The past few years have seen some consolidation among WPP’s various public relations brands, so for a midsize specialist agency to retain its independence, it has to be offering something interesting and recognizably different. Clarion, a WPP-owned, U.K. firm of about 40 people providing a mix of consumer, corporate and trade public relations, distinguishes itself by its expertise in the fast moving consumer goods category and its ability to identify interesting news or unique brand benefits and them turn them into the kind of buzz that engages and excites the target consumer.
The firm has a traditional expertise in marketing to women. It launched the Clarion Women’s Panel of 100 housewives in 2010, drawing on their real-life experience to inform both strategy and execution, and then followed up in October with a Men’s Panel, which will give clients an instant online insight into what, where, how, why and who men like—and dislike. The firm also has specialty groups focused on corporate social responsibility and environmental issues and a new Clarion Advisory Board that includes experts on sustainability, nutrition, and digital communications.
The board provides specialist insight to a leadership team that includes chief executive Gary Freemantle, a 10-year veteran of the firm whose big brand experience includes work with Coca-Cola, Unilever, Nestle, and Procter & Gamble: managing director Amanda Meyrick, whose corporate and healthcare experience includes work with Reckitt Benckiser and GlaxoSmithKline; a quartet of associate directors; and newcomer Howard Bowden, a former journalist with national TV and newspaper experience, who joined this year as head of news.
Clarion enjoyed growth over the past 12 months, despite prevailing economic conditions, in part as a result of some marketing spend from above-the-line disciplines to public relations, word-of-mouth and digital and social media. The firm continues to work with a host of longtime clients such as Warburtons (a 12-year relationship), Unilever (8 years), DeLonghi/Kenwood (7 years), Nestle and loyalty card Nectar (6 years each), and wine company Constellation (5 years). New business successes include food brand Bernard Matthews, The Potato Council (a three-year contract awarded after extensive tender process), and John West seafood.
A consumer PR campaign for Fox’s biscuits based around a spoof “biscuit advisory board” generated enormous media interest (including BBC’s Jonathan Ross programme) and won both a SABRE and a CIPR Excellence Award. The firm also provided communications support for the turnaround at Bernard Matthews and helped propel DeLonghi to the number one spot in the U.K. coffee machine market. No wonder clients are impressed. Says Jane Sutton, senior PR manager at Warburtons, “Clarion have been Warburtons lead PR agency for over 10 years and are an intrinsic part of our wider agency network. Professional, creative and passionate about PR, Clarion always delivers. Their great enthusiasm and deep understanding of our brand has ensured excellent results. Clarion seamlessly blend high level strategic thinking with excellent creative execution.”