Arun Sudhaman 07 Jan 2013 // 12:00AM GMT
BEIJING--Allison+Partners has named David Wolf to lead its new global China practice, after absorbing the assets of the Beijing-based PR veteran’s seven-year-old Wolf Group Asia (WGA) consultancy.
While the deal is not a formal acquisition, it will see WGA staff and clients (including Motorola) migrate to Allison+Partners, the MDC Partners agency that has grown rapidly in recent years.
Wolf founded WGA in 2005, after leading technology for Burson-Marsteller in China and Asia-Pacific. He has spent almost two decades in China, emerging as a respected observer of the country’s public relations trends and contributing extensively to the Holmes Report’s analysis of China Inc’s international reputation issues.
“The most consistent challenge for foreign companies operating in China and Chinese companies expanding overseas is a failure to communicate effectively,” said Wolf. “The Allison+Partners Global China Practice has been specifically designed to help turn trans-Pacific communications from a chasm into a lasting competitive advantage for these companies.”
Allison's new China practice comes after similar moves from several major PR networks, including Ogilvy PR, Burson-Marsteller and Fleishman-Hillard. In a blogpost last week, Wolf noted that "the core challenge for public relations practitioners is not only convincing Chinese companies to be transparent, but also – and first – helping Chinese companies to understand and behave in accordance with the expectations of highly skeptical global audiences."
Wolf told the Holmes Report that he decided to partner with Allison after receiving several overtures from the major holding groups. In particular, he noted that the agency reminded him of “Burson-Marsteller in the 50s and 60s.”
“Our approach has always been that clients want senior people on the business and that’s a very difficult thing to do in the context of a big global agency,” said Wolf. “Allison is built for that. Their whole goal is to look at all the mistakes the big guys have made and avoid them.”
“After eight years with WGA, I think I reached a point where we’d done everything we could with what we were,” he added. “I needed more resources and the ability to have a full and senior staff in China while I work with clients at an HQ level.”
In addition to Motorola Mobility, other WGA clients have included Discovery Networks, Google, Foxconn, Blizzard, AOL, About.com and Irdeto.
Allison’s China launch marks its second international outpost after opening a London office in 2010. The San Francisco-based firm also has numerous offices in the US and has grown to almost $20m in fee income, according to the Holmes Report’s 2012 Global Ranking.
“Launching in China marks an exciting time in our business. We continue to transform our offerings across international practice areas to meet changing client needs and add to our global footprint,” said Andy Hardie-Brown, co-founder and COO. “We see considerable demand from existing and prospective clients to have an expanded presence in Asia, South America and Europe.”
The WGA deal marks the fourth top-rated independent firm to sell in less than month, following the acquisitions of the UK's Blue Rubicon, and US agencies Mitchell Communications and Catalyst Public Relations.