Global Rankings 2010: Continental Europe Market Profile
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Global Rankings 2010: Continental Europe Market Profile

While other regions have bounced back, with varying degrees of vigour, from the economic woes of the past two years, Continental Europe remains depressingly downbeat. Thus, those firms that defied these conditions deserve special recognition.

Holmes Report

By Arun Sudhaman

While other regions have bounced back, with varying degrees of vigour, from the economic woes of the past two years, Continental Europe remains depressingly downbeat. Thus, those firms that defied these conditions deserve special recognition.

Despite operating in a PR market that, by some estimates,  contracted by almost a quarter, Russian agency AGT grew revenues by a solid 3.6 per cent, taking its fee income to an eye-catching 13.3 million euros.

Driving this performance was a surge in government contracts. According to research carried out by Vizantiya communication group, AGT became one of the largest government agencies in 2009, winning 15 tenders worth more than $5 million in total. Government business now account for approximately 70 per cent of AGT’s revenue.

The focus on government work may explain AGT’s relatively low profile among its Russian peers. The agency also benefited from a diversified structure that features a strong digital offering. “We received many orders for work in blogs and social networks, viral video production and internet promotion,” says AGT board chairman Vyacheslav Laschevsky.

Laschevsky also points to solid demand for what he describes as “corporate mass media.” “Top managers had to more closely communicate with employees in order to prevent panic and de-motivation in these hard economic times, so corporate newspapers and magazines become one of the main communication channels.”

AGT’s growth helped it to narrowly pip one of the continent’s most respected independent firms: Germany’s Hering Schuppener. The financial and corporate communications specialist improved its fee income 5.5 per cent, making 2009 the best year in company history.

Despite the fact that the economic crisis directly impacted the agency’s core financial client base, CEO Ralf Hering notes a significant increase in assignments in “restructuring, re-capitalizations, financial crises and insolvency advice as well as CEO counsel.”

In addition Hering Schuppener dominated what slim pickings there were in the M&A market, and saw an upturn in corporate affairs support because of the increased regulatory activity in the financial services sector. The agency delivered this performance against a backdrop of its peers reporting revenue losses of as much as 20 per cent.

Two other agencies also caught the eye with particularly impressive growth in 2009. The first may need little introduction. In just over a decade, Swedish consultancy Prime PR has become one of the world’s hottest PR firms, after a year that brought it a string of awards at our SABRE awards and at the Cannes PR Lions.

Fee income grew by 19 per cent in 2009 to almost $18 million fueled by the firm’s unique combination of entrepreneurialism, creativity and effectiveness. In addition to crisis comms, Prime PR executive creative
director Tom Beckman points to marketing comms and corporate as specific growth areas. In terms of the former, the agency has genuinely been able to displace other marketing disciplines as a lead creative partner; as for the latter, Prime has benefited from an increased focus on CSR, sustainability an trust issues.

“As a matter of fact, our fastest growth areas have been a combination of public affairs, crisis communication and our consumer insight branch United Minds,” says Beckman.

“We have swum against the tide and there are three main reasons why we have been able to grow despite the economy,” adds Beckman. “Firstly, many advertising agencies have been losing business which has made it possible for us to gain market share. Secondly, it has become easier to recruit highly qualified staff and thirdly, we have worked even harder.”

It should also merit attention that Prime achieved these results despite a substantial decline in Sweden’s PR market. The agency’s next goal – to start winning international business – is beginning to look
increasingly realistic.

The second major climber was France’s Agence Elan, which saw fee income surge by more than 166 per cent in 2009, albeit from a relatively small base. Focusing on corporate and brand PR, Elan also
scored well in the 2010 EMEA SABRE awards, thanks to L’Oreal work.

Agence Elan consultant Courtney MacNeil says that the agency’s mission is to “breathe new life” into France’s PR industry, a claim which appears reasonable. The company counts a roster of blue-chip clients, and less than three years since it opened its doors, has become one of the country’s most impressive firms.

“For us, great PR requires an open-minded, imaginative perspective,” says MacNeil. “We are willing and, in fact, eager to depart from the traditional market rules, and to embrace new technology for a more holistic approach to our profession – one that is adapted to our era and that articulates the most impactful message for our clients, taking into consideration a complex eco-system of opinions.”
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