Multi-specialist with a technology heritage developing a strong consumer offering
Founded in 1988, Firefly has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the best technology public relations firms in the U.K., offering a broad array of services (analyst relations, brand building and sponsorship support, for example) in addition to traditional product media relations. Over the years, the firm has developed a network of small offices in Europe to serve clients on a regional basis, and in more recent years has expanded beyond the technology niche to implement solid consumer brand, public sector, not-for-profit, and professional services campaigns for an increasingly diverse roster of clients.
Firefly took a while to recover from the loss of the seven-figure HP account—following a decision to consolidate with larger agencies—and the departure of three shareholders whose ownership in the firm was bought out by CEO Claire Walker and managing director Mark Mellor. But last year saw a return to profitability, despite the vagaries of the market: at any given time about 10 percent of firefly’s clients are involved in merger and acquisition discussions, and turnover among in-house marketing and PR staff remains alarmingly high. But revenues for the past 12 months were around £3.75 million (putting the firm just outside the U.K. top 20) and the firm is profitable and—critically important to its leaders—still independent.
Moreover, the portfolio of the business has changed so that Firefly is no longer so dependent on the tech sector. Despite the departure of Ian Withington, named to lead the consumer practice two years ago, the firm has added several new consumer clients, including include mobile operator 3 (in Sweden), Google, G-Shock, Homechoice/Video Networks, and Myhouseprice.com. A new head of consumer is expected to be named before the end of the year. Business-to-business wins, meanwhile, included the Vantage division of Lloyds TSB, international accountancy firm Mazars, and GMAC Commercial Finance. Tech wins included security software company Check Point, Konica Minolta Business Solutions (for a pan-European programme), and broadband provider Tiscali. The firm has also seen healthy growth from the public sector, with assignments from ITI Scotland (promoting Scotland as a centre of excellence for the early stage development of new intellectual property in the technology, life sciences and energy space), Planning Portal (part of the Planning Inspectorate), and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, the firm continues to produce top-notch creative work for existing clients. Major assignments over the past 12 months include helping Adobe raise awareness of Adobe products among teenagers, creating a joint initiative with MTV and asking teenagers to make their own music videos using Adobe software and MTV content. For Casio, Firefly handled the launch of Casiology, a new brand initiative; for Motorola, it provided PR support for the launch of the V3 RAZR at Arken, Copenhagen’s Museum of Modern Art. And on the pro bono front, the consultancy helped Xtraordinary People raise awareness of dyslexia in children by running an Xtraordinary Party candidate against Education Secretary Kate Griggs during the U.K. elections.
Avaya remains one of the firm’s flagship clients, and corporate affairs chief Daniel Bausor explains the company’s loyalty thus: “In our fourth year with Firefly, the team continues to surprise us with fresh ideas and is always extremely results-focused. The consultancy manages the balance of providing both insightful strategic counsel and excellent tactical implementation.”
Firefly continues to offer employees a supportive, collaborative culture—recognized in the past by inclusion on the FT’s best workplaces list—and clients an array of proprietary products, including the FireBrand strategic consulting service, which helps companies think through vision and values, branding, and reputation; its FireProof evaluation model, which draws on the firm’s two research specialists and focuses on impacting behaviour; and its FireStarter creative approach. It also continues to expand its regional offering. The Munich and Stockholm teams continued to grow in 2004, and the German office has begun to work extensively in the German-speaking countries of central Europe as well as in eastern markets such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.