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

2017 EMEA Creative 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 London on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 21 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. 

Winner: Cohn & Wolfe (WPP)

The past couple of years have seen Cohn & Wolfe bring its “Dig Deeper Imagine More” mantra to life in ways that emphasize just how different the firm is today compared to five years ago, and compared to most of its peers. The most interesting development is an effort to go beyond “integration” to use the full range of paid, earned, shared and owned channels in order to create an “immersive brand experience.” That means using new tools like virtual reality to add a new element to experiential marketing. The digital team in EMEA has expanded from 23 to 56 over the past two years, with capabilities in social analytics, community management, influencer marketing, film production, paid media, and mobile.

Highlights include the firm’s work for Barclaycard, using contactless technology to create self-serve beer pumps in a pub during the Christmas party season, generating a global reach of 1.7 billion; the UK-based “manversation” campaign to encourage conversations about prostate cancer for Bayer; a German campaign for ellaOne to destigmatize the “morning after pill”; work for the Swedish Tourist Association promoting a phone line that would be answered by random citizens, an idea that earned a shout-out from President Obama; and creating social and digital media content to support the launch of a new Maserati SUV.

As a result, the growth story is impressive: across EMEA, the firm has grown by 35% over the past five years (12% last year), with the UK doubling in size over the past five years. — PH

Finalists

Nucleus (Norway/Independent)

It seems like every year a new Nordic agency shows up on the international awards circuit, producing eye-catching work that expands the boundaries of public relations. This year’s most exciting newcomer is Norway’s Nucleus, which promises on its website to balance “thorough communication strategies and crazy ideas,” and delivers on that with its work.

Fee income for 2016 was a little more than €3 million, up by 27 percent over last year, and Nucleus now employs a team of 26. It was a bumper year for new business, with assignments from Sony Electronics, Berry Alloc, Kavlifondet, MatPrat, Mintra Group, Friday Networks, Match.com, Kantar TNS, Fredrikstad Næringsforening, Kunnskapsforlaget, Svinesundkomiteen, Godt Vann Drammensregionen, and Brynild Gruppen, while the firm continues to work for Byggmakker, City of Oslo, Electrolux, Hennig-Olsen Is (ice-cream), and Statnett SF.

The firm earned four nominations in this year’s EMEA SABRE competition, showing the full range of its creative capabilities, from its work for building supply chain Byggmaker, introducing a new business strategy and brand positioning to key internal stakeholders, to a stakeholder and issues management campaign for the City of Oslo’s Agency for Urban Environment; from a marketing initiative for fastener supplier ESSVE that resulted in a sales increase of 800 percent during the campaign period, to youth outreach on behalf of the Norwegian national drug helpline, RUStelefonen that resulted in 25,000 app downloads. — PH


Prime (Sweden/Weber Shandwick)

Two years have now passed since Weber Shandwick acquired Swedish powerhouse Prime (last year’s Nordic Consultancy of the Year), and it is becoming increasingly clear 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 Swedish firm’s United Minds unit offers digital audits, influencer and opportunity mapping, and innovation consulting services), while Prime has seen its growth boosted by collaboration with other Weber Shandwick offices and services—the firm was one of several Weber Shandwick operations to achieve double-digit growth last year.

Most important, Prime has been able to see its big creative ideas play out on a more global stage. Among the highlights are assignments for FEVE, the European glass packaging industry association, driving by online video and social media; for McDonald’s, introducing a new gourmet burger by offering table reservations at the chain for the first time; and for hygiene and forest products company SCA, generating awareness for the brand among restaurant owners by showing how different color schemes could affect the guest experience.

Prime also added talent, brining on board David Orlic, who has served as a senior advisor to companies like IKEA and Electrolux, as deputy CEO and head of innovation, and Petter Lublin, who has worked extensively with Unilever, as creative director. Prime was named to the 2016 and 2017 list of Contagious Pioneers and continued to rack up recognition for its work, from Cannes Lions to Global SABRE Awards. — PH


Tin Man (UK/Independent)

Launched in 2013 with backing from another creative hotshop in Unity, Mandy Sharp's Tin Man differs from other boutique firms by bringing a considerably stronger focus on planning and creativity, along with a level of business savvy that has seen it achieve profitability since year one. As the name suggests, the firm's positioning revolves around creating 'campaigns with heart', and the volume and variety of its award nominations and wins over the past couple of years suggests that it has been able to bring a level of emotional resonance that many PR firms would struggle to match. That may also be because Tin Man has always been just as comfortable declining clients as it is winning bigger briefs such as Monarch Airlines, Justgiving, William Grant, Cartoon Network, ITV and Trainline.

The work benefits from Sharp's own strategic and creative savvy, supported by planning lead Elly Kestenbaum. Standout campaigns included Trainline's 'Magic of Mobile Tickets', a content-led campaign that drove a remarkable sales uplift; along with typically strong entertainment work such as launching season two of Thunderbirds via 'Thundercabs' in London; and 'The (Rust) Bucket List for Ben 10'. The firm has also developed a unique 'launchpad' offering that has delivered more than £200k from startups and has won a slew of campaign awards in the UK. — AS

Unity (UK/Independent)

The sheer volume awards is almost certainly what strikes more Unity observers as most remarkable. The UK firm ranked number one in our Global Creative Index weighted by headcount, making it pound-for-pound the world’s most creative PR firm for the second year in a row. Last year’s haul included one Global SABRE, four EMEA region SABREs, and six In2 SABREs, which recognize excellence in insight and innovation.

The latter wins point to something that’s even more impressive than the numbers: Unity specializes in creativity with a purpose and a process. Its mission is “to increase human happiness,” which might sound like a lofty (even pretentious) goal for a PR firm, if founders Gerry Hopkinson and Nik Govier did not clearly believe it so strongly and bring it to life in both the agency culture and the work. And all of the big ideas are driven by a suite of strategic tools such as Brandcestry, a brand planning process that draws on clients’ heritage, and CommUnity, an approach for planning and launching CSR strategy.

With a team of 30, Unity remains a boutique firm, but its client list is impressive (despite the departure of Marks & Spencer in 2016). New additions included Coca Cola, Epson, Facebook’s Oculus, Sky, Zumba, ADT, and Petcurean, which join a roster that includes Direct Line, Butlins, Disney, Lego, and Universal. Impressive work in 2016 included a series of initiatives for Direct Line’s #directfix brand positioning (turning around one of England’s worst soccer teams, reaching out to the thousands of Brits who hate Christmas), and helping to raise Christmas funds for charity Action Aid, which works with the poorest women and girls in the world to change their lives for good. — PH