DACH PR Consultancies of the Year 2016 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2016 DACH PR Consultancies of the Year

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.

Winners will receive their trophies at the EMEA SABRE Awards in Berlin on 25 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

DACH PR Consultancy of the Year: Achtung! (Germany/Independent)

In Germany, as in other developed markets, the disruptive potential of social media and the newfound interest in engaging consumers rather than bombarding them with advertising has created an opportunity for public relations firms to expand their role. But in Germany, as in other markets, many marketing executives don’t believe PR agencies are fully equipped to take advantage of that opportunity. Over the past two years, achtung! has been actively working to persuade them that it can, undergoing a transformation of its own that include the establishment of an offer it calls The Lab, brining together art directors, copywriters, editors, community managers, video specialists, SEO managers, content marketers, and others to supplement more traditional PR resources.

Founder Mirko Kaminski has been bringing in new talent, including Hans Albers—whose diverse background includes stints at Jung von Matt/365, fischerAppelt and DDB Tribal—as chief creative officer. The payoff from all of this investment was apparent in 2015, as achtung! grew by 18%, breaking through the €10 million barrier for the first time and ranking eighth in the German market, with a team of close to 150. New business came from Acer, Airbnb, Bonduelle, Outdoorchef and Tom Tailor, and award-winning work included the “Angry Germans” litigation awareness campaign for Advocard legal insurance, and the SABRE-nominated “Attentive Eyes” marketing initiative for Swiss airlines. — PH

Finalists

fischerAppelt (Germany/Independent)

Germany’s leading full-service independent, fischerAppelt got that way in part by anticipating some of the changes that have transformed the PR industry in recent years. It is now five years since brothers Andreas and Bernhard Fischer-Appelt—who founded the firm in 1986—reconfigured a once mainstream PR agency to create a “Federation of Ideas” that included advertising, design, events, video production, and even management consultancy under a single roof. In addition to being the third largest PR firm in Germany according to the authoritative Pfeffers ranking, fischerAppelt is now among the leading creative agencies in the market, boosted in 2015 by its acquisition of film production agency Atkon and its work for clients such as Mercedes-Benz and Deutsche Bahn.

The firm handled major content marketing projects for clients such as toolmaker Hilti and Telekom’s B2B provider T-Systems, including website, logo design, and PR activities, and supported the studio relaunch of Tagesschau, Germanys most prestigious news program. And for the Techniker Krankenkasse, one of Germany’s largest health insurance companies, fischerAppelt developed award-winning social media and content strategy. New talent included marketing expert Matthias Wesselmann, founder of marketing intelligence agency ENGN, and former marketing director of Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra, and Dirk Benninghoff, who joined as editor-in-chief after working as managing editor for the online edition of Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper. fischerAppelt has also been expanding its international capabilities, launching a global campaign for Germany technology company Siemens, leading work for Qatar Foundation from its Doha office, and opening in New York. — PH

 

Farner Consulting (Switzerland/Independent)

Farner Consulting has been the Swiss market leader for so long—more than 60 years in fact—that its dominance in corporate and financial communications is taken for granted and its expertise in public affairs no longer surprises anyone. But the fact that the firm has quietly developed one of the continent’s most impressive digital operations might raise a few eyebrows. But under the leadership of former Burson-Marsteller executive Roman Geiser, who took the helm in 2012, the firm has been investing in innovation, from research and analytics to visual storytelling and real-time marketing. Some of the firm’s best (and SABRE nominated) work of the past 12 months showcases these new capabilities, from the campaign to introduce the new top level domain .swiss on behalf of the Federal Office for Communications to a digital public affairs campaign on behalf of the Swiss Society for Reproductive Medicine to real-time political communication for the Arena on public insurance.

Over the past three years, Farner has grown from 65 to more than 100 employees, with fee income up from CHF 13.2 to nearly CHF 20 million (growth was 8% last year, aided by the integration of change management boutique Enzaim). New business came from ABB, Biogen, Sulzer, Brainforum, Valora, Inventx, Repower, Johnson&Johnson, Siroop, Virtually Live, among others, while the firm continues to work with swisselectric, Mobiliar, Rheinmetal Air Defense, Roche, BASF, Swisscard, Swissport, Hapimag, Interpharma, Holcim-Lafarge, and numerous regional and government agencies.

 

MSLGroup (Germany/Publicis Groupe)

While MSL has been active in the German market for more than three decades, it is only over the past five years or so—since the merger of the local market MSL and Publicis-branded operations—that it has emerged as a significant force in the market, climbing to 16th in the Pfeffers PR rankings with fee income of €8.8 million after 11% growth last year, and developed a genuinely full-service capability. A balanced business portfolio is one of the firm’s strengths in the market: MSL has strong consumer, corporate and public affairs offers, with a growing healthcare practice, all underpinned by impressive digital and social capabilities. It also has a good geographic reach, with its headquarters in Berlin and additional offers in Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Munich, and a strong leadership team, including chairman Axel Wallrabenstein (a former political spokesman who co-founded the Publicis operation in Germany in 2001 and has worked with MSL clients such as Google and Sanofi); CEO Wigan Salazar (who previously worked at the German Bundestag, at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office); and chief strategy officer German Bundestag, at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office); and chief strategy officer Martin Dohmen (who founded the German digital practice).

Highlights of the firm’s recent work include positioning Procter & Gamble’s Oral-B brand as a technology leader; supporting AstraZeneca in raising awareness of influenza risk in Germany; raising the profile of automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen by offering a motor sports “dream job”; and helping Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie overcome skepticism about the trans-Atlantic trade agreement TTIP. MSL is an emerging powerhouse in the German market even without factoring in its CNC operation there, a specialist in corporate and financial communications that ranked fourth in the Germany M&A league tables last year and is working increasingly closely with its MSL sister agencies. — PH

Schwartz Public Relations (Germany/Independent)

With offices across Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Schwartz has been going strong for more than 20 years. Founded by ex-Burson Marsteller PR veteran, Christoph Schwartz, the agency has 20 employees and with more than 40 clients worldwide. Amid this growth, Schwartz has prioritized maintaining a familial culture that has earned the firm a spot on the top-three Best Consultancies to Work in Central Europe.

Headquarters are based in Munich with additional offices in Hamburg and Berlin. Schwartz is also a member of the global PR network Eurocom Worldwide of which founder Schwartz is deputy chairman. Last year, total revenue grew around 20% to €3m with 20 people. Clients include HTC (new), Steelcase (new), Sharp (new), Weebly (new), Fujitsu, Axis, Exact Software, Denon / Marantz, Messe Frankfurt and Prezi. Apart from the owner and managing director Schwartz, Julia Kaiser, Jörg Stelzer and Sven Kersten-Reichherzer are part of the agency’s management.

The firm’s expertise cuts across IT, consumer electronics, gaming, apps, online-communities, e-commerce/web-business, telecommunications, mobile, new media, (renewable) energy, logistics, facility management, industrial and processing technologies and medtech. Meanwhile Schwartz has increased its focus on the travel and tourism sector. Notable work includes raising awareness of the trade fair ISH which is organized by client Messe Frankfurt and its campaign for exoskeleton provider ReWalk. — AaS