- Australian holding company Enero is plotting an expansion to double its PR business.
- It tapped the global CEO of its flagship, Hotwire, to identify acquisition targets.
- Enero thinks it can take market share from the big ad holding companies like WPP and Omnicom.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Australia-based holding company Enero Group is making a big play to expand its PR agency business in North America and promoted Barbara Bates, the global CEO at its flagship PR firm Hotwire, to lead the effort.
In her new role as senior advisor, Bates is charged with helping Enero CEO Brent Scrimshaw identify agencies to buy, although the company didn’t specify how much it planned to spend on M&A.
Bates is also charged with doubling Hotwire’s global revenue in the coming years, along with Heather Kernahan, who will replace her as global CEO.
Enero is only a fraction of the size of the four biggest ad holding companies, WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic Group, and Publicis Groupe. But it hopes to steal market share from their PR agencies by winning accounts and diversifying its services, particularly in North America, where most of its growth comes from.
Enero’s priority is expanding tech-focused Hotwire. Started in 2000, Hotwire had $41.7 million in 2020 revenue, with clients including McAfee, eBay, and Dell Technologies. In April, it acquired McDonald Butler Associates, a UK-based B2B sales and marketing firm, to add services like account-based marketing and alliance marketing.
Hotwire is positioning itself as a midsized alternative to the holding company PR agencies such as BCW, FleishmanHillard, and Weber Shandwick. The goal is to get as big as firms like Zeno Group and Finn Partners, which are two and three times larger than Hotwire, respectively.
Bates said for the next deal, she may look for firms versed in creative or data analytics — areas that have become battlegrounds in PR as giants like Edelman, MSL, and Weber Shandwick invest heavily in those areas.
She’ll also eye firms that can help Hotwire win global accounts, which require big support staffs. Bates and Kernahan said hiring tech-savvy employees that can hit the ground running is Hotwire’s biggest challenge today.
“We are literally turning down business because it’s incredibly hard to hire staff,” Bates said.
Bates will also try to expand Enero’s other agencies through acquisition, including Orchard, a creative agency based in Australia that’s known for its tech applications, such as an augmented reality shopping experience it created for Hyundai.
Like Hotwire, Orchard wants to grow in North America and in healthcare, which is one of the fastest growing areas in PR. Orchard’s healthcare clients include Novartis, GSK, and MSD.
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