WPP acquires Penn Schoen and Berland

16 Nov 2001

WPP announces that it has acquired 100% of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc., ("PS&B"), a leading US strategic research and polling consultancy.

Founded in 1973, and headquartered in Washington DC, the agency employs 81 people across five locations: Washington DC, New York, Denver, Aurora (Colorado) and Houston.

The company had revenues of US $31.4million for the calendar year 2000 and net assets of $4.3million as at 31 December 2000. PS&B provides a range of services including research-based strategic counsel for corporations and associations, and political polling and strategy. It has developed innovative techniques for developing and deploying the right message in a corporate or political campaign. These methods were chronicled in Time Magazine, which called them the "Masters of Message."

PS&B’s most well-known political successes include its work on President Bill Clinton’s successful re-election campaign in 1996, and the election of Sen. Hillary Clinton in New York. The firm has been successful in the elections of 15 international heads of state. More recently the firm worked for New York City Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg in his upset victory earlier this month.

But the vast majority of Penn, Schoen and Berland’s business has been applying these skills to corporate situations, in brand positioning and messaging, and especially helping businesses fend off competitive challenges in the marketplace. Major corporate clients over the years have included AT&T, Coca Cola, American Express, BP, Novartis and Microsoft.

The firm will operate independently within WPP as a stand-alone public affairs unit and will continue to be managed by Mark Penn and Doug Schoen and Michael Berland, the three principals. It will continue to do work in both the political and non-political areas.

Mark J. Penn, winner of "Pollster of the Year" award (given every 4 years) in 1996 and 2000, runs the Washington DC office and has counselled both President Clinton and Microsoft on a wide variety of matters. His work has been profiled in the Washington Post which called him one of President Clinton’s most important advisers, and who for five years carefully integrated public opinion, policy and message through the many crises of the administration. He was head of message and strategy for the successful Hillary Clinton race, and works in similar capacity for the companies and CEOs he advises on a confidential basis.

Doug Schoen was a key strategic and polling consultant for the upset victory of Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg in New York, and worked to elect Sen. Corzine and Dayton in the last cycle. The firm won more contested Senate elections in 2000 than any other. He works extensively overseas and for companies like Viacom, ICN and Major League Baseball teams.

Michael Berland, who together with Mr. Schoen heads the New York office, has focused principally on corporate work, currently working closely with BP, Siemens and KPMG in strategic, global branding and customer satisfaction areas. He also heads the firm’s neural network modelling and retail site location business.

Commenting on the acquisition, Howard Paster, CEO of sister WPP agency Hill and Knowlton said, "Penn, Schoen and Berland has been successful in taking the research skills originally applied in the political arena and adapting them to corporate issues including brand identification and enhancement, issues management and executive positioning. PS&B brings to WPP a strategic consultancy with a built-in research capability. As such it should integrate well with a range of existing WPP capabilities, including the leading public relations firms Hill and Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller and the identity and branding firms Brand Union and Landor."

Mark Penn commented, "We believe that working together with WPP we will achieve tremendous growth, and be able to bring our skills and methods to a broader array of clients and important situations worldwide. We will continue to offer a unique blend of corporate and political services, enabling us to take the best practices from each and meld them into winning campaigns of all types."

The acquisition of PS&B continues WPP’s strategy of expanding its comprehensive offer to clients in important growth sectors and markets.