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When Louie St Claire took charge of Harvard in 2011, there were genuine questions over the firm's long-term viability. Once considered one of the strongest tech PR players in the market, Harvard had shrunk considerably to just 14 people and £1.6m in revenue after losing a number of key clients, including Vodafone and Adobe.
That the firm is now a strong contender for technology consultancy of the year is testimony to the resurgence that has taken place under a leadership team that includes St Claire, along with Ellie Bennett, Pete Marcus, David Rossiter, Jo Jamieson and new addition Phil Szomszor, who came aboard as digital engagement director.
Harvard reached £4m in revenue in 2015, a remarkable 39% increase on 2014, generated by 40 people that regularly contend for the biggest technology accounts in the market. Last year there was new business from Digital Garage, Insight UK, IO, Linn, Lycamobile, Quantcast, Ricoh Europe, Salmon, Virgin Media Business and Xactly, joining a client roster that includes key clients Vodafone, Fujitsu, Arbor Networks, Cisco and TalkTalk.It is not just Harvard's growth that impresses. The firm's work reflects an impressive focus on integration, via a full-service offering that extends beyond PR and digital into such areas as advertising and direct marketing. A robust evaluation framework has also been adopted, along with a staff development culture that as resulted in an 8.4 Net Promoter Score among employees.
Harvard likes to claim that it champions the tech sector, and its specialist knowledge is clearly reaping dividends as technology plays a more central role in every business. There is a commitment to technology industry events and startup projects, which has helped fuel standout work for Cisco (overhauling its digital identity); TalkTalk (‘Making Britain’s Small Businesses Better Off’); Salmon (Black Friday); and Fujitsu (‘Digital Inside Out’). — AS
Chameleon (UK, Reptile Group)
Founded 18 years ago, Chameleon has been seen its fortunes improve markedly since the 2013 arrival of Tom Berry as CEO. In tandem with founder Helen Holland, Berry has ushered in a fairly radical revamp of Chameleon’s positioning and capabilities, broadening its approach to encompass the full range of digital services, sales lead generation and C-suite counsel. Topline fee income increased by 8% in 2015, but that does not really tell the whole story of Chameleon’s progress — the firm improved profits by 261% to a 24% margin, and walked away from big clients that did not share its vision of high-value consultancy and integrated communications. That mindset has resulted in average client fees doubling and client net promoter score increasing to +63, from a roster that now features DocuSign, AppAnnie, Unify, Spiceworks, Code42, Forbidden Technologies and ClubCISO.
It is also an approach that has resulted in a staff culture that is considerable more vibrant than most. Chameleon’s 16 professionals report high retention and employee satisfaction metrics, with a strong focus on training and development. ‘Non-traditional communications services’, what Chameleon describes as influencer relations, insights/strategy, growth marketing, sales support and content marketing, now accounts for 40% of the firm’s fee income, highlighted by impressive campaigns for Forbidden Technologies and DocuSign. — AS
Fink & Fuchs (Germany/Independent)
As Fink & Fuchs nears its 30-year anniversary, the tech shop has diversified its team for international, employer communications and public sector work. The German firm has offices in Berlin, Munich, Wiesbaden servicing the entire DACH region. Growth hit 16% to $6.4m fueled by wins like German Federal Ministries and its subordinates that include more than 25 entities, Salesforce, Hasbro, Rackspace, GAD-Fiducia, as well as existing clients Cisco, ComputaCenter, Gore, Interxion, Messe Frankfurt, Mobotix, Sopra Steria, and Schott.
Notable work includes the employer communications program “Night of Education” for Goodyear Dunlop, Eveonik and Heraeus; Monopoly’s 80th birthday for Hasbro and National Hearing Day for the National Hearing Aids Association. — AaS
Octopus Group (UK, Independent)
Octopus has long prided itself on being one of the technology sector’s more restless agencies, as comfortable designing sales programmes as it is calling up journalists. While that mentality has sometimes seen it forge too far ahead of the market, there were signs in 2015 that things are falling into place, after a significant restructuring of the firm’s agency structure and client engagement model. The new ‘brand to sales’ model, which has been led by director Sandy Purewal, is not radically dissimilar to contemporary thinking about modern public relations. But where Octopus stands apart must be in its commitment to implementation, which has seen a total overhaul of the firm’s structure — to one that delivers specialist skills and products rather than time-based services. In addition to the development of a bespoke ‘brand to sales calculator’ that tracks effectiveness and spending, the firm has invested in a specific methodology, supported by training and task forces, in a bid to standardise pricing and prioritise outcomes.
The new model appears to be paying off, even if it has resulted in a measure of turbulence. Octopus grew 8% in 2015 to around £6m in fee income, employing 62 people. There was new business from Avanade, Blackberry, Gamma, Iris, Pindrop and Qualcomm, to go with an existing client roster that includes Computacenter, Colt, Capita, European Payments Council, Intel Security, Orange Group, Riverbed, SAP, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, VISA Europe and Unisys.
Under the leadership of CEO Jon Lonsdale, Octopus’ senior team features a noticeable focus on specialist areas. Billy Hamilton-Stent remains in charge of client strategy and planning; new hire Gary Brosnan heads creative and content; and, Laura Slade oversees technology brand engagement. They have helped drive some impressive work, notably Gamma’s six-month ‘Connected Business’ campaign, which probably serves as the best example Octopus’ brand to sales approach, using content to drive £1.33m in new sales.
Text 100 (Next 15)
After a relatively difficult period in the region, one of the world’s largest (and oldest, at 35 years) tech specialist consultancies returned to growth in 2015, up 8% in EMEA to £12.6m, with 175 staff working across offices in the UK, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. Some of that growth came from the merger with sister firm Bite’s operations in Stockholm and Munich, while the firm also benefited from a merger with two sibling firms in the UK — Republic Publishing and IncrediBull — bringing expertise in content and brand marketing, and helping fuel a restructuring of its broader regional offering around five distinct service groups — strategy, content, influence, social and digital.
All of this activity has brought a welcome sense of momentum to Text 100’s EMEA operations, particularly in the UK, Spain and Sweden, the latter two of which delivered eye-catching growth in 2015. Key clients in the region include Vodafone, NXP, Suntrust, Microsoft, Red Bull, Skype, Facebook and NCR — new accounts in 2015 from Kodak Alaris, Houzz, Instagram, Pegasystems, Alipay, Avios, Netatmo, Secret Escapes, Surf Air, and Blizzard.
Always well regarded for its progressive staff culture, Text 100 also stepped up its thought leadership activity in 2015 and continued to develop some thought-provoking campaigns — putting AOC at the heart of gaming; creating an M2M barometer for Vodafone; launching the Age of Ulton group chat for Skype; and a highly-successful IFA 2015 launch for Lenovo in Berlin. — AS
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