Last year was one of steady if unspectacular growth in Europe for Manning Selvage & Lee, with revenues up about 5 percent across the region, contributing about 25 percent of the firm’s global revenues. The good news is that growth is coming from both in-market business—an indication that most of MS&L’s offices in the region are strong enough to compete on a standalone basis—and networked accounts, including several large clients that have expanded into new geographies. The firm’s work for Procter & Gamble provides an illustration of healthy relationship growth: after securing the Pantene account in 2001, the firm has added several additional brands (Ariel, Herbal Essences, Iams, Febreze) and over the past 12 months picked up Swiffer and Pampers. Philips, meanwhile, gave MS&L responsibility for internal communications, its World Cup sponsorship, and its environmentally friendly lighting initiative. Other new business wins included Diamond Trading Council (DTC) in the U.K.; The Carlyle Group, TNT, and Lockheed Martin in Italy. One encouraging sign is that Europe is now beginning to export business back to the U.S., with clients such as Barilla, Philips and Sanofi-Aventis managed here but served in the States too.
Through the Publicis Groupe network—more than 20 European office—Manning Selvage & Lee has access to resources in every major market in the region, and there’s a chance that after a planned group restructuring is complete several more of them will carry the MS&L name. But for now the firm has a branded presence in the U.K., France, Germany, and Italy. The London office was up 15 percent in 2004 and now has 90 people, working in the corporate, consumer and healthcare practices. MS&L is also among the market leaders in Italy, where it has 70 people in three offices and long-standing relationships with clients such as Nestle and Novartis, and where the firm (formerly MS&L Mavellia Bellodi) took on the MS&L Italia brand in 2005. The German office is among the top 10 there, and recently added a Berlin office that works with Monsanto to its existing Frankfurt office, and the French operation—MS&L Stricker—is probably close to the top 10 with more than 20 people. The firm also has strength in the Nordic region, through its sister company JKL. The most obvious gaps in the network are in Brussels and Spain, although Manning would also like to develop operations in Central and Eastern Europe.
Manning may be among the smaller of the multinationals in the U.S., but under Lou Capozzi’s leadership it consistently punched above its weight and the transition to Mark Hass (with Capozzi taking a group-wide role) appears to have gone smoothly. The New York office is still the flagship, adding strength in corporate and investor relations and entertainment marketing to its existing consumer and healthcare capabilities, MS&L has one of the most balanced national networks of any large firm, with strength in Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles and a growing presence in northern California. The firm’s recent foray into Asia is progressing nicely under Glenn Osaki’s leadership, with Sunkist and Nestle both drawing on MS&L resources in the region.
The consumer and healthcare practices are MS&L’s two strongest in Europe, although the firm also has corporate expertise (most notably in the U.K., where its MS&L/Capital unit is strong in financial communications) and impressive capabilities in technology, and consumer tech in particular. The consumer group has depth of experience in sectors such as home entertainment, homecare, food and nutrition, and beauty and wellbeing. On the healthcare front, MS&L has done some of its most impressive work with Sanofi Aventis, for which it handles corporate communications (including internal communications) and work across the oncology, dermatology, and cardiology franchises. The firm needs to expand its corporate capabilities in continental Europe, and to establish a public affairs presence in Europe.
Jürgen Togotzes, who was chairman of Europe, has taken on a new role in Germany, overseeing the consolidation of MS&L’s operations there, and so agency CEO Mark Hass—who is based in New York—is taking a hands-on role in the region, supported by a team of market leaders that includes Nicholas Walters in London, Erika Backhaus in Germany, and Daniela Canegallo in Italy. New additions include Duncan Hart, formerly of Alliance & Leicester, as leader of the financial services practice and Natalie Godfrey, formerly of Publicis and DMBB, as head of planning in the U.K., where the firm also added two new directors in healthcare. The firm also appointed its first director of people and development, Liz Baines, formerly with Weber Shandwick and Business Link.
Manning Selvage & Lee ranked among the top 10 multinationals in our Best Consultancies to Work For study, a testament to the hard work the firm’s leadership has put in over the past couple of years creating a cohesive European culture out of what was a fairly diffuse network of offices. Manning “treats all members of staff with respect and in high regard,” says one place. “It is a fun place to work,” with “a really good work ethic.” Another feels “respected” and enjoys “the freedom to make my own decisions.” “Outstanding achievements are always praised and rewarded; we enjoy a friendly culture of mutual respect, and my salary is well above the industry average,” says another. Finally, “I am optimistic about the new global management with Mark Hass in charge and Lou Capozzi being elevated to a position of importance within the parent company - I believe this will enhance the stature of MS&L greatly within the Groupe.”
One of the things that distinguish Manning Selvage & Lee, particularly in the U.K., is its commitment to planning—a philosophy borrowed from its sister advertising agencies and reinforced last year with the appointment of Publicis and DMBB veteran Natalie Godfrey as head of planning. Her appointment will allow Claire Spencer to focus on the firm’s i-to-i tracker subsidiary, a research firm that seeks to measure how public relations programs impact a client’s business objectives and influence the behaviour of consumers and other key stakeholders. The unit provides corporate reputation research to British Gas, brand analysis to P&G, and works with several public sector clients, including the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Health.
Manning’s work for Microsoft’s Xbox game consoles provides an illustration of what the firm can do on a regional level, with the launch of Halo2—the biggest game to date on the Xbox platform—offering a chance to handle trade show publicity, pan-European media tours, generating 45 cover stories in gaming and mainstream media outlets across the continent. For Philips, the firm’s second largest account on a global basis, Manning works in 22 countries handling corporate communications and PR support for the lighting division, helping position the company as a consumer electronics company making products that make life simpler and more convenient. For P&G’s Pantene brand, meanwhile, MS&L helped to roll out a new formulation across Western Europe, based around a “Beauty Lost, Beauty Reclaimed” platform built on the firm’s transformational positioning. In Italy, the firm worked on the relaunch of Viagra for Pfizer, while in
Although the European roots of what is now Manning Selvage & Lee go back 20 years, it’s only relatively recently that the MS&L brand came to the fore, and so name recognition across Europe is probably not what it should be. The Italian operation only took on the MS&L brand in 2004, and the French firm is still better known as under the Stricker name than as MS&L. The consolidation of Publicis Groupe PR holdings across Europe, including several operating under the Leo PR banner, have the potential to add to the confusion, but only temporarily—once the structure is finalized, communicating the brand and what it stands for should be a top priority.
There’s still plenty of opportunity for growth in Europe, which currently contributes about 25 percent to MS&L’s worldwide revenues—less than many of its peers. Some of it may come as a result of an ongoing examination of existing Publicis Groupe resources, which is likely to see some smaller operations merged under the Manning banner. Some of it will likely come through acquisitions, because there are markets (like Brussels) where the Groupe as a whole needs to establish itself rapidly. And some will come from an increase in the amount of multi-office work the firm does in the region, which has strong local leadership but has not always benefited from an equally clear regional vision.