PSB Research

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Public relations
Founded1977 (1977)
FounderMark Penn and Douglas Schoen
Area served
Key people
Don Baer, Chairman
Mike Chuter, CEO
ServicesMarket research, strategic communications, advertising
ParentWPP plc

PSB is a global custom research and analytics consultancy.


1970s and 1980s[edit]

Company founders Mark Penn and Douglas Schoen met at the Horace Mann prep school, where they were both students,[1] and they later attended Harvard University together. After attending a class on polling taught by Bill Schneider, Schoen asked Penn to go into business with him.[2] In 1974, Schoen brought Penn into Hugh Carey's campaign for New York governor[3] and in 1977, they established the firm.[4]

In 1977, Penn and Schoen were hired by consultant David Garth to carry out polling for Ed Koch's campaign for mayor of New York City.[5][6] The company introduced overnight tracking polls and computer analysis of results, which informed the campaign's media strategy and helped Koch win the election.[2][7]

Penn and Schoen focused on political polling in the early years of the company.[8] In the 1980s, they first began working with international clients including Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.[2][9] According to the New York Times, the firm's use of computerized polling analysis and specialized personnel for direct-mail were key innovations in political campaigns of the period.[8]

1990s and 2000s[edit]

Michael Berland joined the company in 1990[10] and it became known as Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates. During the 1990s, the company increasingly focused on corporate clients[11] but in 1995, Schoen and Penn began working with Bill Clinton, using their experience from the corporate world and previous political clients to advise on his day-to-day communications and his 1996 reelection campaign.[3][6]

In November 2001, Penn Schoen Berland was acquired by the London-based media and communications company, WPP Group plc.[12] Later that year the company founded its media and entertainment practice.[13] In 2005 Penn was named the worldwide chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, a public relations agency based in New York also owned by WPP. Following Penn's appointment, he retained his role as president of Penn Schoen Berland. The company became a division of Burson-Marsteller and part of the Young & Rubicam group of companies.[14]

In July 2012, Mark Penn left both Burson-Marsteller and Penn Schoen Berland for a position with Microsoft. Company chairman Donald A. Baer, a former White House communications director and speechwriter for Bill Clinton, led Penn Schoen Berland following Penn's departure.[15] In October 2012, Burson-Marsteller executive vice president Jay Leveton was named PSB's interim CEO.[16]

Corporate overview[edit]

PSB provides strategic research, communications, advertising, and creative services for political clients, non-profit organizations, and corporations.[13][17] In addition to its political and corporate business areas, the firm has an entertainment and media practice that provides market research and communications for the entertainment industry.[13]

The firm has American offices in New York City, Washington, Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles and an international office in London.[18] Worldwide, PSB has more than 200 consultants.[13] Key personnel includes chairman Don Baer.[19][20] Its South Asia office is run by Ashwani Singla, former CEO of Genesis Burson-Marsteller[21]

Campaigns and elections[edit]

Through its work on various political campaigns, the company has helped more than 25 political leaders to be elected in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S.[22]

Early campaigns[edit]

Early political campaigns on which Penn and Schoen worked include Hugh Carey's New York gubernatorial campaign in 1974[3] and Ed Koch's New York mayoral campaign in 1977, for which the company supervised the direct-mail campaign and polling.[8] Initially, Penn and Schoen manually input data from surveys onto punch cards, which was labor-intensive and subject to errors. For Koch's campaign, Penn built and programmed a computer to process the survey results, allowing them to analyze polling data much more quickly. According to Penn, there were no other pollsters who could do this at that time.[2][3] The company also pioneered the use of overnight tracking polls, the results of which helped Koch to win the election.[2][7] The following year, the company worked on Luis Herrera Campins' successful campaign for presidency in Venezuela, for which they won a Pollie award.[23]

1980s international political work[edit]

In the 1980s, the company worked on a number of international campaigns, including Menachem Begin's 1981 prime ministerial reelection campaign in Israel. Schoen and Penn provided political consultation and polling,[5][24] introducing overnight polling to Israel with the campaign, which led to Begin's reelection by a narrow margin.[9] In 1984, PSB assisted Ezer Weizman in establishing a new centrist political party in Israel.[9]

Bill Clinton[edit]

PSB was hired by the Clinton administration in 1995 to help change the White House political strategy leading up to the 1996 election, replacing the previous polling team.[5][6] The firm significantly increased the administration's use of public opinion polls, which were used to inform policy decisions. The hundreds of polls carried out by the company helped Bill Clinton to develop his "new Democrat" language and policies.[11] For example, the terms "bridge to the 21st century" and "soccer moms" were developed with help from Penn,[25] who advised Clinton to begin using such market-tested phrases.[6]

In 1996, the company worked on Clinton's successful re-election campaign, helping him to win on an updated platform.[3][12] In particular, Penn advised Clinton to take credit for the upswing in the country's economy[1] and to focus on family values.[26] For the firm's work on the 1996 election, Time magazine dubbed Penn and Schoen "Masters of the Message" in an article focused on the campaign and their influence.[26]

During Clinton's second term, PSB continued to provide polling and advice. According to The Washington Post, Penn became "Clinton's most important political adviser in the second term", and met with the President and aides on a weekly basis to review polls and strategy.[11] The company provided polling on the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment crisis.[3][27] One notable PSB poll led directly to the policy of placing Social Security first in priorities for spending the budget surplus of 1997. In Clinton's 1998 State of the Union address he called for Congress to focus first on Social Security in allocating the surplus funds.[11]

Michael Bloomberg[edit]

In 2001 and 2005, PSB provided polling for Michael Bloomberg's New York mayoral campaigns. In the 2001 campaign, the firm carried out polling to gather information about New Yorkers' opinions. The opposing candidate, Herman Badillo, claimed that the polls were a "push poll", however this was denied by Bloomberg's campaign aides.[28][29] In 2005, PSB was hired again by Bloomberg, for his re-election campaign. The firm provided "voter-list development" and created "the most sophisticated database ever developed for a municipal election", according to The New York Post.[30]

Tony Blair[edit]

Penn was hired by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2005, to provide advice for the upcoming UK general election. He became part of the Labour Party's election team, working on strategy to gain voters who would traditionally have voted for the Conservative Party.[31] The strategy helped Labour, with Blair in leadership, to win a third term for the first time in the party's history.[22][32]

Hillary Clinton[edit]

PSB first worked with Hillary Clinton on her successful campaign in 2000 to become New York's junior senator.[12] The company carried out polling, the results of which were provided to Clinton by Penn, in his role as the campaign's pollster and chief adviser.[6] Although Clinton's consultants in New York disagreed with advice from Penn to focus only on the issues, rather than her personality, according to The Washington Post this advice led to her win by 55 percent of the vote.[11]

In 2007 and 2008, PSB provided Clinton with polling, direct mail, and other services for the Democratic presidential nomination. As part of services provided by the firm, Penn became Clinton's communications adviser, employing a team of 20 employees to carry out the routine campaign work.[33][5] In April 2008, it was disclosed that, in his role as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, Penn had met with Colombian government representatives to discuss promoting a free-trade agreement opposed by Clinton. Penn stepped down from his role as chief strategist but he and PSB continued to poll and provide advice for the campaign.[34]


PSB organized polling during the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004 of President Hugo Chávez and released poll results on election day predicting that 59 percent of voters were in favor of recalling Chávez. The following day, the referendum results were almost the exact opposite of the poll results: the results showed that 58 percent opposed recalling the president. Schoen stated that he believed the referendum "was a massive fraud" and Penn noted that PSB's two previous exit polls in Venezuela had correctly predicted the final results.[35] The results of the referendum were endorsed by César Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States, and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who monitored the vote.[36] Leaders of the opposition refused to accept the results, citing PSB's exit poll as proof of fraud.[37]

The 20,000 responses in the exit poll produced a large amount of data, leading to an extremely low sampling error. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, because the chance of sample error in the exit poll was so low and observers did not find any signs of fraud, it may have been the survey's methodology that led to the discrepancy in results.[37] PSB was criticized in the press for how the poll was carried out because the company used members of a Venezuelan group called Súmate for fieldwork. The group had been involved in organizing the recall and were considered anti-Chávez by the Venezuelan government.[36] In a paper published in academic journal Latin American Perspectives, Daniel Hellinger stated that the results of the poll "were very likely skewed by overrepresentation of voters in areas where [Súmate] volunteers were willing to conduct their interviews."[38] However, at the time, the company stated that the issues were with the voting, not the exit poll.[36] Following the exit poll, Penn replaced Schoen as PSB's representative for Venezuela.[39]

Other campaigns and elections[edit]

In 1999, the firm carried out polls in Serbia, commissioned by the National Democratic Institute of Washington in support of Slobodan Milošević's democratic opponents.[40] The polls found that the majority of voters disapproved of Milosevic's performance and wanted him to resign, supporting the view held in the U.S. that he was unlikely to win re-election.[41]

In 2004, PSB organized an exit poll in Ukraine for the presidential election. The poll was commissioned by the Ukrainian ICTV television channel.[42] The firm also conducted polling in Italy in 2006, on behalf of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party. Berlusconi stated that in final polls before the election he was tied with opposition leader Romano Prodi, although polls carried out by other firms had shown that Prodi would win by approximately 5 percent.[43] In the final results, Prodi won by less than 0.1 percent of the vote.[44]

PSB, South Asia office, led by Ashwani Singla formerly the CEO of Genesis Burson-Marsteller (GBM)[21] & Asia Pacific Board Member of Burson-Marsteller (B-M), was appointed as the pollster for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by the Bharatiya Janta Party(BJP) and carried out 03 waves of polling of over three hundred thousand interviews to generate campaign strategy to win the mandate of the people of India to form the government. BJP scored an unprecedented victory securing a single party majority not seen for the last three decades in election history.

Corporate work[edit]

PSB has provided corporate research and communications services since the 1980s.[6] Its corporate work has focused on using the experience gained in political campaigns to guide its research, advice, and communications for companies.[45] The company's major corporate clients have included American Express, AT&T, BP, Coca-Cola, Ford, and Microsoft.[46][47]

Notable corporate work[edit]

In 1993, PSB advised AT&T and analyzed its advertising strategy in order to help refocus the phone company and to compete with MCI Inc. The research by PSB, including use of polling data on lifestyle and behavior, found that AT&T had previously not included niche groups such as immigrants making calls to their home country. Following PSB's advice, AT&T used niche-market details in commercials and specially targeted offers to gain these customers.[5][6]

Microsoft has been a client of PSB since the 1990s.[11] Penn advised Bill Gates on the campaign to prevent Microsoft from being broken up as mandated by the 2000 court decision in the anti-trust case brought by the U.S. Justice Department.[6] The company also provided key research into consumer opinions about Microsoft following the court case.[47]

In 2004, PSB carried out research for McDonald's in the UK when the fast food company was concerned about negative public opinion following the release of the film Super Size Me.[48] PSB's surveys of consumers and stakeholder groups found that food quality was a high priority. The results led to the initiation of an advertising campaign focusing on food quality.[47][48]

From the early 1990s, PSB has conducted surveys of fans for Major League Baseball. According to MLB commissioner Bud Selig, the research led to changes in the structure of the sport including expansion of playoffs and interleague play.[49] In 1997, while MLB was deciding whether to pursue geographic realignment of teams, PSB carried out research including surveys and focus groups of fans. The company found that a majority of fans were in favor of such realignment.[50][51]

The company conducted research for Ford in 2009 and 2010, focused on its in-car electronics. A 2009 PSB poll to support Ford's sales case for built-in electronics found that 93 percent of those surveyed agree with the idea of a nationwide ban on texting while driving.[52] In 2010, Ford introduced technology to allow parents to prevent teenage drivers listening to explicit radio content based on PSB survey data.[53]

Entertainment and media[edit]

The company's entertainment and media practice was founded in 2001 and provides research for magazine publishers, film studios, and video game publishers, including marketing positioning, test screenings, focus groups, creative advertising testing, and box office tracking.[54] In 2012, PSB expanded this area of its business with the acquisition of First Movies International, an entertainment market research company.[13] Major entertainment and media clients of PSB include Disney, Paramount Pictures, and Condé Nast, for whom the company carried out research to decide on a name for its former business magazine, Condé Nast Portfolio.[55][56]


ImagePower Global Green Brands Study[edit]

Since 2006, PSB has produced an annual consumer survey called the ImagePower Global Green Brands Study, in partnership with Cohn & Wolfe, Landor Associates, and Esty Environmental Partners. The company polls over 9,000 individuals in eight countries on environmentally responsible brands and products. The survey is one of the largest for green brands.[57][58]

Aspen Institute studies[edit]

PSB has also conducted studies for the Aspen Institute and the related Aspen Ideas Festival. In partnership with Time magazine and the Aspen Institute, in 2011 PSB polled Americans on their opinions of the decade following the September 11th terrorist attacks.[59][60] The following year, the company conducted polls on Americans' attitudes towards the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This research was commissioned by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute.[61][62]

Global Corporate Reputation Index[edit]

In 2012 the company released its "Global Corporate Reputation Index" at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The index listed the top 25 consumer companies by reputation. The research for the index was conducted in partnership with Burson-Marsteller, Landor Associates, and Brand Asset Consulting, and consisted of 40,000 interviews in 6 countries, focusing on the qualities associated with nearly 6,000 companies.[63][64]

Selected awards[edit]

Mark Penn was named Pollster of the year in 1996 and 2000 by the American Association of Political Consultants, for the company's political polling.[65] PSB received a Telly Award in 2008 for its work on Dominion's "Every Day" Campaign,[66] a Pollie Award in 2009 for Television Advertising for its "3AM" commercial for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign,[67] and a Reed Award in 2011 for Best Radio Ad from Campaigns and Elections magazine for work done for the National Association of Convenience Stores.[68] In 2012 PSB was awarded a David Ogilvy Award from the Advertising Research Foundation for its work on "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never".[69]


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External links[edit]