Holmes Report Global 250

Executive Summary

Global PR Industry Up 8% In 2012

By Paul Holmes


- Publicly-owned MNC firms up six percent
- Independent PR firms up 8.6 percent
- PR agency industry worth almost $11bn, employs more than 75,000 people

The global public relations industry continued to grow by around eight percent last year—the third consecutive year at approximately the same level—with independent firms continuing to outperform the large, holding company-owned agencies.

The independent firms submitting to our annual survey—conducted this year in conjunction with ICCO, the International Communications Consultancy Organisation—grew by about 8.6 percent on average. The five largest holding companies (WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic, Publicis and Havas) grew by an average of six percent.

That meant overall industry growth for the year of just under 7.9 percent. That’s around the same level as the overall industry growth in 2011 (7.9 percent) and in 2010 (8.1 percent).

It is also notable that the numbers for the publicly-traded firms included a number of acquisitions: organic growth for those agencies was just 3.3 percent.

As a result of those changes, the market share of globally reported revenue—slightly more than $9.5 billion—held by the five giant holding companies, which was around 50 percent two years ago, has now declined to around 45 percent. The share of the overall global PR industry revenue—now estimated by The Holmes Report at close to $11 billion based on the vast number of smaller firms that do not provide revenue figures—is now well under 40 percent.

“These numbers have to cast serious doubt on the idea that the clients believe bigger is better, and on the notion that the PR industry is consolidating,” says Paul Holmes, editor-in-chief of The Holmes Report. “The reality is that the growth of the industry around the world is currently being driven by independents, most of them smaller or medium sized firms.”

One worrying trend, however, saw a decline in revenue per capita for those firms reporting both fee income and headcount to an average of around $142,000, compared to $151,000 last year. Based on its research, the Holmes Report estimates that the global PR agency industry employes more than 75,000 people, up from 66,000 last year.

“This decline could be a result of greater participation by firms in developing markets, where revenues per head tend to be lower,” says Holmes. “But it could also be that firms are responding to increasing price pressure by over-servicing.”

The Global Rankings mark the first phase of the World PR Report, conducted in conjunction with ICCO, which will also include the results of a definitive survey of attitudes and trends among PR agencies worldwide.

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