Middle East PR Consultancies of the Year, EMEA 2015 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2015 Middle East Consultancies of the Year

Our 2015 EMEA PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 100 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the region.

Winners received their trophies at the EMEA SABRE Awards in London on 19 May. Analysis of all Winners and Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below.

Middle East Consultancy of the Year — Asda'a B-M (WPP)

With a team of 150 across 11 offices in the Middle East, Asda’a Burson-Marsteller is clearly a major player in one of the fastest-growing regions in EMEA, and indeed fee income was up by 10 percent last year, with more than $4 million of new business coming from the likes of Etisalat Group, theohammed Bin Rashid Foundation, RP Global, Abu Dhabi Financial Group, LinkedIn, Al Jazeera Media, the Dubai Chamber, FedEx, The Walt Disney Company, and the Abu Dhabi General Secretariat of the Executive Council.

The firm’s work was equally impressive, including the Mustang Rises campaign, which saw one of the iconic cars taken to the top of the Burj Khalifa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its launch; the cause-related “Warriors in Pink” campaign, also for Ford; and special events like the 2014 Government Summit for the UAE Prime Minister’s office and the Dowtown Dubai New Year’s Eve Gala for Emaar Properties.

But it might be fair to say that Asda’a does its best work on its own behalf: the Arab Youth Survey is now in its seventh year and has become a traditional and social media phenomenon—an authoritative examination of social, cultural and political trends among the region’s young people, generating multi-page features in leading newspapers in Dubai and more than 35 million social media impressions in a matter of days with its finding that Arab youth in the region may be souring on democracy as Isis rises and troubles continue.

That’s not the only example of cutting-edge thought leadership either: last year saw Sunil John’s team launch both the Penn Schoen Berland research brand and creative studio Proof Integrated Communications in the Middle East, ensuring that the firm continues to set the industry agenda in this fast-growing region.— PH

Finalists

Four Communications

It is now fairly commonplace for UK public relations firms to view the Gulf region as a natural area of expansion, but Four Communcations has been there since before it was fashionable, opening a Dubai office 10 years ago and adding an Abu Dhabi location in 2007. That’s long enough for the London-based agency to establish an impressive track record of success in the region—it was named Agency of the Year by the Middle East Public Relations Association in 2013—and a formidable client list that includes Etihad Airways, InterContinental Hotels Group, HSBC, Nike Golf, Oracle and Timberland.

There was new work last year from Etihad Rail. The operation is led by Ray Eglington, who has more than 15 years of experience, focusing on corporate communications and crisis and issues management, but the two offices offer a full range of consumer and corporate services, with particular expertise in areas including real estate, travel and tourism, sport, and financial services.

The firm has won 13 MEPRA awards over the years, and is a perennial SABRE honoree (it is nominated this year for its sustainability communications on behalf of Etihad), while other highlights last year included public sector work for Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development and Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and the launch of The Residence by Etihad.— PH


Hill+Knowlton Strategies
(WPP)

When Middle East chief Dave Robinson tragically passed away in 2012, many wondered if H+K Strategies would be able to continue its success in a region that Robinson bestrode like something of a colossus. After a couple of years, the evidence suggests that Robinson built some very strong foundations indeed, because H+K Strategies remains among the biggest best PR firms in the Middle East, with Sconaid McGeachin leading a network that includes numbers 120 consultants across eight offices including Dubai (now 30 years old), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt.

In 2014, there was specific growth in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with a bounce-back in Egypt, and further expansion into Turkey, South Africa and Nigeria. Key new business included ACWA Power in the UAE; Qatar's Public Works Authority; and a major project to support the G20 Presidency in Turkey, adding to existing clients such as Adidas, Intel, Dubai World Trade Centre, Qatar Olympic Committee, Sky News. Indeed, H+K's Middle Eastern scale ensures its offering is broader than most, covering consumer, corporate, technology, B2B and healthcare.

While the firm's double-digit regional growth should not be sniffed at, its work deserves as much recognition, if not more. For Qatar's Public Works Authority, H+K provided strategic consulting to develop a communications plan that fosters broad stakeholder support for the organisation's construction programme. For Disney, the firm created an interactive, immersive media showcase to improve acceptance of the brand in Turkey and better communicate its entertainment offering. And H+K was responsible for PR duties on Doha’s successful bid to host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.

The firm's thought leadership in the region also appears to have improved, with a new Reputation Index helping to understand C-suite drivers of reputation management in the Middle East.— AS

Memac Ogilvy (WPP)

Memac Ogilvy has been on a real creative roll over the past couple of years. The Ogilvy Middle East operation took home the Platinum SABRE Award for the best in show last year for its work on behalf of Grohe, a water conservation CSR initiative that involved installing the company’s products in a Saudi mosque, as well as an award for its anti-domestic violence work on behalf of the King Khalid Foundation.

This year, the firm has seven finalists in the SABRE combination, showcasing its wide range of capabilities: a breast cancer awareness campaign for Roche that underscored the firm’s research and insights capabilities; an initiative that spotlighted gender inequality for UN Women using Google’s “autocomplete” feature; and cricket sponsorship for Coca-Cola.

Last year saw Ogilvy PR take a majority stake in the Memac, which has 14 offices, 570 people and overall revenues of around $80m. The public relations unit of about 90 people, led by Saada Hammad, works in close cooperation with the group’s advertising, digital, and corporate identity capabilities.— PH


TRACCS
(Independent)

Trans-Arabian Creative Communications (TRACCS) refutes the notion that MNC clients requiring strategic public relations services in the Middle East and North Africa need to seek out MNC PR agencies. With a network of more than 200 professionals in 14 countries across the region, TRACCS is capable of providing coverage of all the major markets, and its industry leadership—it has organized some of the first PR conferences in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon, as well as playing a prominent role in more international events—demonstrates a viewpoint on the role and potential of the function as sophisticated as many western firms.

Launched in Jeddah in 1998 by former Saudi Aramco PR officer Mohammed Al Ayed, who continues to serve as CEO, TRACCS grew its revenues by 10% in 2014, with much of the growth coming from new accounts in across government and public affairs. These included Ministry of Transportation & Telecommunications in Bahrain; Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Commerce in Saudi Arabia; the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center in the UAE; The Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre; AbbVie; and, Dubai Tourism. They join a client roster that already includes a mix of Government, local conglomerates and multi-nationals including Toyota Motor Corporation, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, BUPA, MAN, King Abdullah Economic City, DHL, DAMAC, Motorola Solutions, Dubai Mercantile Exchange, PepsiCo, Visa International, Amouage, Western Union, flydubai, HSBC.

It is no surprise that TRACCS dominates Saudi Arabia, where it is the Kingdom's largest PR firm, employing more than 50 consultants. But growth has come from several of its other regional offices, thanks in large part to a SABRE award-winning internal 'Maestros' programme that has succesfully developed homegrown Arab PR talent — a critical requirement in a region that remains dominated by expatriate PR executives. And the work, perhaps accordingly, reflects plenty of local insight, as demonstrated by such campaigns as the 'Safe and Sound' breast cancer awareness program; the 'Sakker el Dekkene' anti-corruption drive in Lebanon; and 'the Art of Storytelling' for Oman Oil Marketing Company.—AS