Multi-specialist best known for consumer branding work
It’s been an eventful year at The Red Consultancy. First founders Lesley Brend and David Fuller left the firm six months after the completion of the earn-out. Then the firm moved into new Soho offices. And then parent company Incepta was acquired by Lord Peter Chadlington’s Huntsworth Group. Employee turnover was higher than the firm would like, but if competitors were waiting for Red to stumble, they must have been disappointed. Revenues were up 12 percent, and Red ended the year with fees of around £8.6 million and around 120 people, solidifying its place in the top six U.K. PR consultancies.
One reason for the firm’s continuing solid performance is the depth of senior management talent. Seven of nine divisional directors—average tenure seven years—are still there, and the firm’s three top execs have a combined 30 years of Red experience: managing director Mike Morgan has spent 15 years working with clients including McDonald’s, Xbox, Nokia, Safeway and Bass and is ably supported by divisional managing directors Andrew Baiden (eight years with Red) and Amanda Duncan (an employee since the firm’s inception).
Clients have been equally loyal. Blue-chip clients the firm picked up during its first three years--including DIY retailer B&Q, DHL, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Nokia—are all still with the consultancy today. The only significant client loss of the past 12 months was McCain’s, more than offset by wins such as American Airlines, the British Heart Foundation, Cap Gemini, Continental Tires, Kellogg and Powergen, and by growth from existing clients such as Expedia, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, and McDonald’s. (The firm works best for market leaders and others who take PR seriously, and many of its largest clients are big American brands.)
The firm’s reputation as a creative hot shop is as important as the numbers, of course. Founded in 1994, Red earned recognition from PR Week as Best New Consultancy in 1996 and Consultancy of the Year 12 months later and was The Holmes Report’s first-ever Consumer Consultancy of the Year last year. The firm differentiates itself by its ability to make news, create content, and tell stories. Big ideas can’t just be eye-catching, they also have to be driven by an insight into the client, and the client’s customer; they have to be truthful, authentic. The impact of all this creativity is measured through a system the firm calls Red Heat, which provides a quantitative and qualitative assessment of media coverage.
The firm has picked up awards for its work with Intel (a “Surf While You Surf” promotion) and Johnson & Johnson (the introduction of a new “stay-up towel), and for assignments for McAfee and Aquafresh. Other major programmes included work for McDonald’s promoting Happy Meals and the company’s involvement in sports; the launch of the Evian skincare brand for J&J; the introduction of Nokia’s new combination phone and MP3 player; and the introduction of London’s largest hotel, the Cumberland.
The firm’s U.S. office, opened early in 2004, led by eight-year agency veteran Mirella Cameran, enjoyed some success during its first year of operation, with a major campaign for automaker Audi among the highlights. Red also has experience handling pan-European work for clients including MSN and Nokia, sometimes working with other Huntsworth agencies on the continent, sometimes looking for culturally compatible partner firms.