Edelman is the world's biggest public relations agency, and arguably also the most widely admired. Still owned and run by its founding family in a sector dominated by subsidiaries of multinational marketing groups, it has swept the board in recent years for industry accolades, regularly named Agency of the Year by multiple trade publications and organisations and as Agency of the Decade in 2010 by both Ad Age and industry monitor The Holmes Report. Although originally known mainly for consumer and healthcare PR, it has established a much envied reputation for excellence in corporate PR and public affairs since 2000, and was one of the pioneers in word-of-mouth marketing and social media. Although the US is still its core market, it has also established an expansive global network since the end of the 1990s, becoming one of the leading agencies in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. Parent company DJE Holdings Inc also owns several other smaller PR and consultancy agencies including Zeno, Assembly (a dedicated unit for Microsoft), Krispr (for Kellogg's) and food & beverage specialist Edible. United Entertainment Group is a sports and entertainment marketing joint venture with United Talent Agency. Former journalist and WWII public information officer Daniel J Edelman launched the agency in Chicago in 1952, gradually building a national and then international footprint. He remained group chairman right up until his death in 2013, aged 92. His son Richard Edelman is now president & CEO. Fee income hit a new high of $894m in 2017, but declined unexpectedly the following year to $888.4m. The DJE Holdings parent group, including separate subsidiary Zeno, was more or less flat, with combined revenues of $964m. In 2011, Edelman overtook Weber Shandwick for the first time to become the #1 PR revenue by global fee income. The Holmes Report has ranked it as the world's largest PR firm every year since then.
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Capsule checked 29th March 2018
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Feb 2019: After a decade of steady growth, Edelman took the industry by surprise by announcing a 1% like-for-like decline in revenues for its main PR business to $888.4m. Fee income for the main US division slipped just 0.7% but there were bigger falls for the operations in the EMEA region and Asia Pacific. Combined revenues for the parent group, which also includes secondary agency Zeno, were flat at $961.8m. CEO Richard Edelman said the group had suffered "real pressure" in its brand and digital business as a result of cutbacks at major clients. On the other hand, its corporate and public affairs practises remained strong.
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Feb 2019: Edelman is latest non-traditional agency to plant a flag in creative advertising. The PR giant announced the hiring of long-serving and highly regarded Leo Burnett executive Judy John as its first ever global chief creative officer. The former CEO of Leo Burnett Canada was named as North American CCO for the Burnett network only last year. She's perhaps best known internationally for leading the team that created Burnett's acclaimed 'Like A Girl' campaign for P&G in 2014. Edelman CEO Richard Edelman said John's arrival won't create a direct competitor to ad agencies. "We're a communications firm with a strength in creative," he said. "I don't want to be seen as a lookalike for an ad agency, and if creative agency implies Droga5, Leo Burnett or JWT, it's not us for two reasons: the kind of creative we do is different - it's earned creative - social by design and as fast as the news cycle. And we don't rely on paid. For us, paid is an accelerator, and for others, it's the primary."
Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Mar 2018: Edelman retained its position as the world's biggest PR company, but revenues grew by just 2.1% to $893.6m. That was better than last year's 1.7% uptick, but well below past performance. The PR divisions of the major marketing groups are experiencing a similar slowdown. "I would say that we've outperformed relative to the sector," said CEO Richard Edelman. "Most of [our competitors] actually shrank. The story for PR is we have to evolve... We can't assume any longer that developing markets are necessarily automatic 10% growth every year." He highlighted the decline of traditional journalism, historically the main focus for PR agencies, as one key factor. "The number of journalists has declined by more than half," he said. "Half of the work is now social. The budgets that we have to get as an industry, both on the corporate side and the brand side, are going to be dependent on our ability to attract eyeballs through social. We've got to reinvent what normal is. We're going to have to compete with the ad agencies and with the digital firms. They are coming into our world - our competitors are no longer just Weber Shandwick and Ketchum. It's a battle for share of the wallet."
Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Feb 2017: Privately owned PR giant Edelman also reported results this week. It remains the world's biggest PR firm by a sizeable margin, but growth slowed to its lowest rate since the financial crisis of 2009. Fee income was up just 1.7% to $875m. CEO Richard Edelman highlighted economic uncertainty in Europe, a slowdown in China, and in US healthcare spending and also some digital services. In the latter area, several clients have taken back social media management inhouse.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Apr 2016: The Holmes Report published its latest ranking of the world's leading PR agencies by fee income. Edelman easily retained the #1 position, albeit with a slightly reduced margin over second-placed Weber Shandwick, owned by Interpublic. Omnicom's FleishmanHillard and Ketchum held the #3 and #4 positions. WPP's Burson-Marsteller moved up to equal 5th alongside Publicis-owned MSLGroup. However the biggest change was a 37% increase in fee income for China's BlueFocus which jumped five places in the ranking to the #10 spot, unseating Havas PR. Among the holding companies, Omnicom slipped from first to third place by combined estimated fee income, behind Interpublic and WPP.
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