Consumer Consultancy of the Year: Edelman
Edelman continues to be best known in Europe for its work in the consumer and healthcare categories, and the consumer practice is particularly strong in the U.K. (where the acquisition of Jackie Cooper PR three years ago elevated it into the front rank), Germany, and Italy. Some of Edelman’s most creative European work continues to come out of one of its largest operations (Germany) and one of its smallest (Sweden). The German consumer practice continues to play a key role in the PR strategy for Unilever’s Dove brand Real Women initiative, and in 2007 launched the Foot Idol campaign for Lamisil, offering the prize of a contract as a foot model, and followed up with an offer to “Pimp My Locker Room” for the country’s most disgusting locker room. In Sweden, where regional creative director Pontus Nystrom is based, Edelman worked on a massive launch event for the new Halo computer game, with an orchestra performing the score and a ballet company acting out scenes from the game in an attempt to underscore its epic qualities and cultural impact. In the U.K., the firm is especially proud of its work on the revitalization of London’s Covent Garden, a programme that has seen Edelman take a central role in defining and communicating brand values and leading conversations with tenants new and old, leading to a 15 percent increase in footfall over the past year or so. Recent acquisition Spook, meanwhile, has contributed a range of digital capabilities unusual for a European PR firm, as demonstrated by its digital television campaign to launch Chrysler’s Grand Voyager in the U.K.., or its work for underwear brand Triumph, which began with a new website and has expanded into social media and online community-building.
Corporate Consultancy of the Year: Hering Schuppener
The largest and the best corporate and financial communications consultancy in Germany, Hering Schuppener has the expertise and depth of management to rival any firm in the world when it comes to providing high-level strategic public relations counsel, working as an equal partner with banks and law firms in providing counsel to corporate managements. It ranks in the top four in Germany in terms of fee income (€24.9 million in 2007, up by about 15 percent) according to PR Report’s industry ranking; number one in terms of quality reputation according to a 2004 survey by PR Magazin and the University of Muenster; and number one among German firms in the mergers and acquisitions business according to mergermarket’s analysis of deals activity. It employs more than 120 consultants in three offices—Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Hamburg—and provides counsel in several key areas: corporate reputation management (including executive coaching, as German CEOs find themselves more and more in the media spotlight), mergers and acquisitions, equity capital markets and IPOs, investor relations (with strong growth in helping companies deal with shareholder activism), and crisis and change management (the firm has been at the centre of the “locust” debate in German and the backlash against private equity). The firm is also at the forefront of the discussion about research, measurement and evaluation of public relations programming and corporate reputation. The firm has developed a media intelligence service and is working, in partnership with leading German academic institutions and client Novartis on the development of a robust system for measuring the various factors that contribute to strong stakeholder relationships and the impact those relationships have on the bottom line.
Financial Consultancy of the Year: Maitland Consultancy
Maitland continues to enjoy a reputation as one of the class acts of the U.K. (and increasingly the European and even global) financial communications scene. It differs from many of its competitors in that it offers a sophisticated blend of media relations and investor relations counsel, including outreach to securities analysts on the sell-side and institutional investors (who make up 80 percent of the market in the U.K.) on the buy-side. In addition to a robust transactions business, the firm handles ongoing corporate communications, crisis management (including litigation support) and has successfully positioned itself as an authority on governance issues as they influence market perceptions of the company. In all cases, the emphasis has been on independent, objective advice. Maitland ranked third on mergermarket’s league table of M&A advisors by volume for 2007, and fourth in the first half of 2008, handling 40 deals with a combined value of around €35 billion. As a result of strength in special situations, crisis communications and other strategic counsel, the firm enjoyed record performance over the past 12 months. Prominent mandates included representing Chinalco in their purchase of a 12 percent stake in Rio Tinto; representing Norilsk Nickel, the Russian mining and materials group, in a complex series of shareholder disputes; winning the Barratt Homes crisis brief in the UK; advising Close Brothers on its successful defence against a takeover approach from Cenkos; and supporting Luqman Arnold/Olivant in its campaign to break up UBS. Former FT reporter and 10-year Maitland veteran Philip Gawith was named chief executive last year; founder Angus Maitland became executive chairman; and Neil Bennett was named chairman. William Clutterbuck continues to run the firm’s elite financial services practice, and David Waller, another FT veteran and more recently head of external relations for Allianz, was named head of the international practice and joined the firm’s five-person management committee.
Healthcare Consultancy of the Year: Chandler Chicco Agency
The past couple of years have seen some major changes at healthcare communications specialist Chandler Chicco, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in the U.K. market this year. The firm announced a new regional leadership team—Weber Shandwick duo Fiona Hall (former head of the agency’s European healthcare practice) and Neil McGregor-Paterson—in 2006, and in 2007 was acquired by inVentiv Health, a broad-based marketing and professional services firm focused on the healthcare sector. If either of those changes—or the continued talk of a slowdown in the healthcare sector as new drug pipelines dry up—impacted the firm’s performance over the past 12 months, it wasn’t apparent from the numbers. Chandler Chicco’s European operations grew by an impressive 40 percent in 2007, and the firm ended the year with fee income in the region (which includes a powerhouse London office and a much smaller satellite office in Paris) with fees of £7.3 million, enough to earn it the top spot on PR Week’s healthcare league table. The year saw an impressive string of 20 new business wins; 100 percent client retention (the firm’s three founding clients—Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis—are still with it today); and continued growth of the European contribution to overall agency revenues (closing in on 30 percent) and profits. One reason for Chandler Chicco’s continues success in an increasingly difficult market is the fact that it has evolved to be much more than just another pharmaceutical marketing agency. The firm has been diversifying its offering and moving upstream, working at more senior levels within client organizations and managing more complex and challenging communications assignments. Its U.K. offering includes medical education company Litmus, launched in 2006; BioSector 2, which focuses on the biotechnology and specialty pharmaceuticals sectors; and now brandtectonics, a new unit led by McGregor-Paterson which is focused on patient access—one of the most challenging issues facing pharmaceutical marketers in Europe—throughout the product life cycle and generated £1 million in fees in its first year. The firm is also expanding beyond its traditional pharma focus into consumer health, wellness and beauty.
Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year: Mmd
Western business executives looking at the Russian market must be torn between concern about some unique challenges—instability resulting from the recent conflict with neighbouring Georgia and the government’s continuing interference in business affairs—and the lure of a market with 150 million consumers. One thing is clear: companies that do take the plunge will require the best counsel they can get, which is why Mmd’s Russian operations have enjoyed such robust growth over the past 12 months. Overall, the firm—with 19 offices in Central and Eastern Europe—saw revenues grow by about 30 percent and it now has fee income of around £10 million and more than 260 people. Major public affairs campaigns over the past 12 months include legislative lobbying for GE Money in Russia to influence the consumer credit law; federal and regional government relations support in Russia for Lafarge’s $2 billion investment there; stakeholder outreach to support Diageo in its responsible drinking campaign in Hungary; privatisation support for a private equity client in Slovenia and for Global Infrastructure Partners in its Prague airport privatisation bid; and a stakeholder mapping and dialogue programme for Syngenta in Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria.
Technology Consultancy of the Year: Brands2Life
Since its launch in 2000, Brands2Life has been able to outperform the sector for three important reasons: first, the firm set out to work with the best technology brands in the U.K., and to meet as many of their public relations needs as possible, going way beyond the trade media relations that is the core expertise of many technology PR specialists; second, founders Giles Fraser and Sarah Scales had the credibility and capability to deliver on that strategy, drawing on their considerable experience providing strategic communications counsel to blue-chip multinational clients at global public relations giant Hill & Knowlton; and third, it found ways to leverage the quality of its work in technology sector to broaden its client portfolio impressively. Today, while Brands2Life remains focused on technology-driven brands (a term broad enough to include the firm’s work for Rentokil and Tesco as well as more traditional tech companies) its business is divided more or less evenly between business-to-business, consumer and corporate public relations, with a significant and growing capability in digital communications and a new unit offering public affairs expertise (a key client is the anti-piracy Business Software Alliance). Fees were up by 36 percent last year, to around £5 million, enough to earn the firm a place among the top 50 firms in the U.K. and there was new business from Sharp Electronics, which selected the firm to generate interest in its home entertainment products; security software company Centennial; travel retailer Flight Centre; Unisys, which selected the firm for U.K., Middle East and Africa public relations; online retail site Kelkoo; BSkyB-owned broadband provider Easynet Connect; and Activision, which selected the firm for the launch of its new James Bond computer game. And B2L continues to work for big names such as Borland, Cisco, CNet, Logitech, T-mobile, Rentokil, and Webex.