Until recently, Burson-Marsteller was the biggest public relations network owned by WPP, loosely aligned with the Young & Rubicam Brands marketing group. Although it offered a broad range of different PR services, the agency was best-known for its work on corporate reputation and crisis management. In 2018, WPP announced plans to merge Burson with its smaller sibling Cohn & Wolfe to create a new global Top Three agency, Burson Cohn & Wolfe. C&W CEO Donna Imperato became CEO of the merged business, with Burson's Don Baer moving up to chairman. Founder Harold Burson launched the business in New York in 1946 as a PR agency, but merged it in 1953 with Marsteller Gebhardt & Reed, a Chicago-based advertising agency run by Bill Marsteller. The agency remained a joint venture between Burson and the Marsteller agency until both businesses were acquired by Young & Rubicam in 1979. Marsteller's advertising operations have been mostly phased out, although BM does still offer creative services inhouse or via subsidiary unit Proof. Indeed it appointed former Saatchi & Saatchi and Framestore executive Tom Eslinger in 2017 as its first chief creative officer. Other specialised subsidiaries include political and corporate consultancy Penn Schoen Berland, grassroots communications unit Direct Impact and UK consumer PR division Communique. Industry watcher The Holmes Report estimated fee income of $463m in 2017, placing Burson as the #5 network globally. Subscribers may access account assignments and contact information. The searchable account assignments database is available to full subscribers to Adbrands.net premium services. Click here to access Adbrands account assignments (subscribers only); or see here for information on how to subscribe.
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Capsule checked 28th December 2018
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Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Mar 2018: In pursuit of further economies of scale, WPP announced the merger of two of its three biggest PR agencies, Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe. The new Burson Cohn & Wolfe (or BCW) will, said WPP, combine Cohn & Wolfe's expertise in "digitally-driven, creative content and integrated communications" in consumer, healthcare and technology with Burson's "strength in public affairs, corporate and crisis management, technology and research." C&W's Donna Imperato becomes CEO of the merged entity with BM's Don Baer moving up chairman. BCW will also jump several places up the revenue rankings. The Holmes Report estimated combined fee income for the two companies in 2016 at $704m, which would put BCW into third place behind Edelman and Weber Shandwick. Currently, BM and C&W rank 6th and 12th respectively. This latest consolidation follows on from the combination of MEC and Maxus to form Wavemaker, and the merger of five separate design agencies within the WPP to form SuperUnion.
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