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

2016 Global 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: Edelman (Independent)

A finalist for regional Agency of the Year honors in the Americas, Asia and EMEA, Edelman continues to impress across the board, with a run of superb campaigns — for such clients as REI, CVS Health, Chipotle and KFC helping the firm take top spot on this year's Global Creative Index

It’s a testament to the high bar Edelman has set that its 2015 growth of 7.2% disappointed some observers, despite bettering all but one of its 10 largest rivals. Its North American business—still the largest and most mature part of its business—was up by 8.5% to $523 million. New business came from global clients like Samsung and in the US from Cracker Barrel, Florida Citrus, KFC, and Ticketmaster.

The firm’s Asia-Pacific offering retains a dynamic edge in a dynamic region, growing 9% for its most recent fiscal year to reach approximately $104m in overall fee income. The firm now employs around 1,300 people in the region, working for a client roster that includes Tata, Samsung, HP, Shell, Mars, Symantec, PayPal and Unilever. And it has added diverse talent to deliver expanded digital and social services (it was our Digital Consultancy of the Year in Asia this year).

Despite high-profile pullouts from Russia, Turkey and Poland—leaving the firm without a branded presence in Central and Eastern Europe—Edelman continued its impressive growth in the region, with acquisitions fueling double-digit expansion to around $180m across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The firm expanded its capabilities considerably via acquisition, of financial specialist Smithfield in the UK, market leader Elan in France, and Ergo in Germany, and is the largest player in the Middle East after buying Dabo & Co.

Overall, however, what's most impressive is the progress Edelman has made to becoming a truly 21st century public relations firm. During an era when change has never been faster, Edelman is moving faster than its peers to reinvent itself: it has 500 creatives and planners around the world, and 20 percent of its revenue comes from digital-only work. That's reflected in both the firm's consistent growth record and the quality of its work. — AS/PH


Finalists

Cohn & Wolfe (WPP)

Our Large Agency of the Year in North America, Cohn & Wolfe has never, in its illustrious 45-year history, enjoyed a run of success comparable to its performance over the past couple of years. Under the leadership of global CEO Donna Imperato, the firm has grown by 45% over the past couple of years, 25% organically—and was up 16.3% in North America last year.

That’s even more impressive when you consider the extent to which it has outperformed most other big agencies—and its WPP sister companies in particular. And when you consider that less than a decade ago, C&W was viewed by many observers as living on borrowed time after years of decline. Or when you consider that it has grown in part by beating its mostly larger peers (including the other firms on this shortlist) for new clients like Hyatt's lifestyle and luxury brands, 20th Century Fox, Newell Rubbermaid, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Galderma’s Excipial.

The firm was a finalist for UK Consultancy of the Year, too, thanks to impressive growth since Scott Wilson took charge in 2010, overseeing double-digit growth for five consecutive years leading up to a 16% revenue increase in 2015. Now numbering more than 100 people, Cohn & Wolfe’s UK operation possesses both breadth (across consumer, healthcare and corporate/PA) and depth, via its vastly improved digital, content and integrated marketing capability.

And in Asia, Cohn & Wolfe earned recognition for the growth of its technology practice, thanks to the acquisition of India’s Six Degrees and a significant expansion of the firm’s work with Dell—AS/PH


Ketchum
(Omnicom Group)

With growth in the mid-single digits, Ketchum’s financial performance has not kept pace with its most impressive competitors, but the firm continues to innovate—a new approach to influencer marketing that draws on sophisticated analytics and the trademarked StoryWorks storytelling methodology, for example—and to produce award-worthy work at a rate few of its peers can emulate.

The quality work ranges from CSR (like Michelin’s efforts to promote tire safety or ConAgra’s efforts to combat hunger) to content creation (Gillette’s partnership with “Stark Industries,” Wendy’s “baconator” campaign) to a surprising depth of crisis counseling (drawing on recent expertise in data security and college scandals).

All of that is supplemented by innovative new offers: a new VR offer was launched at Cannes, Ketchum Purpose merges the CSR and sustainability specialty areas, Ketchum Cultivate is a new food specialty group, a new unit focuses on Generation Z, and there’s a new “Permission to Operate” offering in the healthcare space.

It was a strong new business year too, with wins like Dun & Bradstreet, Etihad, General Mills, Janssen, Lenovo, Samsung Mobile, and USDA, and additional work from seven-figure clients such as Chase, Johnson & Johnson, H&R Block, Pfizer and IBM.

In EMEA, meanwhile, the powerhouse German operation (formerly Pleon) has been fully integrated and is producing some strong creative work, while the Ketchum Maslov operation continues to be a leader in the Russian market.—PH

Ogilvy PR (WPP Group)

While Ogilvy still has some issues to address in its US operations, its [email protected] offer remains a leader in the digital space, its consumer and healthcare offerings remain strong, and its ability to integrate with its namesake advertising agency—and other WPP sister firms—continues to be a source of competitive advantage. But it is outside of North America that Ogilvy’s performance has been most impressive in recent years.

With fee income estimated at around $150m following 13% growth last year, Ogilvy Public Relations is still arguably the number one multinational in the Asia-Pacific region, and Asia is still the number one region for the WPP-owned agency. The network won Regional Consultancy of the Year honours in 2015 and its performance since then suggests that it continues to fire on all cylinders, with 1,200 staff working across 32 offices in 26 cities—the largest footprint across the region.

The firm is also distinguished by a veteran leadership team that includes 30-year China hand Scott Kronick, now regional president and CEO; Debby Cheung, president of the Shanghai market for all of Ogilvy; and Southeast Asia president Andrew Thomas, who also oversees [email protected] 

Two years after winning win Pan-EMEA Consultancy of the Year honors, Ogilvy PR continues to grow in stature and scope across the region, with a relatively seamless leadership transition seeing Michael Frohlich take over EMEA leadership from global CEO Stuart Smith. But regional scale remains a priority for the smallest of Ogilvy PR’s global regions, now weighing in  at around $70m in fee income, with approximately 700 people spread across 25 offices in EMEA.

The firm's regional profile now features strong operations in numerous markets, in mature countries like the UK and France and, notably, in MENA — where Memac Ogilvy’s network gives the agency 14 offices, generating an estimated $10m in revenue after another year of double-digit growth and impressive client work, helping it net Middle East Agency of the Year honors.—AS/PH

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

It’s not just the growth—though with fee income up by 11% last year, Weber Shandwick continues to outperform its peers and is now close to a tie for the world number one—but the well thought-out “employee experience” that drives it. It’s not just the new business success—assignments from the American Cancer Society, Mapquest, Merck, NASDAQ, New York Life, Nielsen—it’s the 96% retention of top 50 clients.

It’s not just the award-winning creative work—from CSR for Pedigree to B2B marketing for Ricoh to consumer brand-building Budweiser and Mattel to issues management for Florida Hospital Association—it’s the engagement approach (analytics, creative, strategy, production, integrated media execution) that underpins it.

And it’s not just North America. With more than 1,000 employees across 74 offices—the most recent being an African hub in Johannesburg—Weber Shandwick has one of the strongest networks in EMEA, with 14% growth in 2015 (half of it organic, half of it coming from 2014’s acquisition of Swedish giant Prime).

And after another year of industry-leading growth in 2015 (fees up by 24%), Weber Shandwick now has more than 900 people in the Asia-Pacific region, and can claim to have the most complete capabilities in the key markets of Australia, China, India, North Asia and South East Asia.

All of that makes Weber Shandwick arguably the world’s most complete public relations firm.— PH