2018 Digital PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2018 Digital PR Agencies of the Year

Our 2018 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada.

Analysis of each of the Agencies of the Year for every category can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winners will be unveiled at the 2018 North American SABRE Awards, taking place at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 1.

Finalists

Carmichael Lynch Relate (Interpublic Group)

One year after being named one of our Agencies of the Year, Carmichael Lynch Relate (CLR) continues to refine an offering that now demonstrates considerable expertise across digital and multimedia marketing, thanks to a fully integrated staff of paid, earned, creative and social experts weighing that focus in particular on influencer marketing strategies.

Best known for its brand marketing and corporate reputation capabilities, CLR's continued growth (up 19% to around $30m) has been bolstered by the addition of proprietary digital services, including the CL Relate IQ influencer tool that ties influencer programs to sales; the CL Relate Effect analytics offering that works across media, brand health, social conversation and geographic-specific customer behaviors, to help drive message modeling data on a regular basis; and, CL Relate Pinpoint, which aims to combine the right message with the right medium, tailored for the exact point at which a brand’s target consumers sit within the marketing funnel.

Those kinds of capabilities helped drive some impressive digital campaign work from CLR over the past 12 months, rooted in the firm’s practice of harnessing what it calls 'Unfair Ideas' — upending the status quo to give consumers new way to understand, embrace and experience brands. Charge with raising awareness of Edwards Desserts among social media-savvy millennial moms in the aftermath of the polarising 2016 election, the agency positioned the brand as social media peacemaker, calling on people to freeze the negativity for just one day — National Pi Day.

CLR's work also appears to be drawing clients looking to break out of the traditional marketing mold. In 2017, the firm added Phillips 66, Sun Country Airlines, The Minnesota Twins and Red Baron Pizza to a client roster already populated by brands such  as Sherwin-Williams, U.S. Bank, Schwan’s Company, Bath & Body Works, Marvin Windows & Doors and The Formica Corporation. — AS/DM

 

Edelman (DJE Holdings)

The ambition for Edelman is not only to cement its place as the world’s largest PR agency, but to ensure that it can perform as a serious competitor to the ad agencies and digital firms—and even content producers like CNN—competing for clients’ marketing dollars. That has meant expanding the firm’s digital and social capabilities, so that its creative department—now more than 600-strong around the world, with 350 in the US—includes growing numbers of advertising and paid media specialists and formidable data and analytics team. New appointments in 2017 reflect both of those priorities, from Mark Renshaw (a Leo Burnett veteran) taking over as global creative chair to Natalie Seidman, formerly of The NPD Group, as managing director of Edelman Intelligence.

Those investments are reflected in new business success. There was organic growth from clients like Adobe, Citadel, Hologic, HP, Mars, and the State of Florida’s Department of Citrus, and new business from Ajinomoto, Genentech, Puget Sound Energy, ServiceNow, and Sonos. But there were also digital assignment from the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau and Sears Holding Company, and advisory services business from Bridgestone and Microsoft.

And Edelman’s best work continues to be among the best in the business, as evidenced by a dozen SABRE nominations for campaigns ranging from pro bono work for the One Orlando Alliance in the wake of the tragic shooting there to brand marketing and content creation for Unilever brands such as Dove and Axe; from a follow-up to REI’s massive award-winning Opt Outside campaign focusing on gender issues to empowering young adults to get tested for STDs on behalf of the American Sexual Health Association. — PH

 

Huge (Interpublic Group)

It was one year ago that Kwittken co-founder Jason Schlossberg joined Huge to add public relations to the IPG firm’s core offering of digital design. The PR team that Schlossberg now oversees is about 30 people working on traditional PR, thought leadership, editorial, content and  social strategy for its client portfolio. Already, the agency’s PR portfolio has grown in the last 12 months to include Broadridge, United Technologies Corporation, OneMarket, Zelle and Harley Davidson Canada,which joined existing clients such as Think with Google, Kohl’s and Eli Lilly, among others.

What stands out at Huge is the way communications is fully integrated into its existing services —  which include research, analytics, design, media, and creative technology. Over the last 12 months, a major part of integrating PR into the organization involved an internal education campaign on the ways PR could complement the firm’s more developed offerings. Impressively, this led to incremental client projects — which led to success, which led to more steady work. The communications team also built a new innovation methodology/ framework called Future Making that has been adopted by clients and by Huge more broadly. Other notable work includes a campaign for United Technologies Corporation to recruit talent for its new Brooklyn-based innovation hub by developing and promoting “UTC’s Principles for Designing Really Big Things.”

In addition to Schlossberg, other notable talent include VPs Rebecca Moeller, Brittany Slattery, Brad Wellen and Nicole Kuang. Globally, Huge has approximately 1500 employees based out of 12 offices around the world. — AaS


Lippe Taylor
(Independent)

Two years ago, Lippe Taylor was a New York-based consumer marketing specialist—known for its expertise in 'Moving Her' — with a 20-year heritage, a reputation for delivering top-tier earned media results, and a culture than encouraged creativity and collaboration. All of which is to say that founder Maureen Lippe didn’t need to change anything. But Lippe recognized the changes roiling the marketing and public relations business and saw an opportunity, and so in January 2017 she brought in Paul Dyer — a seven-year veteran of W2O — and embarked on a journey that has already had a transformative impact on the agency.

Dyer admits that the transformation is still very much a work-in-progress, but Lippe Taylor has built on existing capabilities in blogger outreach, community management, content curation and social listening — pretty much de rigueur for any lifestyle PR firm — to include social strategy, influencer marketing, paid social and native and advanced analytics. The leadership team has been expanded with newcomers like chief creative and digital officer Tina Cervera, formerly of VaynerMedia and her own consulting shop; Jennifer O’Neill, healthcare practice lead brought in from inVentiv; Weber Shandwick veteran Tracy Naden, who leads the consumer practice; senior VP of digital and social Elisabeth Bromberg, who joined from L’Oreal; and influencer marketing expert Lauren McGrath, from  Refinery29.

The firm’s new StarlingAI platform is helping to identify influencers whose endorsement can have a real impact, in real time. It has also developed new tools measuring earned media impact, and brand health, and linking PR activity to commercial success. That expertise has informed some interesting work, from newsjacking a story about Kim Kardashian and Nicole Ritchie’s childhood shoplifting on behalf of Revlon to producing emotionally powerful content for medical laser treatment MonaLisa Touch to content strategy and website redesign work for Botox to a fully integrated effort on behalf of acne treatment Differin. Growth was a healthy 10% (coming off an equally strong 2016) and new business came from Elizabeth Arden, Lenovo, Primark and Revlon in the lifestyle space; Differin and ProActivMD in wellness; Botox and several other high-profile brands in healthcare (now close to 50% of the business). — PH

Ruder Finn (Independent)

Ruder Finn's evident comfort with technology in general, and digital in particular, is perhaps best demonstrated by a product offering that is as powerful as any in the industry. These include proprietary analytics tool Beacon, which integrates real-time social listening with real-world data; RiskSTAT, an app-based reputation management system that identifies potential risks and assesses and predicts impact, facilitating a fast, seamless response; and, a new global internal communications practice called Internal Customer Experience, which leverages analytics to drive employee connection, experience and engagement.

Under the leadership of chief digital officer Scott Schneider, the RFI Studios team has been considerably bolstered by the acquisition of Asian unit Daylight Partnership, bringing with it SVP David Ko along with plenty of experience of cutting-edge work for such clients as HSBC, AstraZeneca and Prudential. In North America, meanwhile, there was standout work for Subway, Oath (the new company founded by the merger of AOL and Yahoo), and Cisco, the latter involving the company's country digital acceleration program.

In a bid to anticipate market trends further, Ruder Finn also launched a healthtech practice last year to help capitalise on new technology platforms for the delivery and consumption of healthcare, and also support technology company efforts to better understand patients. All of which has translated to strong work for the likes of Shire, Novartis and J&J. — AS