Global Creative PR Agencies of the Year | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2016 Global Creative PR Agencies of the Year

The 2017 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 400 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across North America, EMEA and Asia-Pacific.

Analysis of all of the Winners and Finalists across specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are announced at the 2017 Global SABRE Awards, taking place at the PRovoke17 Global PR Summit in Miami on the evening of 25 October.

Winner: Prime (Sweden/Weber Shandwick)

More than a year has passed since Weber Shandwick acquired Swedish powerhouse Prime, and while it can take longer than that to evaluate the merits of a merger, all the early indications are that the deal has been a win-win. The global agency has benefited from Prime talent (particularly with the appointment of Tom Beckman as chair of the firm’s global creative collective), its expertise in analytics and evaluation (the two firms are collaborating for clients such as Ericsson, glass industry federation FEVE, and NASDAQ; and its capabilities in social impact (Hanna Hellquist joined from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs to spearhead its work in Sweden).

Meanwhile, Prime has been able to add some new capabilities, most notably in public affairs—Stockholm is now one of three “centers of excellence” for the practice across the EMEA region, while continuing to produce the kind of amazing creative work that attracted Weber Shandwick’s attention in the first place—accounting for five SABRE nominations this year. Highlights include “Don’t Drink and Dive,” a smart and funny piece of content created for insurance company Trygg-Hansa featuring the Swedish synchronized swimming team; “The House of Clicks,” which drew on search data from Sweden’s most popular property portal to design the country’s dream home; a mobile app to help Swedes deal with the replacement of old currency with new coins and notes; and a campaign against child abuse and human trafficking for the Stockholm County Administrative Board. — PH 


Finalists

Eleven (Australia/Whybin\TBWA)

Firmly ensconced as one of the most creative agencies in one of the world’s most creative PR regions, Eleven shows little sign of resting on its considerable array of laurels, netting another 10 awards over the past 12 months, including being named Mumbrella’s PR Agency of the Year . The firm retains a core belief in the power of public relations to drive conversations and cultural relevance, and continues to develop cutting-edge products and campaigns to support this vision, in particular the Disruption Live methodology of insights mining, open briefing and audience planning  that has helped return some tremendous work for MJ Bale, Krispy Kreme and Virgin Mobile.

Over the past year, revenue increased by 52% and profit by 102%, propelled in part by Eleven’s ability to leverage its parent TBWA network to better effect, and by a stellar new business haul — including flagship account wins of McDonald’s and Virgin Mobile. There was also new business from Krispy Kreme, Philips Lighting, Presto, Carousell, Nissan and David Jones, joining a client roster that already features MJ Bale, Gatorade, Tourism NZ and Heritage Bank.

Roberto Pace has served as MD of the firm’s three offices (Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland) since mid-2015, helping to renew the firm’s reputation for innovation, alongside group account director Fiona Milliken and creative director Russ Tucker. There is a strong focus on training and development, to immerse staff in relevant cultural trends, while a trainer was hired to shape bespoke programmes for individual staffers.

All of that paid off with some inspiring work. MJ Bale’s ‘Unsuitable Journey’, netted two Silver Lions at Cannes, along with gold at the Global Facebook Awards, and helped to increase sales and exposure; Krispy Kreme’s ‘American Classics’ turned doughnut boxes into jukeboxes drove sales to an all-time high; and, Virgin Mobile’s ‘Data Auction’ put on a unique spin on a difficult business challenge, spurring sales and awareness. — AS

Trigger (Nordic/Independent)

Trigger was launched in 2010 by founder and managing director Preben Carlsen, a thirtysomething former IKEA communication manager, and has made quite an impact in its first five years, becoming a perennial contender at the top of our Global Creative Index. It was named Nordic Consultancy of the Year in 2013 and Creative Consultancy of the Year for EMEA last year—as well as picking up the Platinum SABRE for the best campaign of the year in Europe, for its “Stop the Wedding” campaign, which rallied the nation to prevent the marriage of Norway’s first child bride—before revealing that the “wedding” was a hoax to raise awareness of the practice outside of Norway. This year, it followed up with eight EMEA SABRE finalists—more than any other firm with its headquarters on the continent, ranging from an innovative campaign to introduce a new IKEA store to corporate work for local bank DNB to anti-bullying efforts on behalf of Norwegian skier and sports clothing designer Kari Traa.

The firm is distinguished by its emphasis on engagement, developing a content-driven approach markedly different from anything else in the local market, and emphasizing social media. Carlson has been joined by Magdalena Kamøy, head of creative, and managing director Bente Kvam Kristoffersen, both of whom have ad industry experience. The firm now employs 45 people, genberating fees of €2.6 million (up by 26% last year) and working for clients including IKEA, DNB, Norwegian Airlines, Telenor, Plantasjen, The Ministry of Climate & Environment, and new additions Cubus, Mills, Rottefella, FINN.no, Av og Til, Abbot, Coca-Cola, Sporveien, Canal Digital, Veidekke, Volvo, and the Norwegian Gaming Authority. Next up, international expansion, with plans for an office in Stockholm later this year. — PH

Unity (UK/Independent)

Pound for pound, the most award-winning agency in the world over the past few years, Unity impressed once again when this year’s EMEA region SABRE nominations were announced. Its nine finalists (more than many of the leading multinationals) ranged from its corporate social responsibility initiatives on behalf of flagship client Marks & Spencer to its work revitalizing the Butlin’s brand to its “swing the vote” youth campaign for charity vinspired. Even more impressive, Unity picked up five In2 SABRE Awards, for its innovative work in crowdsourcing, online advertising, and influencer outreach. All of that justifies Unity’s description of itself as “a new kind of creative agency” and its claim to have moved beyond traditional PR briefs to compete with agencies from other disciplines for multichannel assignments.

The reasons for this success are manifold, but among them it’s clear that the ability to balance left and right brain—Unity’s creativity is matched by its commitment to research, planning and process—and its emphasis on mission (“we exist to increase human happiness” might seems like a lofty claim, but its ambition is reflected in the firm’s campaigns) are key among them. Fee income increased by 35% in 2015, to £3.2 million with high-profile clients such as Disney, LEGO, the BBC, Rockstar Games, and Nissan (as well as the UK’s junior doctors in their labor dispute with the government, which Unity is handling pro bono) joining a roster that includes M&S, Direct Line, PizzaExpress, and Butlin’s. The firm has brought in new talent too, with Davnet Doran (formerly of Cake) promoted to managing director and Ella Dorley-Brown and Katy Stolliday promoted to directors, working alongside founders Nik Govier and Gerry Hopkinson. — PH

Zeno (Global/DJE Holdings)

Anyone who still views Zeno as Edelman’s smaller conflict agency will get short shrift from CEO Barby Siegel, and with good reason. Since Siegel took over the firm in 2010, the former Ogilvy PR head has overseen a remarkable expansion of the 17-year-old firm into a genuine global force, reporting North American revenue of $36.5m in 2015, up 24% over 2014.

That kind of performance marks Zeno out as one of the country’s top mid-size players, but it is not just the numbers that impress. The shadow of its bigger sibling might loom large, but Zeno has successfully carved out its own positioning — the ‘Green Machine’ — prioritising a collaborative, fearless culture that features a single P&L and the kind of integrated mindset that reflects the agency’s agility and creativity nature.

And while Zeno promotes its story as well as any ambitious agency can be expected to, its burgeoning client roster backs up its claims. New clients in 2015 included the Minnesota Vikings, Philips Diagnostic Imaging, Intel, TGI Fridays, Capital One, the Canadian Tourism Commission, GoFundMe, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Pilot Corporation, and LeTV, joining a roster that already includes  Sears Holdings, Merck & Co, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, Starbucks, AstraZeneca, Pepsico, Kia Motors, Worthington Industries and Netflix.

It is no coincidence, perhaps, that Zeno’s thought leadership credentials have also expanded considerably in recent years, led by the Human Project — a multi-generational study to uncover how brands and organizations can make a deep connection with the people they want to reach. Along with this research conducted in partnership with Iconoculture, Zeno introduced the Brand Humanizer, a tool designed to help clients articulate the core values of a specific target and the core values of a brand to determine where they converge and diverge. In 2016, meanwhile, the firm committed to research global youth and young millennials across six countries.

That kind of insight led to some eye-catching creative work for Anheuser-Busch, via an unbranded campaign that celebrated the sociability of beer. There were also some smart campaigns for Bausch & Lomb, Netflix and Intel all of which showcase Zeno’s ability to drive social conversation and creatively engage influencers, helping it score four finalist nominations at this year’s North American SABRE Awards. — AS