CANNES — Richard Edelman has described Edelman's pioneering conquest of the $1bn revenue mark as "an out of body experience", that will be commemorated with the launch of a new museum devoted to the firm's history later this year.

Edelman's comments come ahead of the firm reporting 18% revenue growth for its 2022 fiscal year, which ends 30 June. That will make Edelman the world's first $1bn PR agency, after it reported $985m in fee income for the 2021 calendar year. 

"It's a kind of stunning achievement, it's also an out of body experience," said Edelman at the Cannes Lions Festival yesterday. "We had an unbelievable year."

"In a certain way, the world has come to us," added Edelman of the firm's strong rebound during the pandemic. "As opposed to marketing being a vertical, trust is a horizontal — it applies to sustainability, finance, all business operations."

Not that Edelman is ready to rest on his laurels just yet, identifying three areas that will drive sustained growth for the firm in the near future. The first of these is geographic, with only around 10% of the agency's fee income coming from developing markets, including a decline in the proportion accounted for by Asia-Pacific. 

"We are still 60-plus% America, and the UK is scaled," said Edelman. "It's obvious we want to grow in Asia and Continental Europe."

The second area relates to the firm's advisory and public affairs businesses, in which Edelman believes there is considerable room for growth. Public affairs accounts for just 4% of Edelman's earnings, with the CEO disclosing that the firm will aggressively target acquisitions in this area.

Finally, Edelman thinks that the agency's Trust Barometer data can become a more significant business driver, particularly as it relates to connecting intentions with outcomes. "The trust tools potentially could be a very big business for us," he said, after a Cannes session earlier this week with Garry Kasparov that reinforced how geopolitics has become a major issue in terms of brand trust.

"Action earns trust," explained Edelman. "If we are associated with action, that makes us different from all the people in [the Palais des Festivals]. I don't want us to be associated with image, I want us to be associated with action."

Edelman also referenced the firm's recent launch of a 'Gen Z lab', headed by global chief brand officer Jackie Cooper. "We already have several assignments," he said, noting the focus on politics, societal issues and racial diversity.

The firm will open the 'Edelman museum', on 1 October to mark the 70th anniversary of its founding by Richard Edelman's father, Dan Edelman. The museum will feature exhibits of the famous Edelman campaigns and, said Edelman, will "honor the people" that have contributed to its journey.

"Passing a billion dollars is more a tribute to all the history of Edelman," he said.