Weber Shandwick Named 2014 Global Agency Of The Year
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Weber Shandwick Named 2014 Global Agency Of The Year

Olson Engage, Seven Hills, We Are Social, Finsbury, Biosector 2, Hotwire, BlueFocus, Hope & Glory also honored.

Holmes Report

Weber Shandwick Named 2014 Global Agency Of The Year

The winners of our Global Consultancy Awards, selected by our editors from information gathered during the Agency Report Card and regional Awards processes, will be presented with their trophies at the Global SABRE Awards dinner on October 29 in Miami—part of the third Global Public Relations Summit.

Tickets for the dinner and the entire Summit can be reserved here.

Global Agency of the Year: Weber Shandwick
Finalists: Golin, Edelman, Ketchum, Ogilvy PR

Weber Shandwick wins Global Agency of the Year after continuing to outperform the market, growing at a healthy double-digit clip in both 2013 and 2014 to crack the $750m barrier. The firm’s consistent geographic excellence continues to impress, seeing it win 2014 Agency of the Year honours in both North America and Asia-Pacific, and submitting strong performances in key growth markets such as China, the Middle East and Latin America. 

Weber’s portfolio of business, furthermore, shows few weaknesses. Its corporate, consumer and technology offerings are formidable, bolstered by specific strength in public affairs and healthcare where required. The firm’s digital capabilities, led by its MediaCo content unit, have demonstrated genuine innovation, and its commitment to creative excellence also stands out, particularly in the US, Sweden (where it bought Prime PR), India and Australia.

And while many of its key rivals have experienced turbulence in their upper ranks, Weber Shandwick's seamless leadership transition to global CEO Andy Polansky should be applauded. Indeed, under Polansky, the firm’s senior management team — featuring president Gail Heimann, Asia-Pacific head Tim Sutton and EMEA chief Colin Byrne — has continued to flourish, supported by an impressive leadership bench across regions and practices.—AS

Best Consumer Consultancy in the World: Olson Engage
Finalists: Jung Relations (Sweden), Hunter PR (US), Ruder Finn (China), fischerAppelt (Germany)

Olson Engage has been on a winning streak for groundbreaking, creative campaigns that have made the industry take notice of the Chicago-based consumer shop. The ‘Breaking Bad’s Trip to Belize’ campaign turned a potentially negative mention on a hugely popular TV show into a humorous and memorable public relations opportunity for the Belize Tourism Board — ultimately earning the firm the Best In Show Award at the In2 SABRE Awards. In the last year, its creativity has also broken through in campaigns like the crowd-sourced Dunder Mifflin Super Bowl ad and its guerrilla marketing campaign with Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobile. Its strong portfolio of work has translated to 14% growth in 2013 to just under $17 million. Along with growing its relationship with longstanding client MillerCoors, the agency has built a top-notch portfolio that includes big names like General Mills, Kraft, Mars, McDonald’s and Pepsico. Olson Engage has managed to strike that impressive balance between eye-popping creativity that is also brand-authentic and results-oriented.—AaS

Best Corporate and Public Affairs Consultancy in the World: Seven Hills
Finalists: APCO Worldwide (Global), Burson-Marsteller (Global), Global Strategy Group (US), Portland (UK)

Launched by entrepreneurs and providing public relations support to entrepreneurs—and to larger organizations seeking to communicate with entrepreneurs—four-year old Seven Hills seems to have discovered one of the few remaining underserved markets in the public relations business, and is leveraging that niche to the maximum extent. Seven Hills has rapidly expanded its team to 35 people and in 2013 reported fee income of £2.25 million, helping it win EMEA Corporate Consultancy of the Year honours. New business came from Evernote, nails inc, 118 118, Ovo Energy, Irwin Mitchell, Simply Business, Quill, and more, while the firm continues its work with existing clients such as Ella’s Kitchen, Coutts, WANdisco, the International Festival for Business, Kent County Council, Intuit, the Peter Jones Foundation, Doug Richard’s School for Startups, One Young World, and Gazelle. Determined to be an active participant in the community it serves, Seven Hills partnered with the City of Sheffield to create the UK’s first festival for entrepreneurs, MADE, and more recently helped launch and brand the Start-Up Britain campaign, which aims to identify and support early-stage.—PH

Best Digital/Social Consultancy in the World: We Are Social
Finalists: Edelman (global), FleishmanHillard (global), [email protected] (global), W2O (US)

We Are Social’s mesmerising rise, in the face of tough competition, sees the upstart UK firm take global honours after winning 2014 EMEA Digital Consultancy honours earlier this year. In 2013, the agency grew 70% to almost $39m in fee income, a remarkable performance for an agency that — until the start of this year — was independently funded. Of course, China’s BlueFocus has since shelled out upwards of $30m for an 82.8% interest in the agency, recognising that We Are Social is here to stay. Once known best for its European strength, the firm has built credible offerings in Asia-Pacific and the US, with new business coming from the likes of HSBC, Mondelez International, Panasonic, Red Bull and BMW. We Are Social’s creative excellence continues to impress, with campaigns such as Evian's ‘Wimbledon Wiggle’, ‘Tweet and Shoot’, Heinz’s ’Tomato School’, and Netflix’s ’Spoiler Foiler’ delivering both critical praise and commercial results. And, under co-founders Robin Grant and Nathan MacDonald, We Are Social has built one of the strongest leadership teams in the business, testament to the kind of vision that is proving increasingly difficult to second-guess.—AS

Best Financial Consultancy in the World: Finsbury
Finalists: Barabino (Italy), Brunswick (Global), Hering Schuppener (Germany), Ryan Financial (Hong Kong)

Three years after WPP merged US and UK financial communications specialists firms—Robinson Lerer & Montgomery and Finsbury—the merged entity, now operating under the Finsbury brand, topped the European M&A tables by value and ranked third globally in terms of volume, advising on 115 deals worth $189 billion. Key transactions included Glencore’s merger with Xstrata, the £780m Infinis IPO and Schneider Electreic’s £3.4bn acquisition of Invensys. But the agency merger has brought other benefits beyond just increased deal flow: the company’s corporate, crisis and public affairs capabilities continue to grow in prominence, evidenced by its counsel to Starbucks at the height of that company’s tax crisis in the UK. Longstanding US clients include BlackRock, Toyota, Clear Channel, and UnitedHealth Group. Other new business highlights included Marks & Spencer, London Stock Exchange, a pivotal role in WPP’s Statoil win, G4S, Paddy Power, Nokia and Verizon.—AS/PH

Best Healthcare Consultancy in the World: Biosector 2
Finalists: Cohn & Wolfe (Global), GCI Health (US), Makovsky (US), Pegasus (UK), ReviveHealth (UK)

Quietly—parent company inventiv has chosen to interpret financial regulations as a gag order—Biosector 2 has established itself as the largest brand within the Chandler Chicco Companies business, expanding from its origins as a biotech and speciality pharma firm to become a broad-based healthcare communications firm that does its best work for clients looking to challenge the status quo, from outreach to advocacy groups to pioneering social media work to thought leadership on topics such as how climate change is likely to impact the healthcare sector. Growth last year was about 25 percent, and the firm now has a team of around 60 in the US and 20 in the UK, and while it does not discuss its client list its first client, Novo Nordisk, remains with the firm and it is known to have done interesting work last year with Sanofi Pasteur and Novartis, among others.—PH

Best Technology Agency Worldwide: Hotwire
Finalists: Brands2Life (UK), Highwire (US), Rice (Singapore), Text100 (global)

The technology shortlist includes firms that — not only seek innovation in their client portfolios — but  are also determined to innovate their own products and services. Among these, Hotwire has shown remarkable determination in broadening its digital and public affairs offerings with an eye towards global growth. Moves like bringing 33 Digital into its fold and inking exclusive partnerships with a public affairs and Latin American agency point towards impressive ambitions. On top of this, the agency — that employs 180 people across the US, Europe and Australia — has been punching above its weight by winning coveted business, including displacing several multinationals to become Qualcomm’s primary PR agency in Europe and landing the business in the US. Its portfolio also boasts McAfee, ZTE, and Citrix. The firm is now at $26.1 million — a figure boosted by 72% growth in the US and gains globally. Even amid its progress, Hotwire refuses to rest on its laurels and is pushing forth to grow non-traditional offerings and become a truly integrated and global shop. —AaS

Emerging Markets Consultancy of the Year: Blue Focus
Finalists: Adfactors (India), Approach (Brazil)

Several of the giant multinational agencies have established themselves as leaders in Greater China, while many others are seeing healthy growth, but in terms of exceptional performance it is difficult—this year as last—to look beyond Blue Focus, which continues to grow at a phenomenal pace, both organically and through acquisition (most notably UK-based We Are Social, the foundation for a rapid international expansion). Revenues for 2013 were RMB3.6bn (US$592m) for the group as a whole, and while only about a third of that is attributed to traditional PR operations, that’s enough for the firm to rank among the top 20 in the world, and most of the balance is in the digital realm, and includes a good deal of content creation and social media work that would meet this publication’s broad definition of PR. Just as important as the firm’s growth, however, is the fact that it is staring to produce its share of outstanding creative work. It received a very impressive 11 nominations in our most recent Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards competition, with stand-out work from its Phluency Interactive division, for clients including Lenovo and its Thinkpad line of laptops; automakers Volkswagen, Jeep and Jaguar; Durex and Reckitt Benckiser.—PH

New Consultancy of the Year: Hope & Glory
Finalists: Mighty (US), Newgate (UK), RockOrange (US), SharpeLankester (Asia-Pacific)

A strong shortlist for this category bodes well for the future of the PR industry. And perhaps none of these firms bodes quite as well as Hope & Glory, the UK firm that has already established itself as one of the top players in the country’s cut-throat consumer PR market. Indeed, under the leadership duo of Jo Carr and James Gordon-Macintosh, Hope & Glory always appeared destined to succeed. “We’re not different,” they told us, “we like to think that we’re simply better.” The agency's first 24 months of operation provides ample evidence that the latter statement is true, showcasing an eye-catching new business haul that includes such big brands as Ikea, O2, Barclays, HTC, Virgin Active and the Royal Mint. Yet it is not all about growth, because Hope & Glory’s creative work also deserves special mention, demonstrated by impressive campaigns for Meantime Brewing, the Royal Mint, and O2’s UpCycle initiative.—AS 

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