Here, again, is our take on the global PR league tables for calendar year 2009. As ever, Sarbanes Oxley is cited by the networks as a reason for not providing their numbers. PR Week and I believe they could publish if they really wanted to, but that’s a dull debate now.

Our sources for the table include bar room tittle tattle, holding company financial reports, analyst reports, client comments and the insights of employees we have hired from our competitors. We have been compiling this table for a few years and so we do have some pretty good data over-all, but we accept that there is a bit of guesswork involved. As usual we are happy to be corrected but make no apology to any firm whose numbers we have wrong as we believe that an industry that preaches transparency cannot keep secret its own financial numbers.

The headline is that all but one (which is flat) are down, but some are way down. Given the financial and economic environment, for most firms this represents pretty good management and much better than in previous recessions where huge revenue collapses occurred across the board.

• Weber Shandwick–$460 million—down 7%
• Edelman–$448 million—down 2% from $456 million
• Fleishman Hillard–$425 million—down 15%
• Burson Marstellar–$325 million—down 7%
• Publicis-MSL–$300 million—down 15%
• Ketchum Pleion–$300 million—down 7%
• Ogilvy–$225 million—down 9%
• Hill & Knowlton–$200 million—down 8%
• Porter Novelli (down 25%) and Golin Harris (flat)–$125 million
• Cohn & Wolfe/GCI–$120 million—down 7%

The big three are now arguably the big two with Weber Shandwick and Edelman moving away from Fleishman who were number one a couple of years ago. Momentum will see this gap widen this year. There is a significant gap of over $100 million to the second tier agencies of Burson-Marsteller, Publicis-MSL and Ketchum Pleon all at around $300 million. The third tier of Ogilvy and H&K is around $200 million, with Porter Novelli, Golin and Cohn & Wolfe/GCI at around $120-5 million.

These numbers are important not just to CFO’s but to clients also. To run global multi-market campaigns agencies need to have strength in depth outside the UK and the US. As you can see from the chart above, some of the big ‘so-called’ global agencies are too small in scale to be everywhere they need to be to deliver global campaigns. Clients have a right to know these fee levels because they relate directly to numbers of employees, ability to specialise and therefore capability.

Here’s our table from two years ago.