Australian holding company Photon, which showed good judgment three years ago when it made consumer public relations specialist Frank its first U.K. acquisition, has experienced some well-publicized growing pains as a result of the recession. But Frank itself has been blissfully unaffected, recording impressive 25 percent growth in 2009 and on track for another double-digit increase in fee income in 2010, breaking the £7 million barrier thanks to a combination of exceptional client retention (it lost only one significant client, comparethemarket.com, due to the decision to combine consumer with corporate and financial PR) and an impressive new business strike rate.
Over the past few years, Frank PR has become one of the firms to beat rather than a dark horse. That has resulted in new opportunities—the firm found itself pitching for bigger pieces of business across the portfolios of blue-chip clients and being asked to play a more central role in developing marketing strategy—but it also meant new challenges: Frank is still expected to continue to deliver the edgy, impactful public relations solutions, and not allow itself to be outflanked by the next hot upstart firm.
But big thinking, no-holds barred creativity and tons of talkability remain the hallmarks of Frank’s work. The firm’s launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for Activision, for example, turned the introduction of a computer game into a movie premiere; its revitalization of the Innocent “Big Knit” charity initiative reunited the chorus responsible for a 70s U.K. number one hit record to celebrate Grandmas; its idea to offer consumers a “moneymoon” suited to recessionary budgets scored a major hit for Premier Inn; its work for Virgin Media helped cement the firm as a leading supporter of British film by showcasing shorts directed by up-and-coming talent.
“Frank PR is a billion times better than any other PR agency I’ve worked with previously,” exults Kevin Peake, head of customer marketing at nPower. “They have the ability to think about our business from a discipline neutral perspective to come up with fantastic creative ideas that deliver outstanding value for us throughout our business” Adds Lord Alan Sugar: “My associated companies and I have been clients of Frank PR going back to 2001. They are highly professional, completely dedicated and will do whatever it takes to achieve the desired results. I may have a bit of a reputation for doing a bit more firing than hiring, but hiring Frank was definitely a good call! I have no hesitation in recommending Frank PR”
The past 12 months have seen new business from the likes of Tetley, Constellation Wines, Axe (known as Lynx in U.K.), Grolsch, Tia Maria, Hotels.com, Paul, Bounty and Nickelodeon, while the firm continues to work with brands such as Ocado, Persil, Doritos, Sugar Puffs, npower, Slim.fast, Hovis, Alan Sugar, Kit Kat, BlackBerry, Activsion, Virgin Media, Cancer Research UK, Steve Madden, Loyd Grossman Sauces, Smarties, Footlocker, and more.
Frank’s expertise encompasses all aspects of brand and lifestyle public relations, with a particular expertise in the food and beverage and FMCG sectors, and in buzz marketing (the firm is a founder member of the Viral + Buzz Marketing Association and author of a chapter in the book Connected Marketing) and digital and social media. The firm’s Talkability methodology ensures that every campaign is designed to generate the maximum buzz. A new “PRadvertising” approach, meanwhile, seeks to maximize the value of a client’s ad campaign with techniques that integrate ad messaging and Frank’s creativity to create earned media opportunities.
Founder Graham Goodkind was formerly managing director at Lynne Franks PR and, during a break from the PR industry, founder of another.com, a leading U.K. youth internet brand. At Frank, he has surrounded himself with bright, hard-working, irreverent and creative types including fellow co-founder and managing director Andrew Bloch, another Lynne Franks veteran who also worked as an associate director at Ketchum; former Cohn & Wolfe creative director Frankie Cory; and Shine veteran Alex Grier. The firm enjoys a health reputation as one of the industry’s best employers, and turnover was correspondingly low last year, while homegrown talent continued to rise to the top: four out of the firm’s five account directors started at Frank as trainees.
A new office in Sydney was launched in March 2009, headed by Aussie Myf McGregor (a U.K. Frank-er who started at the agency as an account executive and who went back to her native land as managing director) and now serving clients including Unilever, Pernod Ricard, Reckitt Benkiser, Schweppes, Cricket Australia, and Vodafone after growing by 75 percent last year. Plans for an expansion into the U.S. were put on hold due to the parent company’s difficulties, but could be revived in 2011.