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 as 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. (It was runner-up in 2020 to Weber Shandwick). 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), healthcare specialists BioScience Communications and Salutem, 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 CEO, but Matt Harrington was named as president in 2019; the first non-family member to hold that title. The Edelman family control around 80% of the equity; the rest is mostly divided between senior managers. Fee income peaked in 2017 at $894m, but declined unexpectedly the following year. There was a marginal improvement in 2019 to $892m, but the pandemic resulted in a further decline in 2020 to $840m. However, 2021 saw income rebound to a new high of $985m. The US accounted for 62% of income and the UK for around 9%. The DJE Holdings parent group, which includes separate subsidiary Zeno, last reported combined revenues in 2018 of $964m. PRovoke estimated $926m for 2020, including $86m for Zeno. Edelman overtook Weber Shandwick for the first time in 2011 to become the #1 PR agency by global fee income. The Holmes Report, and its successor PRovoke, has ranked it as the world's largest PR firm every year since then. In 2021, PRovoke named Zeno as Global Creative PR Agency of the Year, and Midsize North American Agency of the Year. Barby Siegel is CEO.
Capsule checked 11th January 2022
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Who are the competitors of Edelman? See also Top Global Public Relations Agencies index
Adbrands Account Assignments is a database tracking account management for the world's leading brands and companies. In other words, which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries.
Adbrands Update 8th Feb 2022: Edelman, already the world's biggest PR agency, saw fee income rise to a new high in 2021, partly as a result of its work for healthcare and technology clients. That followed a slight decline in 2020. Revenues for 2021 rose by more than 15% to $985m. The US accounted for 62% of revenues and EMEA (primarily the UK and Germany) for 21%.
Marketer Moves 10th Jun 2021: New global chair of integration at Edelman. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Marketer Moves 7th April 2021: New US CEO at Edelman. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Feb 2020: After last year's shock decline, Edelman reported a modest return to growth in 2019. The main PR agency reported revenues of $892m, up 2% on an organic basis on the year before (but by only 0.4% on a reported basis including currency effects). "I can't help what happens in the currency markets," said Edelman CEO Richard Edelman, "but with the things we can control, we are back to growth across all our regions. The diversification strategy is working, we have strong leadership in the key markets, and we are continuing to do big and important work." The strongest growth was in specialist practices such as financial PR (up almost a third) and research (up 11%).
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."
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