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

2018 EMEA Healthcare 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: Cohn & Wolfe (WPP)

Cohn & Wolfe’s healthcare team has fully embraced the wider company’s transformation from an agency with an earned heritage to an integrated marketing agency. Since 2015 the division has doubled the size of its business and team (revenue has increased by 18% in the past year alone), diversified its client base to include Gilead, Pfizer, Sanofi Consumer Health and Novo Nordisk (the latter two during 2017), and broadened its talent pool.

A team of more than 60 people in Cohn & Wolfe’s London office now work on healthcare in one form or another, including from the central digital team and the consumer and corporate practices. In a globally-acknowledged healthcare comms talent drought, the agency strengthened its senior bench with the hire of Tamsin Tierney (former MD at Tonic Life Communications) as deputy MD of health. It also added new specialists including Ben Hickey (advocacy) and Maria Simson (digital transformation).

The company wins and works across the marketing mix; its work for Boehringer Ingelheim, for instance, covers brand comms, advocacy and corporate reputation, and the team supports Pfizer on areas including consumer marketing, market access and digital transformation. The agency also has a strong record of organic growth, adding new therapeutic areas for clients including Gilead, where it began with HIV and added Hepatitis C, launching seven products in two years, and growing its Pfizer vaccines work from one product to the entire vaccines portfolio. It also doesn’t shy away from tackling some of the most difficult healthcare challenges of our age, from obesity to liver disease. — MPS

Finalists

dna Communications (Interpublic Group)

As the complexity of healthcare communications has increased, dna Communications has responded with a breadth of robust, multidimensional efforts that help clients navigate the intricacies of the system, while boosting advancements — and aiming to change lives by doing so. In the last 12 months, the healthcare agency has been steeped in some of the biggest issues facing stakeholders from pharmaceutical companies to healthcare providers and patients.

A major educational campaign surrounding the link between diabetes and heart disease, and treatment options for managing it, was just one of dna’s most effective 2017 campaigns, reaching millions and changing the diabetes conversation. Other key campaigns included highlighting how today’s environment requires physicians to think differently and be innovative in order to deliver the best care for HIV patients, and a multi-country generational survey among millennial and baby boomer women comparing attitudes on contraceptive choices.

With team members well-versed in science and research as well as strategic communications, dna takes a multidisciplinary approach to serving its roster of clients — companies like Boehringer Ingelheim, Lilly Novartis and Celgene among them. The firm is keenly aware that, despite being part of the same industry, the companies it works with are utterly different from one another, and therefore have specific needs in negotiating the healthcare sector’s ever-changing commercial, regulatory, scientific and communications landscape.

That approach has fueled dna’s growth trajectory, which continued in 2017, when it added more than a dozen people in London, to go with other EMEA outposts in Berlin, Cologne, Paris, Geneva and Milan. During the last 12 months, the agency expanded its client roster with the addition of European Society for Organ Transplantation, Indivior and Novo Nordisk. Accordingly, the agency’s staff also grew in 2017, increasing 35% to 70. Indeed overall revenue growth was up 40% to $12m, reflecting the success of the agency's thinking and capabilities. — DM

Four Health (UK/Independent)

Four Communications, founded in 2001, quickly established itself as a leader in the UK market, a full-service independent capable of competing with larger firms for consumer and corporate assignments, and more recently for a broad range of sponsorship, content creation, digital and social media work.  It ranks among the top 12 UK PR firms overall, with fee income last year of around £30 million and a headcount of close to 250. Its specialist healthcare operations, meanwhile, make it a top six player in the sector.

Four Health divides itself into four groups: Four Engage (led by Rachel O’Sullivan) delivers insights and analysis and content and campaigns; Four Health Communications (led by Packer Forbes founder Alexa Forbes) focuses on medical communications and patient advocacy; Four Public Affairs (under John Lehal, former CEO of Insight Consulting) handles policy and market access; Four Health Media (led by Ben Mansfield) adds media buying and media strategy. The firm also has a specialized process designed to take products from late stage clinical trials to launch and then to uptake. 

Clients include some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical sector: Alcon, BD, Boston Scientific, BMS, Fractyl, Gilead, GSK, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi, Takeda and Teva, as well as device and diagnostic companies, patient organizations and NGOs. It has handled market access issues for Actonel, Acomplia, Ventavis, Epogen, Eliquis, Xeljanz, Champix, Enbrel and more. — PH

GCI Health (UK/WPP)

At only four years old, the London business of GCI Health, WPP’s only specialist healthcare agency, is in fine fettle. It grew to 19 employees in 2017, and revenue rose 60% to £2.5m, smashing targets and successfully competing for work with much bigger agencies in a year where a huge global talent shortage for healthcare comms professionals became evident.

The currently all-female agency has a formidable leadership team – joint MDs Kath Kerry and Rikki Jones, client services director Hannah Morris, director Claire Martin and associate director Caroline Burtt – who are rightly proud of the progress they’ve made this year in navigating the business out of boutique territory and firmly on course to be a mid-size European healthcare agency. They’ve done this while maintaining a caring environment that encourages flexible working and treats everyone like a grown-up, leading to 96% staff retention.

The agency is always seeking inspiration from beyond the healthcare universe, and seems to have the balance right between not taking itself too seriously, and doing innovative work on products that have the potential to change lives. The team has spent time this year building relationships with other healthcare teams within the WPP network, which has led to three times more partnership work and more opportunities for being included in big integrated pitches.

The agency works across life sciences, market access communications, consumer health and strategic consulting. Client retention for the year stood at 89%, with stand-out work such as building Merck KGaA’s name in oncology R&D, breaking new ground for the pharma company’s social engagement, and making a significant media impact for Pfizer’s autoimmune disease biosimilar drug Inflectra. — MPS

Pegasus (UK/Ashfield Healthcare Group)

After 20 years as an independent agency, Pegasus during grew both its business and footprint during its first full year  as part of Ashfield Healthcare Communications. The agency’s 2017 fee income rose 13% from the year before, surpassing £10m for the first time. The Brighton-based firm opened satellite offices in Macclesfield and Glasgow (followed by one in London in 2018) as a means of attracting talent to handle the increased workload, while also offering clients in those areas local partners. The staff, primarily in the UK, ended 2017 116 strong.

Key clients include Bayer, Novo Nordisk, GSK, CSL Behring, Holland & Barrett, Boehringer Ingelheim, Thornton & Ross and Bio-Oil. Notable wins last year included Network Rail/Samaritans, Astellas, NHS Queen Victoria Hospital, Trouw Nutrition, Merz Aesthetics, skincare brand Sebamed, private health service provider 18 Week Support and Bayer Oncology. Pegasus boosted its ability to serve such clients through its new partnership with University College of London’s Centre for Behaviour. The partnership allows Pegasus staffers to learn the science surrounding behavioural change and apply it in their campaigns — of particular value when changing behaviour, particularly around healthcare, is tantamount to changing life for the better. During the last year, Pegasus also expanded its research & planning capability; invested in new service areas, such as VR & AR; expanded its digital marketing team and added talent to its studio, including a dedicated copy team. The firm also launched a patient support programme offer, rooted in health psychology, that’s secured £500,000 in 12 months.

Hallmark initiatives include the Small Talk Saves Lives, Samaritans campaign, a suicide prevention effort Pegasus rolled out for the emotional support group Samaritans, Network Rail and British Transport Police. A social film sharing the real-life story of a woman who had planned to take her own life, Sarah’s Story, was viewed 5 million times in two months, reaching 6.2 million via social media alone. The film was shared 65,000 times across Facebook and Twitter sparking 300,000 comments and reactions, increasing social traffic to Samaritans website by 406%. Research shows 49% of viewers would now act if ever in a situation where they can help.— AaS/DM