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2013 EMEA Specialist Consultancies Of The Year
Holmes Report
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

2013 EMEA Specialist Consultancies Of The Year

Winners include Unity, MSLGroup, Llorente & Cuenca, Virgo, Portland, Brands2Life, TVC, and Pagefield.

Holmes Report

2013 EMEA Specialist Consultancies Of The Year

View our Pan-EMEA Consultancy of the Year here.

View our Geographic Consultancies of the Year here.

Consumer Consultancy of the Year: Unity

The genius of Unity, one of the UK’s brightest new consumer public relations specialists, has been its ability to straddle the worlds of business and popular culture—keeping one foot in the boardroom and one in the street, as cofounder Gerry Hopkinson puts it—at a time when smart companies increasingly recognize the need to tap into current cultural trends if they are to engage in a meaningful way with their consumers. It’s an approach that helped the firm conceive and execute one of the most innovative and eye-catching campaigns of the year for retail client Marks & Spencer, which partnered with charity Oxfam—Unity does great work for and has maintained close relationships with a number of leading nonprofits—to capitalize on the “shwopping” trend, reselling, reusing or recycling old clothes to aid people living in poverty. And over the past 12 months it has helped the firm—which has attracted a lot of attention and industry awards for its low-budget campaigns on behalf of smaller clients—attract an increasingly impressive roster of big brand clients, with the likes of Absolut, Aquafresh, Ben & Jerry's, Direct Line, GSK, M&S, Pernod Ricard, Pizza Express, Random House, RBS, Ribena, Virgin, Weightwatchers, Wonderbra now coexisting comfortably alongside the firm’s cause clients.—PH
Finalists: Cake, John Doe, Jung Relations, Kaper

Corporate Consultancy of the Year: MSLGroup

The old Manning Selvage & Lee was best known for its work in consumer PR and the healthcare space. The new MSLGroup, however, has quietly pulled together one of the most formidable corporate capabilities in the EMEA region, with Publicis Consultants in Paris, JKL in the Nordic region, financial communications specialist Ciszewski, and Capital MSL in the UK and the Middle East all providing an impressive range of financial communications and corporate and public affairs counsel, even before the 2012 acquisition of Germany’s CNC, which brought one of the region’s best boutique strategic communications firms under the MSL umbrella. Highlights in 2012 included a 15-market thought leadership and public affairs campaign for the World Gold Council; reputation and issues management for Google in Germany and Italy; and CNC’s work on two Chinese company listings and Lufthansa’s sale of BMI to British Airways.—PH
Finalists: Burson-Marsteller, Cubitt Consulting, MHP Communications, Regester Larkin

Financial Consultancy of the Year: Llorente & Cuenca

Two-time Iberian Consultancy of the Year Llorente & Cuenca is not only one of the biggest and best independent public relations firms in Spain (it was selected by 10,000 communication, marketing and advertising professionals as the Best Communication Consultancy of the Decade in a poll for El Publicista); it’s also one of a handful of firms that provides comprehensive coverage of the Latin world, with offices in Madrid and Barcelona; a significant presence in Portugal;  and a network of operations in key cities throughout Latin America that have helped it withstand the downturn in its domestic market. Key clients include Repsol, Gas Natural Fenosa, Inditex, Sonae Sierra, CaixaBank, Burger King, Panasonic and Embratur (the Brazilian tourism body). New work came from Imperial Tobacco, Mastercard, Cruise Lines International Association, Nissan, and more, and the firm’s work included the “Leading the Change” employee communications initiative for Gonvarri Steel Industries/Gestamp Renewables, and the reorganization at CaixaBank, including both internal and external stakeholders. The firm also handled issues management work for Singapore Airlines after codeshare partner Spanair ceased trading.—PH
Finalists: Barabino, Brunswick Group, First House, Hering Schuppener

Healthcare Consultancy of the Year: Virgo Health PR

After close to a decade spent building one of the biggest and best healthcare public relations specialists in the UK, Virgo founders Sarah Matthew and Angie Wiles elected in mid-2012 to sell that firm to Interpublic-owned GolinHarris. Within a few months, there were new Virgo offices in New York and Singapore and the firm was capitalizing on a wealth of complementary expertise in the consumer, digital, corporate and public affairs realms, all of which are increasingly important parts of a new stakeholder environment for healthcare companies. After impressive growth in 2011, Virgo was not distracted by acquisition talks in 2012, the ninth consecutive year of growth for the firm. There was new business in the core healthcare space including Boostrix and Nimenrix for GSK Bio and corporate communications for Telehealth Solutions.—PH
Finalists: Chandler Chicco Companies, Edelman, Pegasus, Virgo, WCG

Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year: Portland

11 years after launching from founder Tim Allan’s bedroom, Portland has grown to become one of the defining UK public affairs firms, blending regulatory and political expertise with an admirably broad focus on organizational reputation across international markets. That focus has seen the firm build one of the strongest leadership teams in the market, which was bolstered in 2012 by the arrivals of chief strategic advisor Alastair Campbell and chief policy advisor James O’Shaughnessy. Portland has also been able to steal a march on many of its rivals by investing in a strong digital operation, giving it a much more credible ability to effectively shape the policy environment and influence debate on behalf of its clients. After eye-catching growth in 2011, the firm’s sale to Omnicom Group early last year did not slow its stride, with new business arriving from BAE Systems, Barclays, Grant Thornton and Nestle, the last of which was the UK mandate for the food giant’s entire corporate PR account. Portland’s work also stood out, particularly its global campaign for the 2011 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, and its crisis support for Barclays at the height of the interest rate rigging scandal. Finally, the firm’s international focus - it remains one of the few public affairs firms active in Africa - also impressed, with ongoing assignments for the United Nations, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the African Progress Panel and The Elders.—AS
Finalists: Burson-Marsteller, Cicero, Hanover, Open Road

Technology Consultancy of the Year: Brands2Life

Initially, Brands2Life’s target market was the technology sector, but the firm has evolved and now brings its expertise to bear on a broader portfolio of brands in the retail, travel, hospitality, healthcare and professional services sectors, and with a broader range of services, including digital and social media and a new sports and entertainment marketing capability. A significant development over the past couple of years is the introduction of the firm’s “From Idea to Impact” campaign development methodology, which has opened the door to working with client sales, marketing and communications teams to develop campaigns with a genuine focus on business results, including sales, and is now embedded throughout the agency. That helped the firm to grow by about 10 percent during its most recent financial year, to around £7.8 million, with new clients such as Appletiser, EMC, Grant Thornton, Groupon, John Lewis, Rentokil-Initial and TravelSupermarket joining the likes of Cognizant, Google, Logitech, Nominet and VMware.—PH
Finalists: Bite Communications, CCGroup, Octopus, Waggener Edstrom

Digital Consultancy of the Year: TVC

TVC was founded 12 years ago as a broadcast public relations specialist, a background that helped it develop an understanding of content strategy that stood it in good stead when the digital revolution forced PR people to expand their content creation horizons—and attracted the interest of the Economist Group, which acquired the firm last year. The biggest challenge has been transforming TVC from a content creation company—essentially a service provider to PR firms, who provided 80 percent of its business—to a full-service public relations firm itself, developing strategic and creative advice for clients. Today, more than 90 percent of its business comes directly from clients, and with a team of 55 it counts itself among the 10 largest consumer PR firms in the UK. The Economist acquisition has already provided some new business opportunities, particularly from clients looking for more global reach—TVC will open and New York office in 2013—and there 2012 also saw significant work around the London 2012 Olympics, supporting the torch relay for Lloyds TSB, helping Eurostar generate coverage of its role in transporting athletes from across Europe, and working with British Gas and Aviva on their sponsorship of British swimmers and athletes respectively. Another highlight was the firm’s work on the Red Bull Stratos campaign, which involved a record-breaking parachute jump from the edge of space.—PH
Finalists: Edelman, Hotwire/33 Digital, Lewis PR, We Are Social

New Consultancy of the Year: Pagefield

Counter-intuitively, perhaps, the new consultancy category remains in fine fettle in Europe, despite well-documented economic travails in many of the region's markets. Founded in late 2010, Pagefield prevails over a strong field thanks to stellar growth, taking the new firm to £3m fee income in a little over two years. Like many of the best new firms, Pagefield founders Mark Gallagher and Sara Price are demonstrating a refreshing willingness to disrupt the agency landscape, which has seen the in-house veterans set out to build a firm that reflects their strong views on how today's PR agency should operate. This translates to a flat structure built around senior-level counsel, and a broad range of sector expertise that focuses specifically on corporate PR, public/regulatory affairs and issues/crisis management. Pagefield's campaigning approach to client problems also stands out, helping it support the development of new nuclear power station Sizewell C for EDF Energy, and the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station. New business highlights included the large-scale Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, Arqiva, BAE Systems, EDF Energy, Motability and Peveral, to go with key existing clients Camelot, Discovery and Sime Darby.—AS
Finalists: Acumen, Gartner, Newgate, Trigger Oslo

View our Pan-EMEA Consultancy of the Year here.

View our Geographic Consultancies of the Year here.

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