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

2017 DACH 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 receive their trophies at the EMEA SABRE Awards in London on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winner: Faktor3  (Germany/Independent)

Started with three entrepreneurs in 1995 who formed the agency to launch AOL, Faktor3 has grown to 190 employees with 85 clients — and has continued to thrive despite the faltering of its first client. Not only that, the firm has transformed from a media relations shop to employing editors, analysts, engineers, motion designers on top of communications consultants. The firm’s headway towards digitalisation also includes its approach “Content Relations” which is “a permanent cycle of development and distribution of content, as well as the fostering of genuine, sustainable relations.”

The firm partnered with Microsoft to tell its story on the future of work, that told a four-part story through #worklifeflow and other thought-leadership. The team also launched LogiTech’s Jaybird wearables in Germany to many journalists and influencers.

Fees are up more than 22% to €15.3m fueled by clients like Microsoft, Sopra Steria Consulting (new), Samsung Electronics, Logitech, Tourism Australia, Audi, Porsche, Adobe, eBay, GroupM, among others. Founders Sabine Richter and Stefan Schraps run the agency. — AaS


Finalists

fischerAppelt (Germany/Independent)

fischerAppelt celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016 with growth of 16% consolidating its position as the second largest agency in German (according to the authoritative Pfeffers ranking) with 425 people and fee income just shy of €50 million. The expansion of the past few years has been remarkable: not only has fischerAppelt grown beyond its six offices in Germany (Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart) to establish operations first in Doha and in 2016 in New York, it has added creative capabilities in content marketing, digital marketing, and film production—often making acquisitions that were years ahead of their time, and expanding the definition of PR in the process.

Andreas and Bernhard Fischer-Appelt, who were in their early 20s when they started the firm in the living room of their flat, continue to lead the agency today as a “federation of ideas” that works across paid, earned, shared and owned media on behalf of a host of market leaders, including both German companies and multinational brands: Allianz, Beam Suntory, BMW, Coca-Cola, Cosmos-Direkt, Daimler, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom, easy jet, Hilti, Janssen, Lidl, Merck, Mondelez, Pfizer, Postbank, toom, Weber-Stephen Deutschland.

Highlights include a global content marketing campaign under the core theme “curiosity” for Merck, following the company’s 2015 rebranding: using a new interactive platform users can test how curious they actually are by participating in a “curiosity test” designed by the company’s scientists. The firm also supported the launch of the Mercedes-Benz van Sprinter 4x4 with an “Extreme Alpine Soccer” campaign that pitted two teams against each other and a very steep slope. The New York team, meanwhile, focuses on developing and implementing US campaigns for German companies, with a focus on market entry and new product launches, often working with the firm’s partners in the PROI network of independent agencies. — PH

 

MSLGroup (Germany/Publicis Groupe)

While growth was modest in 2016, it was another record-setting year for MSL in Germany, where the firm has enjoyed a string of successes under the leadership of Wigan Salazar, and is now firmly ensconced in the market’s top 20 firms and is clearly among the top half-dozen multinationals, with a team of 75 and fee income of around €9 million.

The success has been driven by a balanced business portfolio that includes strength in public affairs (the Berlin office is arguably the strongest of any of the multinationals), where clients include multinationals like Coca-Cola, Google, Mars, P&G, and Pfizer; corporate communications (last year saw a number of interesting crisis mandates (including product crisis work for Mars); and consumer, for clients like Arla, Netflix and P&G. Underlying all of that is an investment in content marketing, where there was new business from Bosch, Braun, Pfizer and Zeiss.

The other growth driver has been increasing integration with other Publicis agencies in the German market, driven by the appointment of managing director Birgit Stollner to lead collaborative efforts. So MSL has been exporting clients such as BER (Berlin’s new airport) and Pfizer, and bringing in assignments for Elanco, Mercedes-Benz, Scandic, Vaillant and others. — PH

Schwartz Public Relations (Germany/Independent)

What started as a one-man-show founded by Christoph Schwartz in his home office in 1994 has become a mainstay on our Agencies of the Year - Dach list. It’s safe to say that Schwartz has come a long way with more than 20 employees, 50 clients and €3.3m in fees — up 10% from the previous year. Schwartz’s familial culture has been the foundation of the agency since its inception and continues to be at the core even as the firm grows.

Clients include Alibaba (new), Zumtobel Lighting (new), Sharp, Fujitsu, Malwarebytes (new), 1&1 Versatel (new), Denon, Blackline (new), Bullguard (new), Scopevisio (new), Doctolib (new), Exaring (new), Forcepoint (new), Querstback (new), Steelcase, Messe Fankfurt. Notable work includes its work with Exact’s Cloud Solutions that included content marketing and media relations to boost awareness of the technology within the core target groups. On the agency’s advice, Exact became the founding member of an initiative which,together with partners, that helps organizations from SME to tax advisors with successful digitization.

The firm has also taken on a CSR project that includes PR responsibility of "little Art" — a Munich-based non-profit organization that promotes the intellectual, emotional and artistic development of children and teenagers.

In addition to Schwartz, the agency’s board includes Jörg Stelzer, Julia Kaiser and Sven Kersten-Reichherzer. — AaS

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

It’s not the size of Weber Shandwick’s German operation that impresses—although after another solid growth year in 2016, the firm ranks among the top 10 in the market and is in the top three multinationals, with fees of €16.5 million and a headcount of 140—so much as the scope. In addition to the core brand, the firm’s content studio Creation, its healthcare specialist dna communications, and its research operation KRC are all represented, giving Weber Shandwick unique strategic and creative resources.

The firm has four offices, in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Munich, and a nice balance of business, with healthcare and tech both representing about a third of the fee income, and a sizeable presence in the consumer electronics and food and beverage sectors too. The firm has grown a number of its top 20 clients (up 25% as group) including Boehringer Ingelheim, Boston Scientific, Carglass, Lilly, Sony Pictures, and Deutsche Telekom, but has also expanded its portfolio of German multimarket brands with the likes of 1&1, Bundesliga, Fujifilm, Jabil, Liebherr, and Yanfeng.

The big story of the past 12 months, however, has involved moving rapidly in order to respond to new competitive challenges in the German market: management consulting firms and even publishing houses joining ad agencies and digital specialists in the brand-building arena. So Weber Shandwick has added digital expertise (bringing in Bernhard Hofer as director of project management from digital agency UDG) and content creation capabilities, developed its own proprietary influencer marketing tool, focusing on new trends in video storytelling and virtual reality—but also expanding its change management capabilities to compete with consulting firms. 

Having won the Platinum SABRE in EMEA for its work with Nestle Purina at the beginning of 2016, the firm continued to produce outstanding work for Boston Scientific (helping Parkinson’s sufferer Tony Seidl cross the alps in his wheelchair after a procedure made possible by a new neurological surgey), Beiersdorf, Black & Decker, the Gates Foundation and Merck. — PH