm With Burson Cohn & Wolfe
February's dramatic reverse takeover of iconic PR firm Burson-Marsteller by smaller WPP sibling Cohn & Wolfe was not a total surprise, given that rumours of such a move had been swelling in the market for months. Regardless, the news broke with a resounding bang, pushed up thanks to an internal leak — and snowballing rapidly into the year's biggest PR story, generating, for us at least, a veritable trove of content that dominates our other year-end lists. And while the headline announcement topped this list, several other BCW merger news pieces would also have cracked the top 10, but are instead consolidated here to give some other stories a chance:
- Burson Cohn & Wolfe Unveils New Brand (September)
- 'The Big Prize Is Revitalising Burson': PR Industry Responds To Blockbuster Merger (Feb)
- Burson Cohn & Wolfe Names Regional Leadership Following Merger (March)
- $700 Million Burson Cohn & Wolfe 'Will Be A Challenger Brand' (March)
2. IBM Selects Weber Shandwick To Lead New Global PR Lineup
Ray Day's arrival at IBM in 2017 was one of last year's top stories. And the new IBM CCO wasted little time in shaking things up, triggering the year's biggest account review in early 2018, and putting long-term incumbents Ketchum and Text100 on alert. Diana Marszalek travelled up to Armonk in early May to reveal the results of the blockbuster pitch, which saw Weber Shandwick take on lead duties for the $15m remit, supported by SKDKnickerbocker, Spectrum and Civic Entertainment Group.
3. Digital Chief Kevin King Quits Edelman After 14 Years
Edelman is no stranger to this annual list, particularly where senior talent moves are involved. And of the firm's major departures this year, none attracted more attention than the exit of global digital chair Kevin King, following a 14-year run during which he oversaw the agency's growth into the PR industry's largest digital player. He was soon snapped up by Citizen Relations as that firm's chief digital officer, and few would bet against him taking on broader leadership duties.
4. Diana Littman Leaves MMC To Become US CEO Of MSL
Ordinarily, a domestic leadership appointment would not trouble this list unduly. But Diana Littman's departure from MMC to MSL was no ordinary move, particularly when you factor in the unexpected nature of the news (which also heralded the exit of MSL's Ron Guirguis) and Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun's honest appraisal of the revitalisation required at his US PR unit. As one of the key architects behind MMC's meteoric rise over the past decade, meanwhile, Littman's decision to leave the Omnicom firm was always likely to raise eyebrows; her progress at MSL will be keenly observed.
5. Tata Picks Adfactors To Lead $5m PR Remit After Parting With Rediff/Edelman
With neat symmetry, the Tata review that gave rise to this blockbuster account shift ranked in the same position on last year's list. Asia's largest homegrown PR assignment ultimately changed hands from six-year incumbent Edelman to Adfactors, but not without some controversy, thanks to the absence of a conventional pitch process. Regardless, India's biggest PR firm took charge of one of Asia's most coveted PR assignments, with the mandate including most of Tata's 29 companies
6. Wells Fargo's Jennifer Temple Replaces Henry Gomez As HPE CCO
Probably the year's biggest in-house talent move saw Wells Fargo's Jennifer Temple head to HPE to become the company's new chief communications officer, replacing Henry Gomez who had been both CCO and CMO since HP split into two companies in 2015. Gomez's own exit followed the departure of HPE CEO Meg Whitman, for whom he had worked for much of his career. Temple, meanwhile, left Wells Fargo as it continued to grapple with the fallout from its fake accounts scandal.
7. Omnicom To Merge FleishmanHillard, Ketchum & Porter-Novelli In Singapore
Agency consolidation remains one of the more compelling trends in the marketing communications world. And Omnicom PR Group has been more active in this regard than most, effectively rolling out a doctrine that seeks to merge its agency brands in countries where their individual scale doesn't measure up to the market leaders. In 2018, that meant Singapore, after executing similar mergers in four European markets last year. The big question, as ever — where will this model be deployed next? Industry rivals are rarely short of suggestions, but OPRG's leaders have remained tightlipped about future plans.
8. Aedhmar Hynes Exits As Text100 Merges With Bite To Create New Agency
Another agency merger, this one was rather more dramatic than most, even if Next15's decision to merge Text100 with Bite was hardly the biggest example of this trend. Regardless, it certainly proved to be one of the most interesting, resulting as it did in the departure of CEO Aedhmar Hynes and the end of the storied Text100 brand that she led for so many years.
9. What Golin Learned From A Moment Of Cultural Insensitivity
Diversity and inclusion remains a work in progress at many PR firms, and so it proved at Golin, which found itself handling the fallout from an episode of cultural insensitivity at its Chicago office. To its credit, Golin addressed the situation swiftly, openly and honestly, reflecting its reputation as one of the industry's more progressive PR players.
10. Edelman Revenue Up 2.1% In 2017 To $894m
This list would surely not be complete without another Edelman story, in this case the revelation of another year of disappointing growth from the world's biggest PR firm. Those results cued much soul-searching at the firm, with Richard Edelman declaring that he could not "accept this as the new normal." Regardless, Edelman's travails underscored the malaise that has gripped large PR agency networks in recent years. All eyes, accordingly, will be on Edelman's 2018 results, to see if the firm continues to crawl towards the $1bn mark, or resumes the canter that characterised previous years of growth.