WPP unites BCW and Hill & Knowlton to create Burson

Adgully Bureau |
WPP has announced the merger of its two largest communications agencies, Hill & Knowlton and BCW, to form Burson, 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.

Corey duBrowa, currently global CEO of BCW, has been named global CEO of Burson and AnnaMaria DeSalva, currently global chairman and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, has been named global chairman of Burson. Together, they will oversee agency strategy, client service, employee experience and culture. Burson will be operational from July 1, 2024, and its new brand will be unveiled later this year.

This union of agencies will enable Burson to best serve clients in a complex and volatile environment in which strategic stakeholder communications has never been more critical. The new agency will draw on both organisations’ unrivaled talent base, exceptional global networks, investments in technology, creative capabilities, and public affairs and advisory specialties to drive reputation and value creation through the interdisciplinary solutions that clients demand now.

The combination also creates immediate scale in sectors driving today’s most consequential innovation and economic growth, including healthcare and technology. The newly formed Burson will have more than 6,000 employees in 43 markets worldwide. Its name honours the late Harold Burson, a pioneer and founding figure of modern public relations and strategic communications.

“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,” said Corey duBrowa. “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.”

“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,” said AnnaMaria DeSalva. “Our body of work increasingly demonstrates that strategic communication, elevated by creativity, is a primary force for sustainable value creation. By accelerating our transformation through this combination, we will enable the investments in talent and technology that advance communications leadership when it has never mattered more.”

Burson’s leadership team will comprise a cohort of top-tier former chief communications officers and other experienced agency senior executives from both companies who bring deep expertise and knowledge of what business leaders need to succeed. Appointments will be announced throughout 2024 as the integration progresses.

Hill & Knowlton brings significant business momentum, talent and innovation into the new Burson entity. The brand will operate within Burson serving a select group of clients globally through strategic communications, advisory and public affairs services.

GCI Health and AxiCom will continue to operate as brands within Burson, offering specialised healthcare and technology communications expertise, respectively, at scale.

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.”

The new agency will support a client roster that includes more than half of the Fortune 100 across corporate and public affairs, healthcare, technology and brand marketing.