WPP unites BCW and Hill & Knowlton to create Burson

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.

Hill & Knowlton unveils contemporary brand makeover

Hill & Knowlton, the global strategic communications leader for transformation, announced a comprehensive rebrand initiative that marks a return to its original name of Hill & Knowlton, reflecting the company’s near 100-year equity. The new brand features a refreshed visual identity, website and social presence and key innovation announcements that mark the next phase of Hill & Knowlton’s evolution as a strategic partner to today’s leading innovators."Since 2019, our leadership team has been focused on becoming the preeminent partner to help our clients drive growth, manage risk, and build reputation in today’s complex operating environment,” said AnnaMaria DeSalva, Global Chairman and CEO. “Our body of work increasingly demonstrates that strategic communication, elevated by creativity, is a primary force for sustainable value creation and modern leadership.”In response to the increasing demand for strategic communications solutions, Hill & Knowlton is introducing new services that directly address evolving client needs. As stakeholder strategies become increasingly interdependent and government continues to play a larger role in business, these innovations reflect the emerging corporate affairs paradigm that integrates brand building, corporate and public affairs to protect and grow enterprise value.H&K Advisory works at the intersection of corporate strategy and communication to create sustainable value for clients and their stakeholders. The group solves material challenges and opportunities that are a priority for executive leadership teams and governing boards. With more than 50 seasoned advisors, including several former Fortune 100 chief communicators, H&K Advisory delivers integrated strategic services spanning corporate, creative and public affairs consulting. The group deploys proprietary methods and tools including its reputation capital management and measurement system. As part of H&K Advisory, the company is also introducing:FutureSight, a combination of geopolitical, policy and communication advisors to help executives anticipate the impact of dynamic international political and regulatory environments on business and stakeholder strategy. Advisors are complemented by an external Geopolitical Advisory Pool of global experts drawn from academia and executive-level public service to ensure intelligence and planning that protects and grows value amid geopolitical change.Global Horizons, a capability focusing on the economies of the Global South spanning Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Gulf and reflecting today’s significant changes in trade flows. Hill & Knowlton’s substantial network across these regions, with strong integrated capabilities supporting both strategy and execution, enables the firm to play a meaningful role helping clients realize new opportunities for growth.Intelligence & Technology has been built to scale data science, analytics and communications technology solutions across Hill & Knowlton’s client portfolio. The company recently announced a related partnership with Pendulum Intelligence, an AI and machine learning platform, and the launch of H&K Sonar, a predictive risk identification tool powered by Pendulum, which helps clients combat reputational threats amid escalating disinformation attacks.These new capabilities are supported by a multi-year creative transformation effort to redefine the role of creativity in a modern communications company. The firm now offers a comprehensive network of Innovation & Creative hubs located strategically around the world. The hubs bring together creative, content, media and digital specialists to work alongside sector specialists, public and corporate affairs advisors and public relations experts.“We know the power of ideas builds brands and creates breakthroughs. What’s new is the scope and intensity of the creative process – it’s getting bigger, more profound and more interdisciplinary,” said DeSalva. “Business leaders need this powerful creative engine to help address today’s emerging risks. By every measure, global risk is intensifying and coming from a widening array of sources. Today’s risk domains in the areas of reputation, disinformation, and geopolitics demand focused intelligence, creativity and stakeholder-centricity – attributes that lie at the heart of the communications discipline. Risk and reinvention go hand in hand. It is this intersection of risk and opportunity, innovation and transformation that is visibly energizing Hill & Knowlton’s purpose today.”Hill & Knowlton's rebrand reflects its multi-year transformation, showcasing strong post-pandemic growth and strategic adaptability amidst the challenging macroeconomic landscape. Key leadership appointments have expanded Hill & Knowlton’s executive bench, forming a diverse leadership team of tenured agency leaders and dynamic new talent. Corporate development also has played a significant role in the company’s renewal. The acquisition of JeffreyGroup expanded Hill & Knowlton's presence in Latin America, making it the region's largest international public relations network. In parallel, the company launched Brazil-based Ideal company as an international brand, catering to disruptive and emerging technology companies. Finally, the 2023 acquisition of 3K strengthened the company’s healthcare footprint in Europe and extended its operations in Germany.The rebrand was designed as a collaborative effort that incorporated diverse and global perspectives from employees, alumni, clients and industry trade partners. The new visual identity telegraphs boldness, modernity and stature, paying homage to the company’s heritage while looking confidently towards its next era.“Hill & Knowlton is a category originator, born in 1927. I’ve learned through the years how much our company means to countless clients and alumni who have worked with us to shape their stories and successes at various points in their careers,” said DeSalva. “We hope our extended network of colleagues and friends will resonate with the vibrancy and inherent heritage of our renewed brand and with the aspiration it reflects for the future. We also intend that it will meaningfully enrich the experience of our employees, as they grow in their professional lives and change the world.”