Mediterranean PR Consultancies of the Year 2016 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Mediterranean 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 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winner: MSLGroup Italia (Publicis Groupe) 

MSL’s Italian operations, under the leadership of Daniela Canegallo for the past decade, have been am outlier both in terms of the respect with which they are held by Publicis Groupe (Canegallo was elevated to country manager for all Groupe operations in Italy) and in terms of their differentiation in the Italian market. MSL Italia has been a constant innovator, developing new tools—using data science to inform and measure campaign success—and pushing the creative envelope. In the past year, for example, MSL has worked with partner agency Zenith, bringing its influencer and content creation expertise to Zenith clients while drawing on the latter’s suite of data tools. But it has also continued to develop proprietary rools like NPA, which automates conversation analysis (it can detect sarcasm) and helps with insight generation.

MSL is the strongest of the multinational agencies in Italy, with 85 people in Milan and another 10 in Rome, but it is not just a question of size: in addition to its thought leadership activities, MSL Italia is leading integrated campaigns for clients such as Dacia (the SABRE nominated sponsorship of football team Udinese, which became an opportunity to reach out to families), and serving as a strategic advisor to clients like Pirelli, for which the agency has conducted anthropological research that has helped the tire-maket develop its overall marketing strategy.

MSL Italia enjoyed a strong year in 2016, with new business from the likes of Italian chocolate maker Ferroro and energy company eni, as well as from Japanese automaker Toyota, and expanded work for Netflix, another integrated assignment that ranges from influencer marketing to paid media. — PH


Finalists

Burson-Marsteller (Italy/WPP)

The economy of southern Europe has been making life difficult for public relations agencies in recent years, but Burson-Marsteller enjoyed a solid year in Italy in 2016, with new business from Italian food company Amadori, Avon, Autogrill, Italian coffee company Lavazza, Lidl, and Italian industrial company Sapio. They join a roster that includes Ford, Microsoft, Danone, Comau (Fca Group), Chiomenti Legal, Just Eat, and Easyjet and has helped establish BM—with a team of more than 50—a leader among the multinational agencies in Italy.

One key to that success is a veteran leadership team including CEO Fabio Caporizzi, who has 25 years of experience in the market (with Shandwick, Ogilvy, Hill+Knowlton, SEC and others) and seven years in his current role, and general manager Gianfranco Mazzone, a 12-year BM veteran. Other senior execs include Delia Ciccarelli, head of corporate and crisis; Antonella Violante, head of media and digital; and Giuliana Gentile, head of brand marketing—each representing a particular area of strength for BM in the market.

Interesting integrated work included leveraging the 25th anniversary of Samsung in Italy through the “Samsung loves Italy” campaign, with a study from academic institute Bocconi researching the socio-economic impact Samsung has had on the country combining with extensive social media outreach. Working with longtime client Ford, meanwhile, BM developed the Ford Social Home, a virtual showroom targeting automotive and non-automotive audiences through events, traditional and social media engagement. — PH

INC (Independent)

It’s rare to find a firm that’s lasted 40 years while maintaining its independence, but INC has defied odds to do just this. This milestone comes after a long track record of “firsts” — the agency was an early Italian firm to have dedicated digital and content practices; among the first to have a management board that includes not only former journalists but also designers, publishers and other creators; and it was an early adopter to a cross-functional communications approach.

While revenue was flat at €2.2m 2016, INC has grown revenues 22% over the last three years in the relatively sluggish Italian market. Clients include British American Tobacco; MasterCard; Emirates Airlines; UN Refugee Agency; that National Association of Italian Breweries; the Italian Association of Bakery and Pasta Industries; Doctors Without Borders; Barilla Group (new); Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (new); Heineken (new); World Health Organization (new); Campo Frio/Fiorucci Italy (new); Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil (new), among others.

Notable work includes  #LetsPutOnyourHead for the United Nations Refugee Agency to educate the public on refugee children’s challenges in attending school. INC conducted an immersive launch event to create a media hook and photo opportunities and fundraising activity. For the “Good for you, good for the planet” media event for Barilla Group, INC presented both the financial report and the company’s sustainability report together.

This year, the firm has focused on creating a more inclusive working environment,allowing employees more autonomy; integrating more non-traditional skills (like analytics, research, designers) into the firm; while also continuing to grow in an environment that sometimes favors price over quality. Pasquale De Palma continues to lead as chairman and CEO alongside VP and partner Paolo Mattei. — AaS  

SEC (Italy/Independent)

One of Italy's largest PR firms now has increasingly credible international ambitions. SEC, founded in 1989 by Fiorenzo Tagliabue, has acquired consultancies in Belgium (Cambre), Spain and Germany in recent years, adding UK firm Newington in 2016 and buying Poland's Martis Consulting. In addition, SEC listed on the UK AIM market last year, as part of a strategy to diversify and grow beyond Italy's difficult economic conditions. That kind of thinking marks out Tagliabue as something of a unique character in Italy's communications market, but he is supported by a deep leadership team that includes co-founder Paola Ambrosino and new CEO Cesare Valli, who joined in 2015 after a lengthy tenure with H+K Strategies.

SEC now employs more than 150 people in Italy across seven offices, accounting for around half of the group’s overall EMEA revenues of 20m Euros. There is particular strength in corporate and financial, but SEC's scale ensures it has a broader set of capabilities than most of its peers, with a client list that features Accor, Auchan, Coca-Cola, Deutsche Bank, Lidl, Nielsen Research, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Italian Government, Terna, The Walt Disney Company and UniCredit Group. The best of SEC's work, furthermore, demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of modern reputation management. —AS