EMEA Consultancy of the Year: Burson-Marsteller
After more than a decade in the public relations wilderness, Burson-Marsteller has turned its European operations around quite dramatically over the past two or three years, and the past 12 months have seen the firm turn in its strongest financial performance in the region in 20 years. That means double digit growth over the past 12 months, and in the first six months of 2008, every one of the firm’s European offices experienced some growth.
New business performance was, not surprisingly, strong in 2007, with several global, multi-practice wins being led from Europe: CEVA, de Beers, Doha’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, the Nickel Institute, Russian Railways, and Sony Ericsson. There was additional regional business from Accenture, Celanese, GlaxoSmithKline, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (a Microsoft-led campaign to raise anti-trius questions over Google’s dominance of the search business), Johnson & Johnson, Parkeon and Symantec, and a host of local market wins, including assignments from the likes of Amway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canal+, Danone, Ford, NEC, Norges Bank, Roche and Ticketmaster.
The growth of the past 12 months has been fuelled by what European chief executive Jeremy Galbraith calls the “one EMEA strategy,” an attempt to integrate offices, practices, and products across the region. The result is that cross-border business is up a staggering 50 percent so far in 2008. But none of that strategy would matter without a significant improvement in the performance of Burson’s U.K. operations, which have suffered through a dismal decade but were arguably the most improved of any multinational’s London offices last year, particularly in terms of profitability. And London is now the lead for five of the firm’s top 20 clients, including what was probably the biggest win of 2007: Sony Ericsson.
The other interesting development saw Burson extend its regional reach beyond Europe and into the Middle East and Africa, through the formation of two critical partnerships, the first with Middle Eastern PR giant ASDA’A (formerly Edelman’s affiliate in the region, now owned by WPP) and the second with well-regarded South African firm Arcay Communications, which has a wealth of experience handling pan-African programs.
Benelux Consultancy of the Year: Interel
When Jean-Leopold Schuybroek sold his firm—for many years the most respected independent public relations and public affairs consultancy in Belgium—to U.K.-based marketing service company, Hasgrove, he cited several reasons. One was that the deal with Hasgrove would not restrict Interel’s ability to work with multinational public relations firms owned by other major holding companies; another was that Interel’s managers would become major shareholders in the company and Schuybroek himself would occupy one of four board positions; and another was that the deal—followed six months later by a listing on the AIM market—would enable Interel to accelerate its plans to become a leader not only in Brussels and EU public affairs but in public affairs, corporate communications and crisis and issues management across Europe. The first 12 months under new ownership saw the firm take several decisive steps in that direction. First, it cemented its leadership position in the EU public affairs arena with the acquisition of local competitor Cabinet Stewart, a €2 million firm that has joined forces with Interel’s existing public affairs operation to create a Brussels powerhouse. Then it expanded into Germany with the acquisition of boutique public affairs firm Claudia Conrad, which has a four-person team in Berlin and Bonn. It also added to its design capabilities with the acquisition of a small Brussels firm, Hailstone. Over the past 12 months, it has made additional progress. The firm acquired London public affairs firm Politics International, giving it a team of 18 in the critical U.K. market, and expanded its European network, with affiliates in Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Greece. It also diversified its business: slightly more than half is in public affairs; about a third is corporate communications; the remainder is split between creative services and an association management business. The result is that Interel can now credibly claim to be a European consultancy, not just a Belgian firm, with broad corporate affairs capabilities including and beyond public affairs.
Central & Eastern Europe Consultancy of the Year: Profile
With 30 people in offices in Warsaw and Poznan, and revenues of around €2 million, up by around 10 percent last year (driven mostly by EU projects, and clients in the healthcare, real estate and banking sectors), Profile ranks among the top five public relations firms in Poland, offering a range of services that includes reputation management, corporate social responsibility counsel, public affairs, public information, crisis management, and internal communication—with a new expertise in social consultation around infrastructure investments—across multiple sectors including IT and telecommunications, financial services, real estate, and media. The firm’s largest clients include the Ministry of Regional Development, Wyeth, BRE Bank, and Polish Telecom. And the quality of the firm’s work has started to attract attention internationally. In 2005, it earned an IPRA Golden World award for its You Have the Right to Know campaign, and in 2006 it picked up a European SABRE award for a CSR project for Orkla Pres and PolskaPresse around the topic of school violence. Last year, it did even better, picking up both SABRE and Golden World awards for its anti-bullying campaign.
French Consultancy of the Year: Euro RSCG Worldwide PR
About 420 of Euro RSCG Worldwide’s 1,200 public relations employees around the world are in France, where the firm is headquartered and where major account wins last year included Banque Populaire, Capgemini, Disneyland, KPMG, Ministere de la Defense, Pernod Ricard, La Poste, Unibail, and the French presidency of the EU, while continuing to represent 30 of CAC 40 companies, providing them not only with corporate, financial and public affairs advice (and increasingly, with consumer PR support too) but with access to a vast array of creative services, from advertising and annual reports to digital and social media services, to audio-visual capabilities. Over the past 12 months, Euro RSCG Worldwide has made a significant investment is restructuring its French headquarters office around a number of “hubs,” designed to harness the firm’s considerable creative resources and ensure they are accessible to all clients. Perhaps the most interesting development is the creation of an influence hub, home to about 80 consultants specializing in financial communications, public affairs, employee communications and other opinion leader audiences. The various specialist teams were brought together partly in recognition of the fact that stakeholder relationships are increasingly complex and need to be managed in an integrated manner, and partly to enable counsellors to easily access the creative, content and media, and talent hubs.
German Consultancy of the Year: Oliver Schrott Kommunikation
The German automotive industry is renowned the world over, and Oliver Schrott is renowned within Germany primarily for its work in the automotive sector, where it uses an integrated approach—public relations, events, and design—to combine words (founder Oliver Schrott is a former automotive journalist, and six employees worked in the automotive press) and images (the Mercedes-Benz Maybach sedan dangling from a helicopter, for example, or the launch of the company’s new E-Class via a long-distance journey from Paris to Beijing for 36 of the diesel-powered vehicles and 400 drivers) to impact consumers and other stakeholders. That effort—a finalist for Best in Show in the European SABRE Awards—was a tough act to follow, but OSK managed several impressive campaigns over the past 12 months, including Mercedes-Benz press communication at the IAA 2007 trade show in Frankfurt, helping the company secure first place in terms of media coverage and recognition as the “greenest” automaker at the show; the U.S. launch of the smart fortwo in Silicon Valley positioning the new vehicle as a “real car” as well as an intelligent, environmentally-friendly alternative for urban areas. With 85 people and fee income of €11.85 million in 2006 (up about 10 percent), the firm ranked in the top 10 in Germany for the fourth consecutive year, but the big news of the past 12 months involved the launch of a new office of New York, currently home to a team of five professionals.
Iberian Consultancy of the Year: Estudio de Comunicación
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Estudio de Comunicación is one of the oldest corporate and financial public relations firms in Spain and having ranked number one in a PRNoticias survey of clients and reporters for the past three years, it is also one of the best respected in the market. With 110 professionals spread through four offices—70 in Spain, 20 in Argentina, 10 each in Portugal and Chile—it is one of the largest firms in the Latin world. And having worked on approximately 20 deals worth €76 billion last year it is one of Europe’s leading advisors to mergers and acquisitions, ranking fifth in the 2007 mergermarket rankings by value. Highlights of the Estudio’s recent M&A experience include support for Altadis on its €12.6 billion takeover of Imperial Tobacco; Areva on its €600 million acquisition of Repower Systems; Endesa’s €42 billion bid for Gas Natural; and Prosegur’s acquisitions of Thomas Greg & Sons and IASA Ingenieros. The firm also provides ongoing communications support to clients such as Adecco, Alcatel, American Express, Barclays, BBVA, Citibank, Citroen, Coca-Cola, Nissan, Pfizer, Philips, Renault, and Repsol.
Italian Consultancy of the Year: Manning Selvage & Lee
Until relatively recently, Manning Selvage & Lee’s European operations were disjointed, lacking both a common philosophy and an integrated structure. But through the years, the firm’s Italian operations, where firm’s 50-plus people place it in the top two or three multinationals and where it has strength across corporate and financial, health and consumer, have provided a consistent bright spot. The firm has a rich heritage in the market, where in 2001 it combined Mavellia MS&L and venerable Italian firm Chiappe Bellodi—with a combined experience of 70 years—to give birth to the present agency. General manager Daniela Canegallo began her career with GCI Chiappe Bellodi and worked primarily in corporate and crisis communications before being promoted to her current role in January 2004. New business last year came from American Express Bank and Burger King and a host of others; new people included Paleari Maria Luisa and Ciccarelli Delia as healthcare practice leaders; and interesting assignments included product support for Gillette Fusion and ongoing support for Philips’ “simplicity” brand platform in the Italian market.
Nordic Consultancy of the Year: Prime PR
Perhaps the hottest public relations firm in Sweden over the past couple of year, Prime PR entered its 10th year in 2008 with fee income in excess of €10 million and close to 100 employees, enough to make it one of the two or three largest public relations firms in the Nordic market, and a growing reputation beyond the consumer arena where it made its name as it has grown its corporate and public affairs business as well as its consulting and analysis abilities.Having initially established its reputation in the consumer public relations arena, the firm has diversified considerably and its business is now split into four roughly equal parts: consumer and lifestyle marketing; business-to-business and corporate communications; public affairs; and research and analysis, primarily through a business and lifestyle trends consulting unit called United Minds. Last year saw continued strong growth, with fee income up by better than 34 percent, and there was new business from SCA, Libresse, Tork, Wasabröd, SAAB, Audi, Stockholm County Council, Swedish Forest Industries Federation, Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, and more, while existing clients such as IKEA, The Swedish Institute and Alecta continued to expand the scope of their work with Prime, which also continues to work with blue-chip brands such as McDonald’s, TeliaSonera, Save the Children, Electrolux, and adidas.
U.K. Consultancy of the Year: Blue Rubicon
“Blue Rubicon is the McKinsey of reputation management,” says the chairman of one of the firm’s largest clients. That may be a tad hyperbolic in terms of the firm’s size and heritage—it’s a nine-year-old firm with fee income of £6 million last year—but in terms of the quality of Blue Rubicon’s thinking and its work, it’s an assessment that captures founder Fraser Hardie’s ambitions and suggests that the firm has made impressive progress toward achieving them. Hardie says he wants Blue Rubicon to be “the defining agency of the decade” and given the firm’s track record of growth, industry recognition and—perhaps most notably—intellectual leadership over the past five years, that doesn’t sound far-fetched. Fee income was up by better than 40 percent last year—remarkably, that’s about average for the past four years—and if growth in 2008 continues at its pace through the first half of the year, Blue Rubicon will enjoy similar growth and go into 2009 with fees of around £7.4 million. New business came from big names such as British Gas, Diageo, Virgin Atlantic, the Post Office, Lucozade, Horlicks, eBay, Shell U.K., Gala Coral and Qatar Gas, which joined an existing roster of blue chip corporations and global brands including Cadbury, GlaxoSmithKline, McDonald’s, BDO Stoy Hayward, Ribena, Shell and Unilever. The firm also saw an increase in its public sector and trade association client base. And the ability to keep and grow those clients—the firm saw a marked increase in client satisfaction ratings and as a result retained 90 percent of its fee income last year—has been as important to Blue Rubicon’s continued growth as its new business successes.