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Our 2016 EMEA PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 200 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In just four years, Hope & Glory has established itself as a dominant force in London’s fiercely competitive consumer PR market, with leadership duo Jo Carr and James Gordon-Macintosh combining substance and style to notable effect. Indeed, the shop has emerged as something of a go-to player for big consumer brands, adding Adidas, Airbnb, Virgin Trains East Coast, PZ Cussons, B&Q, Heathrow, Sega and Opodo in 2015 to an eye-catching roster that already includes O2, Ikea, Disney, Virgin Active, HTC, the Royal Mint and Honda.
The agency also sustained its remarkable pace of growth last year, growing 33% to £3.4m in fee income, with profits up 60% to £900k, from its 47-person staff base. Both Carr and Gordon-Macintosh continue to manage the growth well, focusing on ‘fame, fortune and fun’ in a bid to keep staff and clients happy. Unsurprisingly, there has been expansion of its senior ranks, along with a smart 50% investment in new digital consultancy OneFifty.
And, of course, Hope & Glory’s work continues to wow award juries, leading to 49 campaign awards in 2015 alone. That performance might well be matched this year too, given the evidence of another rich crop of campaigns, including standout work for O2 (‘Big Up’ and #WearTheRose); Ikea (‘No Place Like Bed’); B&Q (‘Plant Whisperers’); Airbnb (‘Floating House’); and, Virgin Trains (‘Beard Caps’). Perhaps the best evidence of Hope & Glory’s effectiveness comes from the grumbles it now elicits from rival agencies — a sure sign that an agency is succeeding in London’s cut-throat consumer scene. — AS
From its headquarters in bucolic Beaconsfield—about 20 minutes outside London—Cirkle has spend the past 18 years building one of the best consumer boutiques in the UK. In reality, the firm handles a broad spectrum of work for the consumer brands it represents: a list that includes iconic brands from Premier Foods (Oxo, Bisto, Mr Kipling); Kerry Foods (Wall’s, Mattessons, Cheestrings); Energizer, Hipp Organic, Slendertone; Mission Foods, PepsiCo (Quaker, Tropicana, Walkers), Ferrero (Nutella, Bueno) and Pernod Ricard (Absolut, Beefeater, Malibu). That means Cirkle has impressive expertise in reaching the trade audience too, as in its work on behalf of Absolut (using social media and video to engage bartenders).
But it’s the consumer work that has truly helped Cirkle distinguish itself from competitors: launching Energizer’s EcoAdvanced batteries (using thousands of recycled batteries to create a scale model of Tower Bridge and increasing market share by 3.4%). Work like that contributed to impressive 95% client retention in 2015, which in turn helped Cirkle notch impressive 23% growth for its best year ever—new business success from winning included Hovis, Nestle Waters (Buxton, Perrier, San Pellegrino), Cheestrings and The Happy Egg Co., beating or taking accounts away from some of the UK’s most creative firms, didn’t hurt either. Finally, we would be remiss not to mention the firm’s award-winning culture. A particular passion of founder Caroline Kinsey, it manifests in a first-class employee wellness programme, an emphasis on work-life balance, flexible working initiatives, all of which earned Cirkle our Best UK Consultancy to Work For award last year.
M&C Saatchi PR (UK/M&C Saatchi Group)
Under the leadership of global CEO Molly Aldridge, MD Chris Hides and ECD Steve Strickland, M&C Saatchi PR has established itself as a topnotch addition to Europe’s consumer PR market, growing global revenues to £7.1m in 2015, thanks in large part to a continued focus on matching people’s passions to projects. That might sound like a trite concept, but has resulted in some impressive work and assignments for Foot Locker, EE, Dixons, Deezer, Peroni Carphone and Virgin Holidays.
The agency has also expanded to good effect beyond its traditional powerhouse UK HQ, adding brand PR specialist Vanessa Kreumel to lead its German office. While M&C Saatchi PR boasts solid corporate and technology credentials, it is the consumer practice that stands out — underpinned by strong digital and creative capabilities. It is an approach that has resulted in market leading campaigns such as The House of Peroni; building a treehouse to launch Virgin Holidays’ new Wanderlist product; and, putting a man on the arch of Wembley football stadium to launch EE’s action camera. — AS
Mischief (UK/Engine Group)
When founder Mitchell Kaye departed Mischief in 2013, few expected the agency to sustain the eye-catching success that had defined its growth since it launched in 2006. That it has is as much down to Kaye’s legacy as it is to the CEO he recruited to succeed him, Frankie Cory. Supported by planning director Gemma Moroney and creative head Damon Statt, Cory’s Mischief might be a different agency to the one that characterised Kaye’s heyday but is no less effective, reporting fee income of £5.7m in 2016 and continuing to demonstrate a restlessness that has stood it in good stead amid the world’s most competitive consumer PR market.Last year, there was new business from Vodafone, Southampton FC, Pot Noodle, TransPennine Express, Knorr, Bovril, AkzoNobel Global, Alton Towers and Odeon Cinemas, joining a client roster that already includes The FA, Unilever brands (including Sure and Impulse), Birds Eye, AkzoNobel UK (including Dulux and Cuprinol), Affordable Art Fair, BAE Systems and Tate & Lyle. A realtime newsroom has added more heft to Mischief’s always-impressive creative work, while the agency has smartly focused on developing ‘corpsumer’ campaigns for Birds Eye and Ella’s Kitchen, and launched an influencer unit to mine cultural and consumer insight.
The campaign work remains in fine fettle, evidenced by Southampton FC’s #ShowYourStripes kit launch; the Nation’s Ode to the Coast for National Trust; and Pot Noodle’s #YouCanMakeIt. If Mischief can also benefit from the various creative and production assets that surround it within Engine Group, there is no reason to think that Cory’s ambitions for the firm cannot be realised. — AS
Red Consultancy (UK/Huntsworth)
After a couple of relatively quiet years, Red returned to relevance in 2015, demonstrating the kind of sharp consumer edge that helped it win UK Consultancy of the Year honours in 2012 and, indeed, once reflected its status as consumer hotshop in the 90s. The agency grew its consumer PR income by 10.2% in 2015 to £8.3m, and led some of the UK’s key launches of the year: McDonald’s Signature Collection; Activision Call of Duty; and, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 edge. Often at its best when representing less fashionable brands, Red also did sterling work for Boots and Heathrow, reflecting its ability to retain big, complex consumer client assignments — its roster also includes Johnson & Johnson, Emirates, Nestle, Carling and Coca-Cola.
There was also new business from Royal Caribbean, Listerine, Quality Street, Slim-Fast, Ecover and StubHub, and the firm also moved to develop its offering in 2015, launching an in-house design team, hiring Nick Edell as head of digital build, and unveiling its own evaluation framework. Under the leadership of consumer MDs Isobel Coney and Emily Morgan, Red’s consumer revival has been quietly impressive; it is little surprise that parent Huntsworth continues to view the agency as one of the jewels in its rapidly rusting crown. — AS
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