Holmes Report Names European Consultancies of the Year
Charting the future of public relations
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Holmes Report Names European Consultancies of the Year

Weber Shandwick’s traditional power in the U.K. is now increasingly being supplemented by strength in continental Europe, where double-digit growth in existing operations, a handful of new offices, and expansion of the practice groups into major offices, are enabling the firm to compete on a level playing field with the long-established multinational agencies.

Paul Holmes

Pan-European Consultancy of the Year
Weber Shandwick Worldwide

Weber Shandwick’s traditional power in the U.K. is now increasingly being supplemented by strength in continental Europe, where double-digit growth in existing operations, a handful of new offices, and expansion of the practice groups into major offices, are enabling the firm to compete on a level playing field with the long-established multinational agencies. New business over the past 12 months has included new work for American Airlines, the BBC, the Euro 2008 football championship, Kellogg, Royal Bank of Scotland, Tchibo and Warner Bros. The firm now has 24 multinational assignments in Europe, including work for clients such as Agilent, Braun, Canon, Coca-Cola, Goodyear, MasterCard, Microsoft, Pfizer and Unilever.

The firm also expanded its EMEA network in the first half of 2006: an expansion into the Nordics, with the opening of an office in Stockholm, and greater reach in Central and Eastern Europe with new owned offices in Poland, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, and new affiliates in Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and the Baltic states, with the Budapest office acting as a hub for regional work. Weber Shandwick now has 43 owned offices in 29 markets and an additional 26 affiliate offices (including its partnership with Fortune Promoseven in the Middle East) in EMEA, giving it one of the broadest networks in the region.
Equally important is the growth of the firm’s regional client service capabilities. Traditionally, most of Weber Shandwick’s major European accounts have been hubbed out of London (Coca-Cola, MasterCard, Unilever and others) but over the past 12 months or so the firm has developed its ability to run big multi-country assignments out of other major offices: Goodyear and UPS in Brussels; Computer Associates, OPEC and UEFA in Geneva; the Paris 2012 Olympic bid in Paris; BenQ and Siemens in Germany; Mexico Tourism in Spain.

Two years ago, it was still possible to think of Weber Shandwick in Europe as a powerful U.K. public relations firm with a continental European support system. Today, Weber Shandwick is a genuine force across the entire region, with strength in the most important markets (Brussels and Germany in particular) and strong contributors across the region. In the U.S., under the leadership of Harris Diamond, the firm is now clearly a—if not the—market leader, and it’s not far away from achieving the same status in Europe.

Consumer Consultancy of the Year
Shine Communications

How long can a hot shop stay hot? It’s tough to keep that tag for more than a couple of years—particularly in a market like London, which seems to throw up sizzling new consumer PR firms on a daily basis—but Shine has been burning bright for the best part of seven years, and the past 12 months have been the most successful in the firm’s history in terms of both growth (another 39 percent increase in fee income) and profitability.

The biggest key to the firm’s success is its culture, which from the start has included an emphasis on key values—fun, focused creativity, strategic thinking, and people empowerment—as well as a focus on training. Another secret of Shine’s is that while many hot creative shops seem to be flying by the seat of its pants, Shine is managed with a discipline that would be impressive in a larger, corporate consultancy. The payoff for the firm can be seen in the firm’s inexorable rise up the PR Week League Table and in its bulging trophy case. The payoff for clients is equally obvious in the results the firm continues to achieve.

Corporate Consultancy of the Year
Fishburn Hedges

One of the major changes in the U.K. public relations market over the past 12 months is the increased demand for “joined-up thinking,” the ability to deliver solutions that address corporate reputation, public affairs, and product marketing objectives, that go beyond traditional PR to include a plethora of vehicles and channels to deliver the message in a multidisciplinary way. Perhaps no firm is better positioned to take advantage of that change than Fishburn Hedges, which has long offered an integrated approach to corporate public relations, with a range of services that includes media relations, public affairs, consumer PR. internal communications, design and corporate responsibility counsel. Indeed, the firm reports that new business briefs for genuinely integrated work doubled last year.

After 15 years of uninterrupted organic growth (fee income was up 18 percent last year), the firm now has revenues of close to £16 million, 125 people and more awards than it has shelf space. Corporate clients include some of the biggest names in British industry—BAA, BT Barclays, ICI, Powergen, and Virgin Trains—as well as multinationals such as Amway, Pfizer, Shell, and SunGard, and financial service firms including Barclays, Commerzbank, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Visa.

Financial Consultancy of the Year
AMO

The AMO unit of French holding company Havas focuses on international corporate and financial communications, bringing together the capabilities of three of the company’s specialist firms—Euro RSCG C&O in Paris, the Maitland Consultancy in London and Abernathy MacGregor in the U.S—as well as German specialist Hering Schuppener and Llorente & Cuenca in Spain, which joined last year and handles both Spain and Latin America. The network is known for its emphasis on independent, objective counsel and has advised on some of the largest corporate transactions in Europe over the past 12 months, with Mittal Steel’s offer for Arcelor the obvious highlight. But AMO also advised Abbey National on the sale of its life business to Resolution; Invensys on the sale of Invensys Building Systems to Schneider Electric; Cadbury Schweppes on its acquisition of Dr Pepper/7 Up Bottling; BOC on its proposed acquisition by Linde; and Schroders on its acquisition of New Finance Capital. Maitland was ranked number one in European deal activity by value in 2005, and fourth in volume of deals, while cracking the U.K. top five on both criteria.

Healthcare Consultancy of the Year
Virgo

Three years ago, at a time when pharmaceutical clients were increasingly concerned about return on investment and procurement people were beginning to question the cost of large agencies, healthcare PR veterans Sarah Matthew and Angie Wiles launched Virgo Health PR with a vision of providing the “premium” PR services traditionally available from full-service firms along with the flexibility and affordability of a specialist boutique. It has not taken long for Virgo to emerge as one of the top healthcare specialists in the U.K. market with a client roster includes many of the biggest names in the global pharmaceutical industry: AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Glaxo SmithKline, Janssen-Cilag, Lilly, Novartis, Roche and UCB. The firm added 13 pieces of new business last year, including the hotly-contested GSK Cervarix account, and so by the end of the firm’s second full year, fees were up 44 percent again, hitting £2.4 million.

Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year
Burson-Marsteller

The Brussels office, which focuses almost exclusively on public affairs, is perhaps Burson’s strongest in continental Europe, a market leader and a thought leader, with consultants of 24 nationalities and depth in healthcare, environmental issues and more. Under the leadership of Jeremy Galbraith, Burson is both a market and a thought leader in public affairs. The Brussels office (which includes government relations specialist BKSH) has been working with the International Diabetes Foundation on a campaign that reached into all 25 member states in an attempt to secure an EU-wide recommendation on diabetes policy and has been partnering with European Voice on a survey of lobbying techniques in the European capital and producing its own guides to best practice in public affairs and major issues such as EU expansion.

Technology Consultancy of the Year
Johnson King

The past 12 months have been good to Johnson King, one of a handful of U.K.-based technology public relations firms with offices in the major continental public relations market and the expertise to offer clients pan-European programming hubbed out of London. Fee income was up by about 30 percent to £1.6 million, with Germany leading the way, marking a second straight year of strong growth as the firm picked up several new retainer clients, including 24/7 Customer, ACE*COMM, dns, PacketFront, PGP, Infinera and Ruckus, the last two for pan-European work. But as always, it was the loyalty of and organic growth from existing clients that provided the foundation for the firm’s success. In the technology public relations sector, where clients seem to change PR consultancies as often as they change their earnings estimates, Johnson King remains an anomaly: the majority of its largest clients have been with the firm for a while: Packeteer for eight years; Enterprise Ireland and Sophos for six years; Alcatel and Mirapoint for five.

Benelux Consultancy of the Year
Porter Novelli

Porter Novelli’s Dutch operation, Bennis Porter Novelli, is one of the strongest multinational firms in the Netherlands, and probably the best-respected, a full-service operation probably best known for its work in corporate communications and has earned two European SABRE Awards in the past two years: one for its work on behalf of the United Bible Societies in the Netherlands, positioning a new translation of the Bible as a literary book and increasing its sales in a largely secular country; another for its work on behalf of McKinsey, promoting a massive study of the Dutch Internet. The office also provides leadership across the whole region, with managing director Inge Kauer named regional director for EMEA earlier this year, with responsibility for driving new business development and ensuring consistent quality across the region. The Belgian operation, meanwhile, flies beneath the radar because—unlike most competitors—it doesn’t focus exclusively on the public affairs business, working with multinationals headquartered in Belgium on pan-European programming and in the local market too.

Eastern European Consultancy of the Year
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Ogilvy has perhaps its greatest strength in Europe—relative to the local market—in Eastern Europe, with its operations in the critical markets of Russia and the Czech Republic among the leaders on the fledgling industry there. In Russia, SPN Ogilvy is one of the largest PR firms in Russia, with offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg and client experience that includes international brands such as Caterpillar, Ford, Gillette, IKEA, Kraft, Nokia, Oracle and Philips, as well as the American Chamber of Commerce and several Russian companies. SPN also takes the lead in organizing one of the largest PR gatherings in Eastern Europe, the Baltic PR Weekend. In the Czech Republic, meanwhile, Dita Stejskalova has created a first-rate operation that has earned international recognition, most notably for its work in the healthcare sector. And Ogilvy has been expanding its presence in the sub-region: SPN opened in Kiev last year, and Ogilvy added a new general manager in the other large Eastern European market, Poland, as it seeks to raise the standard of its offering there.

French Consultancy of the Year
Beau Fixe

Once best known for its work in the consumer sector, Beau Fixe has broadened the scope of its activity considerably over the past couple of years, and has done so with such aplomb that it picked up two European SABRE awards earlier this year, one for its work in the financial arena, helping tiny Knight Winke Asset Management in its campaign for governance changes at the giant Suez, the other for an issues-based campaign that helped Kidde Safety persuade the French Assembly to pass a new law mandating the installation of smoke detectors in private homes. These corporate and financial campaigns have helped Beau Fixe maintain its position in the French marketplace even at a time when the consumer sector is increasingly commoditized.

German Consultancy of the Year
fischerAppelt Kommunikation

Founded in 1986 by brothers Andreas and Bernhard Fischer-Appelt, the firm that bears their name has grown to become the largest and one of the most respected independent public relations firm in the German market, with a staff of about 160 in five offices: Hamburg, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich. Public relations revenues in 2005 were €15.2 million, up about 15 percent, with growth in corporate communications and integrated branding work and financial communications. New business came from clients such as Bundesministerium der Finanzen (the German Federal Ministry of Finance), Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (German Federal Ministry of Research and Technology), BDTA (German Association of the tobacco products wholesalers and cigarette machine operators), Combots Product and Elixia Fitness & Wellness. They join a client list that includes Fidelity Investments, Gillette Group, Roche Diagnostics, Landesmarketing Sachsen-Anhalt and VDV (association of German public transport companies).

Nordic Consultancy of the Year
JKL

Founded in 1985 by Bo Jansson, Anders Kempe and Anders Lindberg—of still active in the firm’s management—JKL is focused on strategy communications, including corporate communications, financial communications, and public affairs. The firm eschews product publicity and event public relations, which it sees as increasingly commoditized, focusing instead on value-added assignments such as IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, corporate branding, recruitment strategies, organizational change, internal communications, corporate social responsibility, and corporate reputation management. JKL became part of the Publicis Groupe in 2002 and now serves as the Nordic partner for sister consultancies Publicis Consultants and Manning Selvage & Lee. It maintains offices in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, and it continually ranks among the top three in Swedish business magazine Resumé’s ranking of the region’s PR firms.

Spanish Consultancy of the Year
Inforpress

With more than 100 people and revenues last year of around €7 million, Inforpress is probably the largest independent public relations firm on the Iberian Peninsula. Its corporate practice is its most substantial, accounting for about 30 percent of external relations revenues, but there are also substantial groups specializing in consumer communications, healthcare, technology, and public affairs, as well as smaller (but rapidly growing) financial and crisis communications units, and growing expertise in corporate social responsibility counselling. The firm has also emerged in recent years as a leader in the realm of employee communications, which now accounts for about 20 percent of overall revenues. And Inforpress is a thought leader as well as a market leader, partnering with top Spanish business schools and trade associations on various research products.

U.K. Consultancy of the Year
Four Communications

In the five years since its launch, Four Communications has grown from seven people to more than 110 and established itself firmly among the U.K.’s 25 largest independent public relations firms, offering a broad range of services that includes not only public relations and public affairs but also design, digital, sports marketing, and media planning and buying, offering an integrated, media-neutral approach to solving clients’ marketing and communications challenges. It has worked for premier brands including Accenture, Barclaycard, BMI, Grant Thornton, JPMorgan, SAS and Sony. And it has established two offices in the Middle East, with international operations showing 60 percent growth and on track for revenues of £1 million this year. And the past 12 months have seen the firm’s outstanding growth continue. Revenues in 2005 were up by close to 30 percent, to better than £4 million, fuelled by impressive client loyalty (a 94 percent retention rate) and some major new business wins.


 

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