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

2018 Mediterranean 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: INC (Independent)

It’s rare to find a firm that’s lasted 40 years while maintaining its independence, but INC has defied odds to do just this. This milestone comes after a long track record of “firsts” — the agency was an early Italian firm to have dedicated digital and content practices; among the first to have a management board that includes not only former journalists but also designers, publishers and other creators; and it was an early adopter of a cross-functional communications approach.

That kind of mindset helps explain INC’s growth in a sluggish market, up 20% last year to €2.5m.  Key clients include Barilla, BAT, Emirates, UNHCR, WHO, AIDEPI, UNAITALIA, Terre Des Hommes and Lega Del Filo D’Oro. There was also an impressive haul of new business over the past year from Airbnb, Heineken, FINDUS/Nomad Foods Europe, Amnesty International, IIAS and Union Food.

Meanwhile, INC’s work retains an uncommon flair. In 2017, the agency found itself working for two clients on the same crisis — a top food brand and related industry association caught in the crosshairs of a major Italian investigative TV show. The firm’s live war room helped manage the crisis for both, after it reinforced its corporate and crisis practice by hiring Francesca De Feo as practice leader. The firm also helped develop the successful #carbonaraday for the Italian pasta industry association, pulling off the always tricky effort to sell more pasta to Italians, and launched the Ichnusa brand for Heineken in Italy. — AS 

Finalists

Barabino & Partners (Independent)

Barabino & Partners is not only the dominant force in Italy, but it is becoming an increasingly credible player beyond the country’s borders, a difficult feat that has enabled it to distinguish itself from its homegrown rivals. The agency now has offices in London, New York, Berlin, Brussels and Sao Paulo

and continues to serve a range of leading ‘brand Italia’ companies overseas. And its core financial practice remains in fine fettle, with Barabino ranking first in Italy for deal count, making it the only Italian PR firm among the world's top 20 for volume of transactions handled.

Now worth around €17.2m after growing 8% in 2017 despite tough economic conditions, the firm employs more than 100 consultants, serving such clients as Intel, Blackrock, Allianz Global Investors, ADell EMC, Fineco, Unipol, Suning Commerce Group, Brunello Cucinelli, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Last year, furthermore, there was new business from Honeywell, Gilead Sciences, Associated British Foods, OpCapita, Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and Green Network Energy.

Consistent growth over the past two years has come after founder and CEO Luca Barabino oversaw the development of a range of new services to complement its corporate and financial strength. And that mindset is evident in the best of its work, including global PR coordination of Italian law firm BonelliErede; supporting London’s Foreign Press Association; helping reposition the Italian Banking Association at a critical moment for the industry; assisting the first One Ocean Forum; and, handling reputation management for Babcock in Italy.  — AS

Cohn & Wolfe (WPP)

Cohn & Wolfe in Italy has evolved dramatically from a traditional PR and reputation management agency into a true integrated digital comms consultancy since Franco Guzzi set up the award-winning Milan office in 1996.

The 35-strong team, led by managing director Elena Silva, supports clients including Coca-Cola, Heineken, Kia, Aviva and Pfizer with everything from social strategy, influencer engagement and digital content production to media relations and events. Account wins over the year included Asko appliances, supermarket Leader Price, Hotels.com and banana giant Chiquita, leading to growth of both revenue and operating profit.

Around 40% of revenue is now from digital work, including strong organic growth over the year from Maserati: the Milan office is the global hub for the luxury car manufacturer’s digital strategy, coordinating social media, producing content, handling social and influencer management across markets, liaising with Maserati’s global digital marketing team in Modena and Cohn & Wolfe’s teams and global digital leaders across EMEA and the US.

And its clients and team members tend to be in it for the long haul: Cohn & Wolfe Italy has worked with Italian company Indena since 1999, Twinings since 2005 and premium pet food supplier Royal Canin since 2009, while 25% of employees have been with the agency for more than 10 years. — MPS

Edelman (Independent)

The Italian market continues to present some unique challenges for multinational agencies. While many US-based agencies serve their global clients in Italy, indigenous Italian companies in general continue to prefer local firms. Edelman has addressed this by crafting an offer designed to appeal to the family-owned businesses that dominate the Italian corporate landscape, leveraging its long-time relationships with the likes of Lavazza and Imac/Primigi—it leads PR and content production for both—and now derives 25% of its income from family-owned Italian businesses, many of which find the firm’s international expertise useful when it comes to exports.

Meanwhile, Edelman’s Italian operations were a bright spot—despite challenging local market conditions— even as overall European operations were slightly flat in 2017. There was new business from Grom, the family ice-cream business bought by Unilever; Velier, distributor of the cool Fever Tree brand; insurance giant Aviva; Sobi, a Swedish company focused on rare diseases; Unifarco, a cosmetics and neutraceutical manufacturer; and toymaker Mattel. The firm also saw several of its existing clients—Nestlé, luxury retail experience company Value Retail/The Bicester Village, Samsung and Unilever expand their assignments.

Like many Edelman offices around the world, the Milan office has been investing heavily in digital and social capabilities, an investment that paid off when Virgin Active turned to Edelman to launch a new creative campaign. The firm also led new campaigns for Euronext, the largest European stock exchange; N26, the German bank; and Samsung, for the launch of the S9. — PH 

Omnicom PR Group (Omnicom)

Italy is one of four markets where Omnicom elected to bring together the PR operations of FleishmanHillard, Ketchum and Porter Novelli into a single operation under the Omnicom PR Group banner—and the one where the combined entity is perhaps immediately the strongest, with a team of more than 100 under the leadership of general manager and managing director Massimo Moriconi (head of Fleishman’s Italian operations) and executive president Andrea Cornelli (CEO of Ketchum).

A strong senior leadership brings together the talents of Laura Meroni, senior vice president; head of healthcare Elisabetta Marano; strategy lead Luca De Pietro; head of food and beverage Paola Chiasserini; head of crisis management Edoardo Grandi; digital transformation lead Lucia Ricchetti; and innovation chief Fabio Croci.

There was double-digit growth last year, with work spanning several major sectors and practices. In the pharma realm, the combined agency represents GSK Vaccines, MSD Animal Health, and Gilead; in food and beverage, clients include the Norwegian Sea Food Council, AbInbev, and Monsanto. There’s also digital  work for Prada, KitchenAid, Estra Energie, and sports marketing support for the European Professional Football Leagues now the European League. Cool creative work included multichannel storytelling for Estra Energie; digital identity work for Prada; and the SABRE-nominated “Serious Play” initiative for educational toy company Clementoni. —PH