That Rare Night

Last week the Holmes Report awarded Edelman Global Agency of the Year and Program of the Year. It was that rare night as CEO when you feel that your strategy is correct, your people are magicians, and your clients are saints. In short, time to break out the bubbly and celebrate because this clean sweep happens so rarely.

Three years ago at a company meeting in Germany, I outlined a broader vision for Edelman as a communications marketing firm. I said that the mainstream media were under severe pressure due to the decline of print and the rise of programmatic advertising, threatening to choke our traditional air supply for the distribution of stories. I suggested that the world was turning upside down on trust, with loss of credibility of CEOs and government leaders, corresponding to a rise in trust of a person like yourself and a more peer-to-peer, horizontal information flow. I noted that the global economy was spawning “local hero” companies in developing markets such as Brazil and China that would challenge the established Western multinationals, thereby giving us a chance to diversify and localize our client portfolio. I stated that with holding company pressure on ad agency margins and a corresponding move to more purpose-led campaigns, there was potential for PR firms to move into the creative arena, offering themselves as lead creative partner to clients. Finally, I recognized the immense power of digital to organize communities of devoted consumers who would be early adopters of new products, defenders in the event of reversals, and a steady source of advice for brands willing to listen.

In total, I suggested that communications needed to be seen as an equal partner to marketing, that corporate reputation and brand marketing were inherently linked, and that the roles of CCO and CMO would therefore begin to overlap.

Edelman’s success in recent years is attributable to our dogged pursuit of this new strategy. We have added 500 creatives, planners and paid media experts to our team. We have pushed ourselves to uncover big ideas, working with companies such as CVS as it dropped tobacco from its shelves and expanded into health services; or REI, which boldly closed its stores on the biggest shopping day of the year to give its employees and customers a chance to #OptOutside. We helped launch United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz’s listening campaign to earn back the trust of customers and employees, through another Sabre Award-winning campaign. We are bringing technology to the fore with the Give a Beep program, which transmits digital signals from London’s most dangerous intersections to the Mayor’s Office. We have given back through our volunteer work on Michelle Obama’s Girl Rising campaign on behalf of the 62 million girls not in school around the world. We amplified the International Crisis Group’s work to prevent and reduce deadly conflict worldwide. We have engaged in the near-comic with KFC’s Extra Crispy Sunscreen or the Vegetarian Support Hotline for Arby’s. All of this led to the No. 1 ranking in the Holmes Creative Index 2016 and the Grand Prix Titanium for the REI program at Cannes Lions.

We have continued to advance our global ambition with acquisitions that fill in the global footprint, such as Dabo in Dubai on the marketing side, Smithfield in the UK for financial PR, Ergo in Germany for corporate reputation and public affairs, and Position in Colombia to add scale to our Latin America business. All the while, we are determined to keep our culture as entrepreneurial and family-oriented as possible. Glassdoor named us one of the Best Places to Work 2015, and the Holmes Report said we were among the best agencies to work for.

Below is a video clip from a discussion with Paul Holmes from last Friday in New York. We are deeply honored to have won these recognitions, and we will defend our crown in the coming year.

Richard Edelman is president and CEO.