Global Consumer PR Agencies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Global Consumer 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 — Zeno (Global, DJE Holdings)

When Barby Siegel took the helm at Zeno seven years ago, the firm had 55 people, $10 million in fee income, an almost exclusive focus on consumer, and was viewed by the marketplace as “Edelman’s conflict agency.” Today, after seven years of double-digit growth, Zeno has 400 people around the world, fees of close to $60 million, a balanced portfolio of consumer, corporate, health and tech business, and a global footprint (enhanced by last year the acquisition of UK agency 3 Monkeys).

The US operation, which still makes up more than half the headcount, grew by 23% last year to a little over $42 million, with new business coming from Pizza Hut, Easterseals, Britax, Air Asia, Microsoft Bing, Serta, Ubiquity and more. They join a roster that includes Kia Motors (a client for 13 years); Turtle Wax (10 years), AstraZeneca and Starbucks (seven years), and Bausch + Lomb (six).

But it’s the work that really impresses, from helping Starbucks defend itself against charges that it was part of the “war on Christmas” to supporting Spin Master’s launch of toy sensation Hatchimals to a data-driven micro-targeted marketing campaign for Bernzomatic that really drove sales. The thought leadership isn’t bad either, particularly the firm’s Human Project, a multi-generational study that helps brands forge deeper connections with consumers. — PH


Finalists

Eleven (Australia/TBWA)

Last year’s Australasian Consultancy of the Year continues its reign as one of the most creative agencies in one of the world’s most creative PR regions. Indeed, Eleven actually managed to take things up a notch in 2016 and 2017, winning every single one its pitches, including major consumer accounts such as McDonald’s Australia, Campari Group, Crown Resorts and David Jones.

All of that helped power revenue, profits and headcount to record levels, with revenue and profit more than doubling. The firm retains a core belief in the power of public relations to drive conversations and cultural relevance, and continues to develop cutting-edge products and campaigns to support this vision, in particular the Disruption Live methodology of insights mining, open briefing and audience planning  that has helped return some tremendous work for Lastminute.com.au, ANZ and MJ Bale. The agency also launched a Back\slash cultural capability that focuses on Instagram and daily video, powered by culture spotters from the broader TBWA global network.

Other new business included Australia Turf Club, Carousell, Schweppes and Lastminute, joining a client roster that features Tourism New Zealand, MJ Bale, Gatorade, ANZ, Philips and Krispy Kreme. 

Roberto Pace has served as MD of Australia since mid-2015, helping to renew the firm’s reputation for innovation, alongside new Melbourne-based MD Fee Townshend and GM Fiona Milliken. There is a strong focus on training and development, to immerse staff in relevant cultural trends, while a trainer was hired to shape bespoke programmes for individual staffers.

All of that paid off with some inspiring work. Lastminute.com.au’s ‘Cards of Spontaneity’ gamified the travel experience via a bespoke card game and generated a significant uplift in web traffic. ANZ’s #HoldTight, meanwhile, won two Bronze Lions at Cannes, designing a custom wearable tech wristband to promote inclusion and diversity. — AS

M Booth (US, Next15)

The 2016 North American Agency of the Year, M Booth kept the momentum going in 2016, picking up new business from a host of blue-chip clients—General Motors (for Buick/GMC), Johnson & Johnson (for its sponsorship of Global Citizen), The Coca-Cola Company (Honest Tea), Estee Lauder, Sam Adams, Tinder, Priceline, Etsy—on the way to another year of impressive growth, with fees up 50% over the past two years.

The firm is still best known for its work in the consumer space (food and drink, travel and tourism are particular strengths), including its [email protected] design and content creation studio—with animators, videographers and others creating digital product, VR and 360 video—and its Micro-Tribes research, an important piece of thought leadership. But the corporate practice was the fastest-growing last year, with work for American Express expanding to include employee engagement, a three-year Google relationship growing to include education issues and cloud computing, a repositioning of Tinder (from hook-up app to a brand about forming real-world connections), and the issues-heavy work for Beyond Meat.

Other highlights of the work in 2016 included breast cancer awareness work for Weight Watchers, the launch of noosa yogurt, influencer work for Boston Beer, and a campaign that connected Carnival Cruises with singer Carrie Underwood and military families for a unique event.

The firm has also been adding talent, with FleishmanHillard veteran Nancy Seliger joining as executive VP, and new senior VPs Scott Varland (leading innovation) and Michelle Overall (entertainment and marketing partnerships) joining founder Margi Booth, CEO Dale Bornstein, chief creative officer Adrianna Giuliani Bevilaqua, and insights and planning chief Bonnie Ulman. — PH

Marina Maher Communications (US, Omnicom)

There are some things Marina Maher’s firm has always done well: it always viewed its role in terms of brand-building rather than product publicity and emphasized engagement over coverage. And there are some things that it has learned to do more recently, staying ahead of the changes roiling the PR industry: MMC has an impressive commitment to data and analytics, and to integrating digital and social tools, content creation, and brand activation in service of its clients’ marketing objectives — and, rather than resting on its many laurels, took the opportunity last year to reorganize its offering into four groups: brand and business leadership; strategy and insights; content, engagement and influence, creative ideation and execution.

From a single office in New York (albeit supplemented these days through partnerships with Omnicom global sister agencies), MMC manages efforts for global giants such as P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, Eisai, Galderma, Bayer and Merck, as well as for new clients such as Coty, Glenmark, Happy Family Brands, and Braun Grooming.

The scope of the firm's consumer work remains highly impressive, netting it plenty of metal at awards shows, including the In2 SABRE competition, where its work for Covergirl, Kotex and Head & Shoulders all won acclaim from judges, while its Merck for Mothers work also stands out. That helps to explain how MMC grew more than 20% last year, bolstered by a number of new hires in key strategic growth areas including creative, digital, healthcare, corporate and data analytics.

MMC's understanding of consumer work, underpinned by an industry-leading approach to insight and creativity, also extends to corporate work — in recognition of the ways that brand marketing work now requires a sophisticated understanding of corporate reputation. And there has been considerable innovation in terms of MMC's product offering, covering such areas as social engagement, influencer 'acceleration', 'moments-based marketing' and trend analysis — all pointing to an agency that is at the top of its game, regularly outperforming larger global networks when it comes to coveted marketing assignments, and often producing work that delivers ROI and emotional resonance. 

While the new structure means that there are a number of new titles, the senior leadership team remains settled. The firm continues to be led by founder and CEO Marina Maher; supported by chief integration officer Diana Littman, executive director Nancy Lowman LaBadie; chief engagement officer Susan Bean; ECD Ted Sabarese; chief strategy officer Joydeep Dey; and, David Richeson, chief of digital innovation and influence.

Great work included Covergirl’s Star Wars product integration; real-time marketing for Head & Shoulders; work to help Merck for Mothers address maternal mortality; and a great new digital campaign for Acuvue. — AS/PH


W (UK/Asia, Independent)

In the UK market that often appears to prize creativity above all else, former Freuds executive Warren Johnson has stolen a march on many of his consumer rivals by demonstrating the kind of hard-nosed business acumen that has led his firm to £5.8m in eight years, expanding by an eye-catching 44% in 2016 alone. Increasingly acquisitive after buying two small UK shops, it is tempting to think that W is just about the money — which would be unfair, given the firm's ability to deliver creative work that is as good as anything on the market, including some strong digital and influencer marketing activity and a nascent ability to blend consumer marketing with corporate positioning.

For example, an ice-cream-powered direct-action campaign for Ben & Jerry’s persuaded more than 5,000 voters join the electoral roll in time for the London Mayoral election, while a Lynx effort took suicide from taboo to national talking point. There were also comedy brand films for tech brand Relish, and the Millennials First campaign for Marmite. Not that the commercial performance should be overlooked, of course. In 2016, the firm continued its stellar new business record, adding major assignments from Major League Baseball, Carabao, Laurent Perrier, WeWork, Shortlist Media, AB Foods, Argos, Camden Town Brewery, Cancer Research UK and MoneySuperMarket to a client roster that already features Unilever (Lynx, PG Tips, Ben & Jerry’s and Marmite), Levi’s, Evening Standard, Princess Yachts, V Festival and Kopparberg. 

In Asia, meanwhile, W has grown to a team of 12, with turnover tripling in 2016. More importantly, the firm has displayed a penchant for working collaboratively with small brands in a bid to innovate beyond the region’s tradition PR offerings. That has helped it net business from bigger brands too, including Princess Yachts, Moet Hennessy Diageo, Bawah Island, Park Hotel Group, Happn, PS Cafe, Ce La Vi, Festival Asia and Marc Jacobs Beauty. And it helps explain the firm's SABRE-winning 
‘Paper Lantern’ campaign for unknown craft distiller Pozible, which helped spur not only heightened awareness but $40k in sales in a month.  — AS