Benelux PR Consultancies of the Year 2018 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2018 Benelux PR Consultancies of the Year

Our 2018 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 were unveiled at the EMEA SABRE Awards in Amsterdam on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. 

Winner: LVT Group (Independent)

Founded in 1994 as a technology public relations specialist, LVT has succeeded in building a well-rounded corporate and consumer public relations business. But its technology credentials—embodied in specialist subsidiary Progress Communications—continue to shine. Meanwhile, LVTPR continues to work across a number of business-to-business categories, with clients in the fintech, aviation, mobility, construction and real estate, and consumer and retail sectors. Last year saw the revenue rise past the €8m, hitting €8.2million. The agency’s Bunnik did particularly well, doubling its capacity to accommodate the growth across disciplines.  The group moved to a new CRM, implemented marketing automation and increased its focus on digital measurement, as well as bloggers and influencers.

New business came Accenture, Experian and Datto, and the Belgian office signed Konica Minolta and Red Hat. The agency’s consumer team added Turkish Airlines, Spotify and Casio G-SHOCK, while the Business-to-Business team started working for NetApp, Extreme Networks and Honeywell (B2B) – on a Benelux basis. Additionally, LVTPR’s Belgian office signed new corporate clients, such as NGO Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen and pharma giant Takeda. Meantime, several incumbent Dutch clients including Indeed and Fleetmatics expanded their activities to the entire Benelux region. All of the newly signed companies join a portfolio that includes clients like Air Belgium, Auping, AVM, Castrol, DOMO, Haacht Brewery, Microsoft, The North Face, Plus Supermarkets, Sonos and Veeam.

LVT has grown its team to 80, led by group CEO Charly Lammers van Toorenburg. The leadership team was boosted with the return of Richard Verbeek, a former managing director of Belgium, who has assumed a group role focused on creating strategy and innovation. — PH/DM

 

Finalists

Edelman (Independent)

Edelman has transformed its market-leading Amsterdam operation under the past couple of years, following the appointment of Arent Jan (AJ) Hesselink—formerly head of content and channels at Philips—as general manager in the summer of 2016. Given his focus on integrated marketing, it’s no surprise that the office is participating with enthusiasm and elan in the global agency’s reinvention as a full-service “communications marketing” offer (there are in-house content, production, paid, creative services, digital marketing, strategy and data science capabilities), but it is perhaps a little more surprising that Hesselink has devoted just as much energy to moving the firm upstream to handle financial crisis and risk management work and other critical issues.

The revamped leadership team includes chief client officer and deputy GM Steven Heywood, a former head of corporate communications at eBay who brings deep crisis experience; b2b practice leader Eeva Raaijmakers who brings experience at KPMG, Ricoh Europe and Philips; and director of strategy and integration Martijn Nieuwenhuis, whose advertising background includes being the owner of a small agency and time spent at Leo Burnett. At the same time, the firm has moved to single P&L to ensure a more agile, collaborative and client-centric approach.

There was double-digit growth last year, consolidating Edelman’s position as the number one multinational in the Dutch market, with work for global clients such as HP, Shell and PayPal supplemented by local wins such as Ahold Delhaize, TE Connectivity, Samsung Air Conditioning, Takeaway.com, Wolters Kluwer, and the AIDS 2018 summit—more than two-thirds of the firm’s clients are headquartered in the Netherlands. In the marketing realm, the firm has been driving brand engagement and sales for clients such as FrieslandCampina, Shell and a global food ingredients company (under the Zeno brand), and for Lovinklaan Foundation it created a new brand identity—and redefined mission and values—to celebrate its 35th anniversary. On the healthcare front, the firm led the “Many Faces One Voice” campaign for the first lung cancer patient advocacy group, on behalf of Lung Cancer Europe. In the financial arena, the firm is now handling a number of M&A deals (including hostile bids) and activist situations and providing counsel at the board level to several clients.—PH


H+K Strategies
(WPP)

Hill+Knowlton Strategies is no longer the pure public affairs powerhouse that it once was in the Brussels market, but it remains a leader across the Benelux region due to a successful transformation effort that has seen its Dutch operation position itself as a leader in high-value, high-stakes corporate and financial situations, and the Belgian operation take public policy and issues management work and convert that into broader, integrated assignments. So H+K now has 85 people spread across three offices (Amsterdam, Antwerp and Brussels) that are among the most profitable in the region.

The Netherlands may not be a giant market for consumer work, but it does have more than its share of corporate headquarters, and under the leadership of CEO Frederique Demenint (who also leads the firm’s corporate practice) H+K has developed strong capabilities in crisis and issues management and litigation support (it worked for RecyBEM, the management company for the Dutch legislation on waste management, to debunk rumors that recycled plastics were causing cancer) and in financial communications (it handled 28 M&A deals in 2017, including the high-profile sale of media group Telegraf Media Group). New additions to the team included Machteld Merens, who joined as director of corporate communications from Randstad.

Meanwhile, the Belgian operation, helmed by CEO Melanie Faithfull Kent, has been diversifying its own operations, developing a more integrated offer (strengthened by the addition of digital and content specialist Uzo Madu last year) and also competing for European Commission work, which now accounts for 25% of the office’s business. — PH


Ketchum
(Omnicom)

While most multinationals in Brussels have focused their energies on developing EU policy capabilities, Ketchum opted instead to become a leader in the local Belgian market—leveraging an approach it characterizes as “more local than the global agencies, more global than the local firms”—an approach that has paid dividends over the past five years. Ketchum’s Belgian revenues have increased by 148% since 2012, and in 2017 were up by better than 20% for the second straight year. The firm now has local revenue in excess of €4 million and is exporting €1.5 million to other Omnicom agencies, including BBDO Belgium and Ketchum’s own Daggerwing employee and change management consultancy.

Given the relatively small size of the consumer market in Belgium, and sluggish economic growth (less than  1% last year), Ketchum has prospered by focusing on moving upstream, solving some of its clients most complex business challenges. Building on strong brand, digital and social, and corporate reputation practices, managing director Peter Otten and client services director Hilde Ransschaert have added a change and transformation communication offering, bringing in Christel Van Litsenborgh, formerly of BBDO, to lead internal communications initiatives. There have been other non-traditional hires too: Ransschaert is another BBDO alum; Valérie Champault joined as social and digital strategist joined from VOO, the telecom provider; Tom Meynendonckx was formerly managing director of YouEngine; Nicolas Vergauwen is a trendwatcher and data miner and will spearhead research and analytics.

The firm maintains long-term relationships with clients such as Accor, Deloitte, and Novartis, and has grown its assignments with some more recent additions such as BNP Paribas Fortis, IKEA and BMS—the firm has a habit of taking one-dimensional briefs and pushing clients to think in broader terms about their business challenges. Highlights range from educating Belgians about “The Migraine Experience” for GSK to working with Goodyear to launch its Oxygene “living tire” at the Geneva Motor Show. — PH

Whyte Corporate Affairs (Independent)

Nearly a decade after it was launched by former Interel exec Emmnanuel Goedseels, Whyte Corporate Affairs has positioned itself as a leader in corporate affairs in the Belgian market, and in 2017 furthered its position with new initiatives (investments in visualisation and digitalisation and growing its internal comms practice), strategic hires (added a fifth partner and hired a crisis communications expert away from competitor Akkanto) and expanded geographic reach (the opening of a new operation in Antwerp to cover the Flanders market).

The firm continues to offer valuable insight into the Belgian media, political, corporate, social and academic landscape, an expertise that allows Whyte to define the right audiences, recommend the most appropriate channels of communication, to formulate the right messages and to anticipate actions and reactions. That expertise has been strengthened by a commitment to analytics and research and a growing emphasis on digital channels and visualisation. Now in its 10th year, Whyte is still run by founding partners Sandrine Agie, Joris Bulteel, Eveline de Ridder and Emmanuel Goedseels.

Last year saw Whyte saw record growth of around 13%, with fee income of close to €4m. New business came from Elia, Belgium’s electricity grid operator; the retail company Carrefour; the federal government’s Crisis Centre; the produce company Greenyard; and the meat company Debra. The join a roster that includes blue-chip clients such as SAAB, Uber, Burger King and Ubinet. — PH/DM