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Porter Novelli (US)

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Porter Novelli is the smallest of the three main international public relations networks within the portfolio of marketing group Omnicom. Industry watcher The Holmes Report estimated fee income of $127m in 2015, putting the agency among the top 16 worldwide, but some way behind its Omnicom stablemates FleishmanHillard and Ketchum. The agency provides a broad range of PR communications services across nine global practices, but it is perhaps strongest in three key sectors of brand marketing, technology and healthcare. It also has a long-established reputation for public affairs work, which was its original focus when it launched in the 1970s.


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Porter Novelli operates independently within Omnicom's DAS Global group, with loose affiliations to all three of Omnicom's advertising networks. There are now 90 offices in 60 countries worldwide, although many of these are affiliates rather than wholly owned agencies. n addition to the main centralised business, PN operates a few satellite units including sports reputation management consultancy Aim, creative unit PN Amp, social media specialist PN Connect and corporate reputation monitor PN Radar.

Originally, the company had maintained no official headquarters, but operated as three regional groups in the Americas, EMEA and Asia/Pacific regions, each reporting separately to the Porter Novelli International board. That system changed in 2002 with the appointment of Helen Ostrowski as PN's first global CEO. She was succeeded in 2008 by Gary Stockman. However performance steadily in the late 2000s, initially in Europe, where PN lost its three biggest clients in 2009; and then in North America. The slump reached a lowpoint in 2011 with the loss of 20-year account Gillette, prompting the departure of virtually its whole senior management team over the course of the following year, including Stockman, the firm's CFO, its president and not one but two successive chief marketing officers.

Industry veteran Karen van Bergen was named as the agency's new CEO at the end of 2012, and presided over a slow recovery. In 2016, she was promoted to CEO of the newly created Omnicom Public Relations Group, overseeing all the parent company's PR networks. Brad MacAfee succeeded her as CEO of Porter Novelli. Nick Propper is global COO, with Jennifer Swint as president.


The Porter Novelli brand was first established in 1972 in Washington, DC, by Jack Porter and Bill Novelli, with the aim of using commercial PR tactics to address social issues on behalf of non-profit organizations. Its first major client was the National Institutes of Health, for whom it launched the National High Blood Pressure Education Program. Other important health-related campaigns have included the Food Pyramid, the 5 A Day campaign and the Truth youth anti-tobacco campaign. In 1981 the firm was acquired by the Needham Harper & Steers ad agency, and five years later was absorbed into the Omnicom portfolio as a result of Needham's merger with DDB and BBDO. It merged with the PR arm of another agency, Doremus, becoming the #3 public relations agency in the US. Following the departure of Bill Novelli in 1991, longtime employee Bob Druckenmiller was named as CEO, and the agency was aligned by Omnicom with another agency in its fold, Countrywide Communications. Countrywide had been launched in London in 1973 by Peter Hehir, and established a network of offices across Europe during the 1980s, with particular strengths in corporate communications and crisis management.

Following a five-year alliance the two agency brands were formally merged in 1996, with the European units initially adopting the name Countrywide Porter Novelli. In the late 1990s the merged group expanded worldwide through a string of acquisitions and start-ups, and also purchased US-based technology PR firm Copithorne & Bellows. The Countrywide name and other tags from acquired companies were finally dropped in Europe in 2004 in favour of a uniform brand identity. A life sciences unit was added in 2006 following the acquisition of specialist agency Atkins & Associates; an entertainment group was formed in 2007 through an alliance with Los Angeles-based Rose Group.

Last full revision 11th October 2016

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