NEW YORK—Leading specialist firms Hunter PR, Brunswick, Olson Engage, W2O Group, Makovsky + Company, Global Strategy Group, and Highwire are The Holmes Report’s 2014 Specialist Agencies of the Year.
The firms were selected by The Holmes Report’s editorial staff from among finalists announced last week. The selections are based on our Agency Report Card process, which seeks input from more than 100 agencies across the US and the Americas, with growth, awards, and industry perceptions also taken into account.
You can view the 2014 Americas Geographic Agencies of the Year here.
The winners will be presented with their trophies at our annual SABRE Awards dinner, which will take place on May 6 and New York’s 42nd Street Cipriani.
Consumer Agency of the Year: Hunter PR
Founded in 1989, Hunter Public Relations is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, having grown into one of the top consumer public relations firms in the US, with longstanding clients such as 3M (17 years), Diageo (eight years), Hasbro (10), Johnson & Johnson/McNeil (seven) and Kraft Foods (23) supplemented last year by newcomers Domino Sugar, PetArmor, Pompeian, Outback Steakhouse, and Sylvan Learning, which contributed to a very healthy 26 percent growth, ending the year with fees of more than $18 million. Under the leadership of managing partner Grace Leong, the firm has added capabilities in Hispanic marketing, social media, entertainment, and research and measurement, building on its existing leadership in food and beverage. Its work for Jell-O, Hasbro and Zyrtec was nominated for SABRE Awards this year.—PH
Finalists: Cohn & Wolfe, Coyne PR, DeVries, Ketchum, Marina Maher
Corporate Agency of the Year: Brunswick
Corporate and financial communications specialist Brunswick continues to be a leader in the M&A public relations arena—globally, it worked on close to 200 deals last year, including Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital’s acquisition of HJ Heinz; Silver Lake Partners’ acquisition of Dell with Michael Dell; Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp; and the merger of American Airlines and US Airways—but its expertise extends far beyond that high profile sector to include corporate communications, public affairs and crisis management support for retained clients such as AT&T, Burberry, Facebook, Pepsico, GE, Chevron, the Gates Foundation, Pearson, Cisco, Walgreens and Anheuser-Bush InBev. Just as impressive are the top flight talent (US senior partner Steve Lipin was joined last year by typically diverse additions: former lawyer Chrysta Castaneda in Dallas, former Dow Jones CCO Bethany Sherman in New York; ex-Forber reporter Eric Savitz in San Francisco) and the firm’s thought leadership, from its annual M&A survey to its always-stimulating Brunswick Review.—PH
Finalists: Abernathy MacGregor, Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, Kekst and Company, Sloane Communications
Creative Agency of the Year: Olson Engage
Olson Engage followed up its triumph in the In2 SABRE Awards, where its “Breaking Bad” work for Belize Tourism won Best-in-Show, with three campaign nominations for Gold SABREs, capping a year during which the firm—long known for its creativity—enjoyed impressive growth (fee income for 2013 was up 14 percent to just under $17 million) and underwent significant change, rebranding as Olson Engage to reflect work that is increasingly social, digital and experiential. But it is the work that really stood out, from the real-time response to a potentially damaging reference to Belize on one of TV’s most talked-about shows, to the creation of a Scranton-only Superbowl ad for Dunder Mifflin and Quill.com, to driving the iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile into the social media space for the first time.—PH
Finalists: M Booth, Citizen Relations, LaunchSquad, 360 Public Relations
Digital Agency of the Year: W2O Group
Three-time winner W2O continues its impressive run investing, productizing and leading the industry in digital and analytics. Under the leadership of founder Jim Weiss and president Bob Pearson, W2O is now gaining traction as a channel partner — rather than competitor — for PR agencies that can’t build up their analytics and software capabilities fast enough and need a competitive edge. No doubt, W2O’s investment is paying off — in 2013, W2O’s revenues soared 20% to $75 million, meaning the independently-held group has grown almost two-thirds since 2011 with its digital-focused portfolio that includes P&G, BMC Software, Verizon and Medtronic. — AaS
Finalists: Edelman, Ogilvy Public Relations, Shift Communications, Weber Shandwick
Healthcare Agency of the Year: Makovsky + Company
From promoting government reimbursement campaigns to launching life-changing orphan drugs to helping clients deal with issues raised by increased patient advocacy, Makovsky Health enjoyed a big year in 2013, accounting for an ever-more significant percentage of revenue at a firm once best known for its business-to-business and financial and professional services work. Under the continued leadership of industry veteran Gil Bashe, the healthcare practice grew by 41 percent last year, balancing strategy (its sweet spot involves helping communicate complex health messages around specialty categories) and creativity (it won awards for its work on behalf of Kowa Pharmaceuticals, Duchesnay USA, Affinity, and the Vanguard Forum for Healthcare Leaders, as well as for some pioneering social media work).—PH
Finalists: Biosector 2, Chandler Chicco Agency, Cohn & Wolfe, GCI Health, Revive Health
Public Affairs Agency of the Year: Global Strategy Group
Originally founded as a polling firm, Global Strategy Group—now in its 20th year—has evolved into one of the nation’s leading public affairs, corporate reputation, and issues management firms, offering a range of communications, research, and advocacy services to clients across business (Comcast, ESPN, Google, GM, Nestle Waters, and PhRMA); politics (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and newly-elected Mayor Bill de Blasio); and non-profit sectors (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the League of Conservation Voters, OxFam America, Share Our Strength). With offices in New York, Washington, DC, Hartford, CT; and Los Angeles, the firm boasts revenues of $25 million and racked up victories in its efforts on behalf of Scouts for Equality (a high-profile media campaign to overturn the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scouts) and Trinity Real Estate (gaining approval to rezone the Hudson Square neighborhood in lower Manhattan).—PH
Finalists: APCO Worldwide, Burson-Marsteller, Davies, Levick
Tech Agency of the Year: Highwire PR
The former Borders + Gratehouse has not lost any momentum after undergoing a massive rebrand last year to become Highwire PR. Now in its sixth year of business, Highwire’s revenues grew 47% in 2013 to more than $6 million with 43 employees across its offices in San Francisco and Chicago. Partners Kathleen Gratehouse, Emily Borders and Carol Carruba draw upon their journalism and Silicon Valley roots to develop programs, including FireEye’s IPO and YouSendIt’s rebrand into Hightail. Other clients include Helpouts by Google, RepairPal and Rocket Lawyer, giving the firm a solid reputation across enterprise, consumer, security, cloud, mobile and apps. Highwire continues to make investments in its content bureau and measurement capabilities. — AaS
Finalists: Lewis PR, Nectar, OutCast Agency, Text100