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

2018 DACH 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: Farner (Switzerland/Independent)

Farner, now 66 years old, has been the Swiss market leader in corporate and public affairs for as long as anyone can remember, with seven offices in Switzerland: Zurich, Bern, St. Gallen, Lausanne, Geneva, Basel and Lugano. Traditional expertise includes campaign management for business and politics, crisis and issues management, and financial communications, working with clients across the financial services, pharmaceutical, energy, technology and public health sectors. But in recent years its dramatic growth has been fueled by diversification: Farner can now offer fully integrated campaigns including content creation, community management, real-time marketing and video storytelling, its integrated capabilities further strengthened in 2016 with the acquisition of brand marketing specialist YJOO, Switzerland’s third largest PR firm. 

With 140 employees and fee income of more than €26 million, Farner is now number one among all creative agencies—advertising and PR—in Switzerland. It represents a host of leading Swiss companies and multinationals, including PostFinance, McDonalds, Coop, Die Post, Julius Bär, TCS, Roche, Swissport and Johnson & Johnson, Nespresso, and numerous regional and governmental agencies. New business success in 2017 included PostFinance, MSD, Tezos, Comet Group and SwissMilk. A new innovation and startup practice, meanwhile, is making inroads into next generation companies.

As far as the work is concerned, highlights of the past 12 months range from traditional corporate work like internal communications for the launch of a complex new strategy for Allianz Suisse, a corporate change communications program for Johnson & Johnson, and a rebranding project for Bank Cler to more creative and consumer work like an integrated campaign for TCS, a lead generation quiz for Emmi Benecol, and an influencer marketing campaign targeting younger audiences for Fondation Beyeler. — PH

Finalists

Cohn & Wolfe (WPP)

Based in Hamburg, Cohn & Wolfe in Germany turns 21 this year, but to all intents and purposes it’s a three-year-old start-up. The agency has been rebuilt from scratch since 2015, when it was a struggling office of just four people. A new leadership team was put in place, headed by enthusiastic managing director Wolfgang Lünenbürger-Reidenbach, a former director of digital and social at outfits including Edelman and achtung!, who put a rocket up the agency’s hintern.

In three years, Lünenbürger-Reidenbach claims with some confidence to have built the fastest-growing and most profitable agency in Germany. Cohn & Wolfe has grown to 40 people, and double-digit growth in 2017 means it has grown fee income by a total of 200% since the reboot. The firm positions itself in the German market as “an agency for grown-ups”, including offering fully-flexible careers for women and achieving outstanding ratings for employee engagement and satisfaction. It has high client satisfaction scores, too, for programmes ranging from acting as the lead agency for pharma clients, to integrated marketing campaigns including paid media, to winning strategy work against the likes of McKinsey.

Cohn & Wolfe has retained and seen organic growth from all its existing clients this year, as well as adding several new companies to its roster. These included ABInBev, Gilead, Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Nokia phone manufacturer HMD and Chiquita. Progressive healthcare work is clearly a particular strength for the team in Germany. Groundbreaking work over the year included #OnlyIfIWant AI for HRA Pharma, which enabled women thinking of taking the EllaOne morning after pill to talk to a “first consultation” chatbot before going to a pharmacy; it’s already become Germany’s most-awarded healthcare campaign ever.


Fink & Fuchs
(Independent)

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018 but still fiercely independent, Fink & Fuchs continues to benefit from a keen focus on technology as many sectors undergo tech-fuelled disruption. The firm now has 77 staffers working across offices in Berlin, Munich and Wiesbaden, under the leadership of co-founder Stephan Fink and management board members Alexandra Groß and Michael Grupe, who oversee an offering that has broadened considerably to include content, design, digital services and video.

Fee income remains at around €6.4m, powered by new business from Exact Software, Terzo, nano flowcell, Innovation Alliance, ESET, and Sonicwall, who join a client roster that already features the German federal authorities and ministries (35+ different entities), Salesforce, Cisco, Computacenter, Hasbro, Messe Frankfurt, SCHOTT, Pro Alpha, Fraunhofer Academy, F5 and Rackspace. There is also ongoing engagement within leading industry and government initiatives like D21, Future Convention, Future Network Academy and re:publica, along with a impressive ability to generate research in conjunction with universities and research institutions.

For clients, meanwhile, campaign highlights included Cisco’s ‘Digital Germany’ thought leadership effort and a successful recruitment campaign for the German Office for IT Security. — AS

FischerAppelt (Germany/Independent)

fischerAppelt ended 2017 with growth of 10%, bringing the with 448-person operation’s fee income just shy of €55m. The lift was driven by closer integration of content, creative and media services as well as the successful growth of the agency´s software technology and digital service portfolio. It also comes after several years of remarkable expansion: Not only did fischerAppelt grow 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 also now offers 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: Coca-Cola, Cosmos-Direkt, Daimler, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Post, easy jet, Hilti, Merck, Mondelez, Pfizer, T-Systems and Mondelez.

Highlights of the last year include fischerAppelt hiring Air Berlin’s entire e-commerce team (they team made a public pitch for a group hire after the airline went bankrupt), creating a new performance marketing agency focused on digital solutions. The airline’s former VP of e-commerce & online sales Pascal Volz and fischerAppelt’s chief digital officer Franziska von Lewinski lead the new unit as managing directors. A new digital performance unit has added offerings including SEO, SEA, social advertising, performance marketing, email marketing, Data intelligence and media distribution to the integrated digital offering. The year’s top initiatives include the ‘Strong for you. Strong for Germany’ campaign the agency created on behalf of federal government to make sure police and emergency workers are treated with more respect, reducing attacks on them in turn. The firm rolled out TV spots and online initiatives and put up posters in various cities, all of which feature real-life police and first responders showing what it takes to do their jobs. — DM

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

Weber Shandwick’s growth in Germany over the past five years has been by some margin the best among multinational agencies doing business there: up 40% since 2013, catapulting the Interpublic-owned agency into the top 10. Last year was another strong one, with fee income up by just under 7% to around €18 million. The firm’s success in the market is built on a strong local base: 19 of Weber Shandwick’s top 20 client relationships in Germany were won locally. And the growth last year was a mix of new business success (assignments from Mars and Boehringer Animal Health, both for employee engagement and change management) and expanded assignments from longtime clients like Lilly, DTAG and Beiersdorf.

But the most interesting part of the story is the way Weber Shandwick has diversified its offer in Germany to take advantage of emerging trends. For example, it recognized two or three years ago that management consultancies were taking an interest in the higher end of the communications business, and developed its own change management capabilities accordingly. It has also been developing its own data and analytics capabilities, creating a new influencer marketing product that is based on in-depth research. There’s a new crisis prevention offering too. 

Highlights of the firm’s work in 2017 include handling corporate communications for Nespresso; digital content and physician communications for Boehringer Ingelheim; and (under the Creation brand) the “Girls in STEM” campaign for Microsoft, based on research from Weber’s KRC subsidiary and positioning the company as a leader in gender equity in science-related education. Nor has Weber been neglecting its own brand: it is increasingly positioned as an employer of choice in Germany and is the only firm in the market to produce its own corporate social responsibility report. — PH