Multi-specialist public relations consultancy
As the lead U.K. public relations consultancy of the Euro RSCG network, Biss Lancaster is increasingly adapting the “Power of One” philosophy of parent company Havas, working with sister agencies to find and develop new opportunities. Last year saw more opportunities for shared business—joint pitches for clients such as Bhs, Otis, Fidelity and npower—and a growing number of multidisciplinary programs (Arla Foods and Danone were the two largest examples) on which Biss Lancaster took the lead. The firm is also working more closely with other Euro RSCG PR firms across Europe, although Havas has been slower to integrate its various public relations holdings than most of its competitors.
Fee income in 2004 was up in the low single digits, to around £6 million. New business wins over the past 12 months included a resurgence of healthcare business, with Bayer’s Levitra the most significant addition, selecting Biss Lancaster to develop a global (29 markets) PR strategy for the brand. And there were numerous other wins of note, a solid mix of public and private sector clients: the Army Recruiting Group, Danone Shape, the Department of Works & Pensions, Garnier, Kodak, the Music Industries Association, Reckitt Benkiser, Roche Diagnostics, and for projects Burger King and Visit London, which worked with the consultancy on a series of creative events that generated media coverage in the U.K. and continental Europe.
Interesting projects over the past 12 months included a series of movies in London parks that provided a sampling opportunity for allergy relief client Flixonase; the introduction of Cat Deeley as the “face of the New Garnier Fructis,” generating national media coverage; and work for the Royal British Legion, building awareness and understanding of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two and culminating in “the nation’s biggest thank you.”
On the personnel front, the firm hired Holly Barron, formerly of Citigate and Freud, as client services director (not a new business development role, but one more broadly focused on strengthening client relationships), and attracted young talent from diverse backgrounds including Cow, Tag Hauer, Radiator and Consolidated. They will work under a strong leadership team that includes long-time chairman Graham Lancaster, managing director of corporate Belinda Taylor, and brands practice leader Jonathan Sanchez, who joined last year from Freud.
After a restructuring three years ago, Biss Lancaster’s London operations are now organized into three units: brands, corporate, and health. In each of those segments, Biss Lancaster provides a range of services: corporate positioning, CSR, employee communications, marketing communications, sponsorship and more. The firm views itself as a multi-specialist rather than a generalist, a positioning that reflects its belief that to serve clients effectively, account team members need a thorough understanding of those clients’ markets and the media that cover them, an understanding that requires immersion in a particular category. Biss Lancaster is probably strongest in travel and leisure and in food and beverage, but it also has vital practices in sectors as diverse as defence and aerospace; government; and healthcare, which has seen a powerful resurgence as ethical pharmaceutical companies increasingly seek to communicate directly with consumers.
The Leedex network of regional U.K. public relations operations, with offices in Manchester and Edinburgh, took the Biss Lancaster brand in 2004, a reflection of the fact that the firm continually operates as a seamless national consultancy.