Arun Sudhaman 03 Mar 2013 // 12:00AM GMT
MOSCOW--Edelman has begun to rebuild its presence in Russia after closing its subsidiary in the country last year.
Edelman Russia officially opened in late 2012, following the liquidation of Edelman Imageland, the Russian firm that the US agency acquired in 2008.
The new firm has a much smaller staff of 23, around 20 of whom are drawn from Imageland’s previous workforce, which numbered 55 staff before its closure. The most notable absentee is Veronica Moihseeva, the Imageland founder who stepped down to take on an advisory role when Edelman began restructuring its Russian operation last year.
Moihseeva, says Edelman Russia GM Kerry Irwin, is no longer involved with Edelman. Also departed are two executives who were appointed to Edelman Imageland’s management team last year: Natalya Malyova and Svetlana Plotnitskaya.
Irwin took charge of Edelman’s Russian presence last year, and is now supported by two long-term Imageland executives - digital director Brian Lee and healthcare head Gerhard Symons - along with new finance director Anastasia Dementieva.
The agency’s 2012 overhaul proved controversial, attracting criticism from a Russian trade union and triggering legal action from four former employees. Irwin says that these issues have now been resolved, and that the firm has retained relationships with key clients such as HP, Mars, Wrigley and Qualcomm. She confirmed, however, that Microsoft no longer works with Edelman in Russia.
“The bottomline is it was not a profitable, functional company,” says Irwin of Imageland’s closure. “We had to make some difficult decisions. It was, realistically, the only thing we could do.”
“We made sure we followed all of the legal requirements under Russian law,” she adds. “We treated people as fairly as we could. It’s time to look forward and move on.”
Irwin is a veteran of Russia’s PR industry, and notes that Edelman's experiences in the country are not necessarily unique. “It happens to a lot of Russian companies when they get bought out,” she contends. “If people don’t understand the way things work, you really need to manage it closely. On the Russian side, I don’t think that commitment was the same.”
She also said that Edelman Russia now focuses solely on communications, rather than any advertising or paid media services.