“All things come to him who hustles while he waits,” said inventor Thomas Edison. That spirit animated Edelman’s recovery from the depths of the pandemic. It is why I am so proud to announce our calendar 2021 results today with a great deal of appreciation for my team and our clients and the sheer grit that has been displayed over the year.
Edelman’s revenues grew 17.2 percent (15.4 percent on like for like basis) to $985 million in 2021, from $840 million in 2020, and 10 percent above our previous high-water mark in 2019 of $892 million. This is our largest growth ever and fastest in a decade. By region, Edelman grew (on like for like basis) 15.5 percent in the U.S., 17.1 percent in EMEA, APAC 7.4 percent, Canada up 17.8 percent and Latin America up 40 percent. Chicago was up 20 percent, the UK was up 22 percent, the Middle East and Germany were up 15 percent and Brazil was up 42 percent. We hired 854 people in the past 12 months, so that we are now over 6,000 people strong in 66 offices across 28 countries.
How did this performance occur?
- Our People — Above all else this year’s success was driven by the bravery, ambition and dedication of our teams. The work you delivered, grounded in creativity, action-based ideas and trust-based counsel, was nothing short of extraordinary. You encouraged our clients to spark movements and drive change.
- Focus on Clients — Our One Edelman philosophy has unlocked growth across our client portfolio, and especially among our largest 100 clients. For our existing clients, we are bringing our best talent from geography, practice, and integrated solutions.
- Commitment to Trust — We released 10 Trust Barometer reports spanning racial justice, climate change, employee activism, and the return to workplace. These studies gave us insights which guided client actions in this most challenging year.
- Stunning Creative Work — We became the first PR firm to win a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions for our ASICS Eternal Run campaign. The UN[ ]SPOKEN campaign for the City of Chicago focused on mental health challenges from the pandemic.
- Healthcare and Tech — Health became our largest sector, growing 22 percent. We worked to create trust in vaccines and COVID anti-virals. We worked with multicultural communities to find participants for clinical trials. Tech is our second largest business, with growing business across a number of clients.
- Financial Communications and Employee Communications — We were in the center of some of the year’s largest transactions. Our Employee Engagement and Multicultural teams worked with clients on diversity and transformation projects.
- Digital Surges; Data is Powering Growth — The Digital practice returned to growth driven by big wins and our social content work along with immersive experiences. The DXI practice grew 25 percent, with Edelman Trust Management tools and analytics enabling trust-based media buying.
- Major Wins Across the Regions — LatAm – FedEx; Canada – SodaStream; U.S. – Avis Budget Group; APAC – MediaTek; EMEA – Tinder
Where to from here?
First, we must recognize that while our performance is strong, the market for Edelman and our clients still remains challenging with some significant global trends working against a complete recovery, such as inflation, an increase in cost of living, tightening of monetary policy, a big variation in geographic recovery and of course the real risk of a new variant of Covid pushing us two steps back. However, I remain confident in our business and our people, so we are going to remain hyper-focused on our employees- their well-being, growth, and opportunities that shape the Edelman experience. We will continue to invest in global diversification. We are doubling down on several offerings and continue our momentum in Public Affairs. We will introduce new trust tools from DXI. We will expand the Edelman Trust Institute with studies for Davos in May and Cannes in June. We will continue to set the agenda for the communications industry on climate change by leading with action, implementing our principles in our work product and in our partnership with clients.
It is staggering where we have gotten to given the events of the prior year. The decisions we had to make in June 2020 really stung me personally and it made me more determined than ever to come off the mat and fight back. Over the past year we have made changes to our business that mean we are far more resilient to manage the challenges we will inevitably face in the future. I am so grateful to lead a family that has displayed courage, resilience, intellectual rigor and commitment to excellence. This team has guided our clients through the most difficult two years in memory. This dedication allows us to have the ambition to be the communications partner of choice for all companies and brands that are willing to take actions that can change society. I also want to express my deepest appreciation to our clients who have entrusted us with their brands and reputation. You have given us the opportunity to do work that is communications premised on action.
On a personal basis, I take great pride in having weathered the storm of the past two years and come out the other side, wiser, hopefully more empathetic, with a new dog as a wingman, a deep belief in family and recognition that we have a fundamental role in repairing broken trust through high quality information. Our new Edelman Museum will open in the new Chicago office this Spring, and as I look back on our 70-year history — our beginnings — to where we are today, I know my dad would be proud.
Richard Edelman is CEO.