Midsize Agency of the Year: WCG
WCG, formerly the WeissComm Group, has exploded on to the public relations scene over the past five years—it was named our Healthcare Agency of the Year in each of the past two years—and continued its impressive upward trajectory in 2009 despite the global recession, with fees increasing from close to $17 million in 2008 to in excess of $26 million (organic growth was about 27 percent, with the remainder coming from acquisitions) and headcount increasing to 150, including some impressive senior hires: social and digital media experts Bob Pearson (former head of corporate communications at Dell) and Neville Hobson (a leading U.K. blogger); chief creative officer Paulo Simas; and global managing director Gail Cohen (formerly chair of the global healthcare practice at Burson-Marsteller). The year also saw the launch of a new integrated creative department (including interactive and social media capabilities), the WCG Academy professional development initiative, and several major new business wins.
Small Agency of the Year: Allison & Partners
Since its launch in in September 2001 (a week before the terrorist attacks), Allison & Partners has grown impressively (fees were up 12 percent in 2009 to just under $15 million) to become one of the leading independents in the U.S. market. The plan was to fill the void between large, global agencies and the smaller niche firms, to create a national firm while retaining its independence and entrepreneurial spirit, and last year demonstrated that the strategy continues to resonate with clients. Allison now has offices in San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and—new in 2009—Seattle, and practice expertise that spans consumer (still the largest group, accounting for about a third of revenues), healthcare (new but fast-growing), technology, social impact, public affairs, and corporate communications. New business in 2009 came from Johnny Rockets; L’Oreal USA; Samsung’s information technology division; TrendMicro; the California Department of Public Health for its statewide anti-tobacco effort; and GE Healthcare. They join a roster that includes Best Western International; Progressive Insurance; Vitamin Shoppe; Sony; PhRMA; Hyundai Hope on Wheels; and The Goldman Environmental Prize.
Boutique Agency of the Year: Kohnstamm Communications
Minneapolis-based Kohnstamm Communications provides conclusive proof that a boutique firm (about 15 people strong) in a smaller market can consistently generate prominent national media coverage, securing feature articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, BusinessWeek, and on CNN, CNBC, NPR, NBC’s Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America. The firm is probably best known for its work in the food and beverage area (about half of its revenues), where clients include the Thai Kitchen/Simply Asia subsidiary of McCormick, Mom’s Best Naturals, and Kettle Cuisine, but Kohnstamm also has expertise in professional and financial services, healthcare, corporate social responsibility, and—a new area in 2009—beauty. New business successes included assignments from Cascade’s Paper of Montreal, Elliott Wave International, ProUrocare, Happy Baby Food, La Tortilla Factory, and Lavera Naturkosmetik. As a result, fees were up by 17 percent. Kohnstamm is also a permanent fixture on our list of the Best Boutique Agencies to Work For in the United States.
New Agency of the Year: Revive
Revive opened its doors in September of 2009, which makes it an exceptionally new agency, even by the standards of our New Agency of the Year category, but under the leadership of Brandon Edwards (former president and COO of California public affairs firm Davies) and several colleagues, it hit the ground running, offering healthcare public relations communications expertise—including branding, issues management, social media, grassroots, public affairs, and crisis communication capabilities—to clients including hospitals, health systems, physician organizations, and specialty providers.