WPP merges BCW and Hill & Knowlton agencies

The world's biggest advertising group continues to consolidate its multiple agencies

(L-R) AnnaMaria DeSalva and Corey duBrowa.

WPP is merging its global PR networks BCW and Hill & Knowlton to form a single entity called Burson.

The new name is said to “honour the late Harold Burson”, a pioneer and founding figure of modern public relations and strategic communications, who built the famous Burson Marsteller, which was later to merge with Cohn & Wolfe and become BCW.

The merger will be completed by July this year with a new corporate identity unveiled “later this year”.

The world’s biggest advertising group has been busy consolidating its agencies.  Last October, WPP announced it was combining two of its major creative agencies Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R to simplify its business.

The combined entity, which is called VML, will employ more than 30,000 people in 64 markets.

WPP, which also owns agencies such as Ogilvy and media investment firm GroupM, has restructured many of its agencies to improve efficiencies and provide a more complete offering for customers.

Biggest network

Globally, Burson will become the world’s biggest PR network with combined annual revenues of around $1.3 billion, ahead of Edelman.

WPP has made BCW’s global chief Corey duBrowa the global CEO of the merged agency and named Hill & Knowlton’s current global chairman & CEO Anna Maria DeSalva, as chairman.

WPP said DuBrowa and DeSalva would jointly oversee agency strategy, client service, employee experience and culture with further appointments announced this year.

Mark Read, CEO of WPP, said: “Hill & Knowlton and BCW are two high-performing businesses with complementary strengths, shared ambitions and many shared clients. I am delighted to see the Burson brand brought back to unite them. The new agency will be the standard bearer as the most modern, strategic, technology-driven, full-service communications offer in the industry.”

WPP claimed the new Burson would be “a powerhouse delivering modern communications leadership at scale to clients across the world. The merged company will become an industry-leading, full-service communications agency focused on building and protecting reputation.”

Burson’s new CEO duBrowa said: “Harold Burson believed strongly that actions are stronger than words, and he established honesty, transparency, integrity and excellence as the guiding principles of his business.”

“Those principles are the foundational ideals of Burson, upon which we will set the bar for modern communications through our AI-first innovation pipeline. Together as Burson, we will bring insights, expert strategic counsel and technology solutions into a higher value offering for our clients to help them innovate and lead in today’s complex operating environment.”

Scaling up

The merged agency gives WPP market-leading scale in public relations services including fast growth sectors such as healthcare and technology.

The combined Burson will have more than 6,000 employees in 43 markets worldwide. It claims it will support a client roster that includes more than half of the Fortune 100 across corporate and public affairs, healthcare, technology and brand marketing.

New Burson chairman DeSalva said, “The combination of Hill & Knowlton and BCW is highly synergistic, creating a premier partner for business leaders who are focused on commercial growth, risk management, and reputational capital.”