Africa PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Africa PR Consultancies of the Year

Our 2017 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 be unveiled 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.

Winner: Clockwork Media (Independent) 

Launched just four years ago, South Africa's Clockwork Media has already reached $2m in fee income, with 75 staffers working for a consultancy that is focused on three key components — asking the right questions (research and strategy), creating great content (production) and sharing it with the world (PR, digital and influencer marketing). Led by 29-year-old founder and former tech journalist Tom Manners, the firm brings a refreshingly agile approach to its business, investing in such areas as as influencer marketing, video production and data analytics, helping it to already become one of the largest consultancies in the country.

2016 growth was impressive, clocking in at almost 50%, and is expected to reach around the same level in 2017. There was new business from LG, Microsoft, Dial Direct, Investec, SEACOM, TransUnion, Minor Hotels and Accenture, adding to a client roster that already features NBC Universal, PlayStation Dimension Data, Mimecast and Standard Bank. But it is Clockwork's data-led approach to channel-agnostic content production that really stands out, including a partnerships with influencer marketing house Webfluential and with Hubspot. That has helped to deliver some eye-catching campaigns for Edge Growth (inbound content marketing that generated 17 high-value leads); Accenture (LinkedIn leadership content); and NBC's The Librarians. — AS


Finalists

Burson-Marsteller (WPP)

Burson-Marsteller acquired a majority stake in Robyn de Villiers’ South African market leader Arcay Communications in 2011, and with that deal instantly became the market leader in the region. That leadership position has only strengthened in the intervening year, and the firm now has a network of agencies that covers 53 of the 55 countries on the continent—36 of them with consultancies bearing the Burson-Marsteller brand. The firm now has about 500 people working throughout the continent.

The past year has seen significant expansion of the network, with longtime Mauritius-based affiliate Blast Communications becoming Blast Burson-Marsteller, with the acquisition of a minority stake in Engage Burson-Marsteller in Kenya, and with the expansion of Cameroon’s Icon Burson-Marsteller into Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon. The firm supports CNN and Turner Networks in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria; Oracle and Avaya in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya; and SES in 15 African markets. New business in 2016 came from Equip Health (corporate brand building across multiple markets), Toshiba (media relations support-South Africa, Uganda and Kenya), tech conference AfricaCom, the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio, Colgate (South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique) and more.

The work included crisis and issues management for Total, Westinghouse, and McDonald’s (supporting ownership changes) and Burson-Marsteller agencies (including Blast and Engage) won four trophies in our first African SABRE competition, with highlights including the #ColgateSmilefie campaign, through which the company offered free dental screenings for its first oral health month in Kenya, and an employer branding campaign for PwC Mauritius. In addition to the client work, the firm has also expanded its own thought leadership activity launching an African youth survey that complements the Arab survey conducted by sister agency Asda’a. — PH

Djembe Communications (Independent)

Djembe Communications has organically grown a local network that spans Angola, Morocco, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, the United States and the United Kingdom. These offices all operate under a single budget, which enables Djembe’s Dubai office to be a gateway for clients and acts as the design and media epicenter for all clients. Beyond that, Djembe’s Luanda and Maputo offices spearhead the consultancy’s Lusophone client engagements; Djembe‘s Rabat office supports the consultancy‘s Francophone client and is the digital hub for the network.

In 2016, fluctuating commodity prices on the African continent created continual challenges that Djembe handled by diversifying sectors and client work. Fees are up slightly to $6.2m across 47 employees — driven by clients like Fundo Soberano de Angola; Fabrica de Sabao; African Innovation Foundation; Porto de Caio; The Global Fund; Quantum Global; NiFund; FACRA; Banco Nacional de Angola; Moroccan Ministry of Communications (new) and Starpharma (new).

Notable work includes expanding  African Innovation Foundation’s reach across the African continent and abroad. In 2016, Djembe orchestrated the Innovation Prize for Africa event in Botswana. For Fabrica de Sabao, the team supported the mission of creating a unique innovation hub in the heart of Luanda’s largest slum by developing social media and online content, stakeholder engagement, and event orchestration. The team also managed the launch of the Porto de Caio critical infrastructure project from branding, positioning, and crisis to local and international stakeholder engagement.

The leadership team includes MD Mitchell Prather; regional director-EMEA Nicole Suter and International director Kevin Nolan. Thought leadership includes opinion pieces from Prather like “Attracting FDI to Africa Less Challenging than Youth Unemployment,” “The New U.S. President and African Trade” and “10 Minutes with a PR Professional.” — AaS 

Meropa (Independent)

Founded in 1989 by Aubrey Sussens and Peter Mann, Meropa aspires to be South Africa’s “non-racial, non-sexist meritocracy” that approaches communications in a highly-creative and highly-systemised way.

For instance, Meropa has worked with Ford for 12 years— six of them as their full-service reputation management agency — with the goal of fostering brand affinity to ultimately grow sales and market share. To do this, Meropa produces regional multi-platform content assets across the continent, engages in media relations for consistent share of voice, and drives strategy within a dedicated Ford partner-agency team. Separately, in November Meropa was involved in the launch of  the efficacy study on a promising vaccine against HIV/AIDS. To maximize media interest for the first potential HIV/AIDS vaccination, Meropa was given a limited budget and short turnaround time during which the team created content assets, including video footage, that was used by all major news broadcasters from around the world including Associated Press Television, Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, CBS, Bloomberg News and others

Fees are up nearly 15.5% to 67m ZAR across offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth. This growth comes while the South African economy teeters on recession. Yet the firm maintains a robust portfolio of more than 60 blue-chip clients (including some that have been with the agency for 20+years). Among these: SA National Roads Agency; British Airways; Ford Motor Company; Black & Veatch; WesBank; Jaguar Land Rover; BP;  Castrol; IBM; Vodacom Business; in addition to new clients like Boehringer Ingleheim; Averda South Africa; Mauritius Tourism Authority; SA National Blood Service; Direct Selling Association of South Africa; Tracker; Nickelodeon Africa; Tourism Business Council South Africa; and the Great Moscow Circus.

In the last 12 months, Meropa founder Peter Mann also relinquished his group CEO role to Patrick Gearing and become chairman. Meanwhile,Yolisa Pasipanodya was appointed MD of Meropa and Anusha Jogi was appointed MD of JNPR. — AaS

MSLGroup (Publicis Groupe)

MSL’s acquisition in 2015 of leading South African independent Epic Communications was followed in early 2016 by Publicis Groupe’s investment in Nigerian communications company Troyka Group, which added that country’s Quadrant Communications to MSL’s operations and expanded its footprint in the region.

Epic was founded in 2009 by current CEO Elian Wiener and initially focused on providing media relations support to companies in the financial and professional services sectors. Over the years, it evolved to offer a full range of strategic communications across paid, earned, owned and shared channels. Last year, the firm developed a proprietary tool that allows it to seamlessly integrated multimedia content such as videos, infographics, animation, and social media posts, all shareable by recipients at the click of a button.

Epic MSL now employs a staff of 50 and generates fee income of around $4 million, serving a diverse based of clients including Samsung, Baker McKenzie, DHL, Singapore Airlines, Maersk, Cipla and Neotel. New clients over the past 12 months include Old Mutual South Africa, Distell (including brands such as Nederburg, Pongracz, Zonnebloem, Durbanville Hills), Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins and Radisson Hotels. But the firm also added talent, including Ewoudt Cloete and head of digital from  Aqua Agency and Samantha Presbury, a veteran of HWB and Magna Carta, as managing director of the Johannesburg office. — PH