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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.
There probably isn’t another firm in Europe that is producing the quantity or quality of digital content that is coming out of Weber Shandwick right now. The firm has made a number of moves designed to strengthen its content capabilities in recent years, from the launch of planning and paid media shop Mediaco in 2013 to the expansion of in-house creative team The Studio (now 22 people in London) to the acquisition of Swedish powerhouse Prime to the appointment early in 2015 of TVC veteran Adam Clyne as head of digital for the EMEA region. As a result, digital now contributes 30% of Weber Shandwick’s revenues across the region, having grown by 25% last year.
The firm made a host of new hires in data and analytics and content creation (executive creative director James Nester from We Are Social, EMEA head of content Al Berry from Bacardi, paid media manager Magda Wynne from Mediacom), and the investment is reflected in the work coming from every office: in London, the #washedaway billboard campaign for charity Action Aid used a weather data-activated billboard to catch the eye of shoppers, while Esso deployed virtual reality to help consumers experience Formula 1 from a unique perspective; in Sweden, a video of the nation’s synchronized swimming team under the influence helped insurer Trygg Hansa draw attention to drunk driving; in Germany, the firm helped Deutsche Telekom use YouTube to amplify its corporate storytelling. — PH
After establishing itself as one of the best technology PR firms in the world (and winning Global AOY honours in 2104). Hotwire’s growth continues to owe much to its innovative approach to digital platforms, particularly owned and paid. The firm’s European presence includes owned offices in London, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid and Milan, and was the best performing Hotwire region in 2015, growing fee income by 13.9% to £11.9m.
The integration of 33 Digital within the business helped give Hotwire a headstart when it comes to digital, but the firm has worked hard to develop an offering that reflects the rapid strides porgressive-minded PR firms are making when it comes to digital and social media. Chief among Hotwire’s innovations in 2015 was a new Labs offering that focused on insights, analytics, design, messaging and digital build — adding £600k in new revenue from a range of clients. And that's without mentioning its award-winning Listening Post digital analysis tool, which Hotwire continues to invest in and see strong results from. The firm also invested £180k in its Hotwire Academy training programme in a bid to support the expansion of skillsets, particularly in terms of digital marketing, across its employee base.
This has helped the firm expand beyond its roots to deliver integrated work across geographic borders and functional siloes, helping it net new business from De La Rue, Marketo, Viacom, Travelex, Citibank, Doddle, Young Enterprise, Nuance and Ubisoft, who join an impressive client roster that features Qualcomm, Intel Security, Indeed, Nikon, Western Digital, Logitech, GoPro, Doddle, Red Bull, Cisco and Workday.
All of which adds up to an agency that is seeing considerable growth outside traditional PR areas, via such services as digital advertising, social, branding, content marketing and data analysis. Evidence of this comes from work for De La Rue (a broad rebranding assignment); Travelex (audience analytics); Doddle (consumer engagement and sales); and, Inrix (sales leads and social reach). And, Hotwire’s annual Communications Trends Report also continues to stand out in a cluttered marketplace. — AS
TVC Group (UK/Economist Group)
After starting life almost 20 years ago as a content agency, TVC has adapted well to the demands of modern public relations, prompting The Economist Group to acquire the consultancy in 2012. Since then TVC has transformed itself into a more focused integrated agency, using its content heritage as a strong competitive edge, particularly in the digital and experiential arenas. Via the relaunched Digital News Agency, the firm possesses its own content hosting platform and media centre, a crucial element in its strategy of producing intelligent, creative content for clients such as EasyJet and Jaguar Land Rover.
While revenue growth in 2015 was flat, TVC has restructured and expanded its proposition to good effect under the leadership of global MD James Myers, alongside integration with the broader Economist Group offering. That has helped it net new business from LandBay, intu, Now Pensions and AAT, to go with a client list that already features aguar Land Rover; Peninsula Hotels; easyJet; Eurostar; King.com; Bacardi Group; Red Bull; Royal Voluntary Service; LVMH and Dyno-Rod. Campaign highlights included some excellent video content for the Hive app and for the launch of the new Evoque convertible. — AS
There is plenty of innovative digital and social work being carried out across the Nordic region, some of it by established agencies, but Sweden’s Volontaire is a digital native, founded in 2009 with the new media landscape specifically in mind. The name, Volontaire, reflects the belief that communications is something that people have to want to participate in, voluntarily, and forms the basis of its approach. The firm operates at the convergence of paid, shared, owned and earned media and competes with established advertising, digital, and PR shops regularly and successfully: new business wins in 2015 included Electrolux, Church of Sweden, and Sanofi, and the firm also represents Libero and Visit Sweden, among others.
Last year saw some significant expansion. Volontaire hired Christian Åkerhielm, previously head of digital in the Nordics for MSL/JKL and with a background from Jung Relations, to lead the PR practice, and brought in eight new hires to bring its team to 30. It also launched a new unit focused on activation, content, CRM and production. The firm is nominated for four SABRE Awards for its work, including “Find Your Swede” for Visit Sweden (an interactive tool that helps would-be visitors connect with their Swedish doppelgangers) and “The Work Workout” for nurses’ union Kommunal, while another signature campaign involved persuading celebrities Members of Parliament to pose for a calendar to promote breast cancer awareness for Bakery Bonjour and Swedish Breast Cancer Association. — PH
We Are Social (BlueFocus)
With a name like “We Are Social” there’s an inherent a risk of of the brand falling out of step with the digital environment. This fate, however, has certainly not befallen We Are Social, in part, because the firm takes a more literal view of the word ‘social.’ “It is about understanding social behaviour before focusing on social platforms and using this social insight to create world-class creative ideas” is how the eight-year-old agency explains its mindset. We Are Social now has 600 people with 11 offices around the world (including five in Europe) and is part of one of the world’s largest PR networks Blue Focus. Revenues in Europe were up about 8% to £23.9m, from £22.1m in 2015. Forty people were added to its European team, which is now 390.
Long-standing key clients in Europe include adidas, Beats by Dre, Netflix, BNP Paribas, Google, Lavazza and Nestle. New wins include Audi and Lenovo in the UK; Amazon and Reebok in Germany; Vodafone and Buitoni in Italy; and Siemens in France. Work for clients has evolved from social media in the early days to social content — short films, animations and photography. In 2015 We Are Social picked up its first Cannes Lions for its work Hello Play! for Hello Bank! — a crowd-funding music platform, with its own virtual currency, Hello Coins. Just weeks after launch, almost half a million Hello Coins were sent to 28 music projects, with eight fully financed after one month. The firm’s work for European clients adidas, Juventus and YouTube was also recognised by the Clio Awards, Lovies, Webbys, Eurobest and others.
The firm's innovation team is now focused on future mapping what’s around the corner in terms of social and technology. As part of this, the firm produces monthly ‘Curiosity Stop’ reports to showcase the industry’s best social-focused innovations. — AaS
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