Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Financial Times takes a close look at the powerhouse of WPP agencies in Washington. It’s a must read for today, however we dissect some key quotes below so you don’t have to.

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For Immediate Release Fridays

November 10, 2007

The bad news this Friday night is mainly busts, from our scan of the wires. The big toy recall already hit earlier this week when it was reported that Aqua Dots contain GHB, the date rape drug. Burson Marsteller is handling the crisis for the ironically named distributor Spin Master Toys. If you haven’t seen this toy, it’s an irresistibly geeky little machine that fuses tiny, colorful, and very candy-like balls into different designs.

Here are the others for this Friday:

  • Rudy’s PR problem: Bernie Kerik charged by U.S. in Conspiracy, Tax, and False Statements Case
  • Four members of the Berenguer family in Miami, all owners of healthcare companies, busted on Medicare fraud
  • Merck settles Vioxx case for $4.85 billion
  • Unlicensed kennel in Washington County PA charged for abuse

Bid on Wilson, the life-size kinetic penguin auctioned to benefit Antarctic research:


PRNewser will be covering the 2007 Critical Issues Forum hosted by the Council on PR Firms this Thursday. This high-end affair ($475 for members) will be MC’d again this year by the entertaining Jeffrey Rayport. The 2006 Forum was dominated by a keynote from Wall Street Journal publisher L. Gordon Crovitz, talking about the details of the new Journal, or “Journal 3.0”.

The program entitled “The Consumer’s in Control: Now What?” will feature talks by Pete Blackshaw from Nielsen Online Strategic Services, Andrew Heyward, Consultant, Marketspace and former president of CBS News, Jon Iwata, SVP of Communications at IBM, and Mark Penn, CEO, Burson-Marsteller and Chief Strategist for Hillary Clinton.

We expect all eyes this year to be on Penn, who has taken some heat recently for his firm’s association with Blackwater.

We checked in with the Council’s VP Matt Shaw. He expects the discussion to be “electric”and hopes the roughly 150 agency people have “several ‘A-ha’ moments that they will be able to channel back into their respective businesses.”

Today’s WSJ reports:

Microsoft Corp. executives and a public-relations firm [Buron Marsteller]retained by the software giant are waging a quiet campaign to convince Internet companies, advertisers and regulators to oppose GoogleInc.’s planned $3.1 billion acquisition of online advertising specialist DoubleClick Inc.

They’re not disclosing:

In Europe, Burson urged Internet companies to become signatories on an online petition for a more “transparent and competitive Internet,” according to the pitches. It directed the companies to a Web site,, and provided user names and passwords to log in.

The pitches cited a number of groups and an individual who had signed on to the effort. The pitches didn’t disclose that Burson was working for Microsoft, Google’s largest rival. Josh Gottheimer, an executive vice president at Burson, said the firm was hired by Microsoft to set up as a “discussion forum” for issues of privacy and competition. He said the firm doesn’t disclose its clients as a general practice, but said in some cases companies were told Microsoft was a member of the group.

That last sentence really caught our eye, “The firm doesn’t disclose its clients as a general practice.”  It’s fine to not post a client list on your agency website, but in email pitches to the media we feel disclosure is crucial to building trust. Interesting. PRNewser wants to know more. Sends us your thoughts in the comments or to prnewser at mediabistro dot com.

Burson Marsteller’s Asia-Pacific chief executive and president, Bill Rylance yesterday told the Sydney Morning Herald:

The boutiques have a lot of advantages. They move fast and are nimble, but so too are large multinational firms … it’s time for us to compete on our own terms and not on anybody else’s. We want to be seen as an innovator and a hotter shop as opposed to some bland faceless corporate branch office.

The article goes on to explain how boutique agencies are competing intensely (and winning) againt Burson and Aussie PR leader, Ogilvy.  Former Burson employee, Brian Debelle chimes in, “A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t necessarily work here. The New York model of selling in lots of different products at multiple levels doesn’t work. But competition is the name of the game.”

Burson’s Australia revenue has dropped 40% since 1997. 

Stateside, CEO Mark Penn has been busy promoting his book “Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes.”