Edelman is making a big play to further expand its operations by focusing on building out its umbrella company -- known as Daniel J. Edelman -- which will make acquisitions outside the realm of traditional PR, the agency's CEO told Ad Age .
"The essence of what we're trying to create is the first real PR-centered holding company," said Richard Edelman. "Around PR can be these adjacent services. Historically it's always around advertising, but I think the world has changed sufficiently to make this a viable approach."
Among the areas Edelman is looking to make acquisitions in are digital media-buying, experiential and research.
Leading the charge will be Alan VanderMolen, who has been promoted to vice chairman of the holding company, a newly created role, from head of Edelman's global practices and diversified insights businesses (which includes the StrategyOne research arm and intellectual property , such as the Trust Barometer) .
Mr. VanderMolen will concentrate on diversifying the portfolio and boosting properties via acquisition. In addition, he'll focus on attracting more global business to other DJE brands, including StrategyOne, Ruth , Matter and Edelman Consulting, and will work closely with the leadership team at Edelman sibling Zeno Group. He will also continue his current duties of managing the global practice groups and intellectual property .
One of the first orders of business will be to expand Zeno into global markets such as the U.K., Germany and China. Mr. VanderMolen said that he expects to see "some operations that are meaningful within the next 12 months" and that he's "pretty far down the track" in bringing StrategyOne to China.
"The opportunities for research, for experiential, etc., are not just American," said Mr. Edelman. "We've basically incubated these operations in the U.S. business, and now it's time to get them up into Europe and Asia." The firm tends to do as much as $8 million dollars of acquisitions a year.
When asked about deals in the media space, Mr. VanderMolen said, "We need to get much stronger on the strategy of media buying."
Mr. VanderMolen joined Edelman in 2002 as president of Asia Pacific, after serving in global roles for 13 years at WPP's Burson-Marsteller.
His promotion is part of a recent wave of leadership changes at Edelman. Last month, Matt Harrington was moved up to the newly created role of global chief operating officer from from U.S. president and CEO; he and Mr. VanderMolen will work together closely.