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

2018 EMEA Digital 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: Edelman Deportivo (Independent)

Globally, Edelman has been investing in digital and creative talent at a pace unmatched by any of its rivals—more than 600 creatives around the world, including about 200 in Europe, many of them focused on digital and social media, using paid, earned, shared and owned channels in an integrated way to connect clients with consumers. In Europe, Edelman acquired Swedish creative shop Deportivo (which describes itself as an “earned advertising agency” that helps brands shape culture) in the summer of 2014, and is turning it into a global creative hub , with 30 people now in the UK, where Toby Gunton, a veteran of OMD and WCRS, was hired to embed some of Deportivo’s creative DNA in the region’s largest office.

A great example of Deportivo’s influence came when Edelman was looking for ways to build on Unilever’s “Dirt is Good” positioning for the Omo brand (Persil or Surf in other markets) and came up with the idea of real play. The business then reached out to other brands with an interest in the idea of play—including IKEA and Lego—and launched the Real Play Coalition, which then embarked on a search for the “next Einstein” based on the idea that his youthful obsession with toy bricks helped to make him the genius he was. 

Some of Deportivo’s other big ideas over the past year included creating the world’s largest football team—inviting all Swedes to become members of the national team—for adidas; challenging athletes to steer a Renault Kadjar using only their brain power; and worked with designers to create a  chair that can help girls with ADHD to get the crucial attention in the classroom that they need. Elsewhere in the Edelman network, great creative work includes Heineken’s “Open Your World” social experiment; Knorr’s “Love at First Taste” campaign; public affairs and events work for Formula One; a global search for the perfect shower for Grohe; and a humorous look at strategies to get pregnancy for Le Grand Forum Des Touts Petits in France.—PH

Finalists

Clockwork Media (South Africa/Independent)

Launched just five years ago, South Africa's Clockwork Media has already reached $5m in fee income, making good on its vision of changing the way PR is perceived in Africa, and across the globe. The consultancy now number 100 people, focused on four key components — strategy and data, concept, production and dissemination. Led by two former tech journalists — Tom Manners and Nic Simmonds — the firm brings a refreshingly agile approach to its business, investing in such areas as as influencer marketing, video production and data analytics, helping it to become one of the largest consultancies in the country, one capable — more importantly, perhaps, of winning global remits.

In that respect, 2017 marked something of a watershed year for Clockwork Media, with growth of 50% powered by a £1m Microsoft assignment to run Windows.com, Xbox.com and Surface.com in 46 markets – establishing the firm's 15-strong interactive team and marking it out as one of the world's agencies to watch. There was also new business from LaLiga, Lafarge and Exxaro, media relations accounts that have expanded to encompass the full spectrum of public relations across offline and online. In addition to Microsoft, Clockwork's client roster also features such names as NBCUniversal, LG, Lafarge, Exxaro, Tile Africa, Tata Motors, Mimecastand L’Oreal.

Clockwork's capabilities also expanded considerably, with the firm adding a data and insights component to its strategy division, a conceptual team featuring a creative director, copywriter and art director, an interactive team focused on producing digital work on a global scale and an activations team aimed at bringing concepts to life in the physical realm. All of that helps to explain the firm's remarkable progress in such a short space of time, further highlighted by brand repositioning for Dell Alienware, content strategy for L'Oreal, TVCs for Tile, radio ads for Lafarge and websites for Microsoft and Exxaro. 

And there have also been some notable hires to help manage the growth, including Monica van der Spuy to oversee the PR business unit and three former Wunderman execs — Emilia Brooks, Ciaran Burnand and Lisa Cohn — to oversee operations, interactive and strategy, respectively. — AS

Text100 (Next15)

Text 100 makes an appearance in our Digital rather than Technology agency of the year shortlist for the first time this year, for the compelling reason that this was the year that the 36-year-old agency evolved well beyond the B2B tech roots it’s hitherto been famous for. In fact, the EMEA leadership – regional lead Rod Cartwright, who joined from Ketchum in September last year, supported by UK MD Tara O’Donnell and her team – describes Text100 as “almost like a new agency overnight” since it merged sister Next Fifteen consumer agency Lexis into the business in June 2017.

The Lexis merger followed hard on the heels of the 2016 merger of two other sibling firms in the UK — Republic Publishing and IncrediBull, adding content and brand marketing expertise – into the Text100 business. Three mergers in two years would have been a challenge for any agency, but a calm and steady hand on the global, regional and UK leadership tiller throughout the process has resulted in an impressively smooth transition to a bigger agency that is much more than the sum of its parts.

The firm is now adopting a “show don’t tell” approach to positioning itself as a marketing communications agency working across PR, content, strategy, social and creative, rather than a B2B tech specialist.

Fee income at Text 100 was up around 3.5% globally, settling at £11.8m in the UK and Ireland, and just over £10m across continental Europe for the year, but the new tone in the UK and EMEA is most evident thus far in the work. As well as investment in data and analytics, the agency formed a new Creative Hub in London in 2016, led by creative director Tom Edwards, bringing together 20 film producers, art directors and web developers to support every piece of work for every client, whether digital, social, PR or content-based.

This has led to some strong integrated brand work over the year, for brands from Coca Cola and Diet Coke (UK consumer PR), Chivas Brothers (consumer and corporate) and Pizza Hut (consumer, corporate, social and crisis) to Tata Communications (content, digital and social), Nokia (digital design and development for mobile) and SunTrust (brand strategy, including purpose-driven work around financial wellbeing). Text100 also picked up new clients including TomTom’s EMEA PR hub for London and Amsterdam, with local execution in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Italy; consumer and B2B work for Grundig; integrated consumer PR for The Open University and Bridgestone’s EMEA corporate hub. The agency also took the decision to withdraw from pitches for long-standing tech clients Lenovo and IBM. — MPS

 

TVC Group (UK/Economist Group)

TVC has never lost sight of its content roots – it’s been using words, images and video to tell clients’ stories for 20 years this June – but 2017 was a transitional year as The Economist Group-owned agency managed a dramatic rebalancing of its skills and client base towards digital.

Group managing director James Myers, who joined in 2004, is still the hands-on cornerstone of TVC, overseeing client experience, sales and marketing across the UK and the US and driving the digital reshaping of the business, supported by group commercial and operations director Sarah Harris.

Myers boosted the agency’s content marketing, digital and social capabilities through new hires including digital producers, content strategists, paid media experts and community managers, who work alongside TVC’s media relations, broadcast, production and creative specialists.

The company put all 51 employees through its bespoke 300-module Digital Academy training programme and, to embed a collaborative digital culture, TVC rolled out Facebook’s Workplace internal comms platform. It also invested in an updated version of DNA, its content hosting and distribution tool. This transformation and investment was not without cost, as fee income dipped slightly to £7.7m over the year.

Client briefs evolved beyond traditional PR, too: nearly every campaign created during 2017 had a digital element, from developing apps and content hubs to integrated digital-led campaigns. Existing clients including Bacardi Group, Otis, Ralph Lauren, Costa Coffee and Vision Express were joined on TVC’s roster by new accounts including challenger bank Aldermore, Bentley, Virgin Sport, Greene King and insurer LV=. — MPS

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic)

Across Europe, Weber Shandwick has seen a radical transformation of its offering in recent years, with major investments in insights (data, analytics and strategic planning), content (creative, video, production and design) and integrated media (digital and social). The London office has been one center of digital excellence, developing the agency’s new MINDS (Media Intelligence & Data Science) offer, influencer identification and tracking tool FLUENT, and community management AI tool PRODUCT Q. The acquisition in 2016 of mobile marketing specialist Flipside added yet another future-focused capability, offering the kind of content-to-commerce capability sales and marketing clients are now demanding.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, Prime’s unique United Minds offering—founded presciently in 1999—is now helping the agency prepare for increased competition from the management consulting business, combining the kind of business intelligence that doesn’t often come from PR agencies with the creativity that has long been Prime’s trademark, and thus delivering the kind of strategic thinking that will give Weber Shandwick access to the C-suite. And while the London and Stockholm operations stand out, there is new digital and social thinking everywhere, like a new influencer identification and measurement tool in Germany, for example.

Examples of the work over the past 12 months include the “72 Hour Cabin” campaign for Visit Sweden, promoting sustainable tourism by taking five people with stressful jobs and relocating them to cabins in the Swedish countryside; the UK team developed “The Little Chicken Named Pong Pong” campaign for Pearson’s Project Literacy, turning a story told to her children by a mum who could not read into an actual book; in the Netherlands, the firm is creating online wish maps for the Make-a-Wish Foundation so that donors can select and follow deserving recipients close to home; and for GSK’s Fentisil brand, the agency is using mobile mosquito forecasts, in partnership with The Weather Channel, to directly impact sales. — PH