Creative PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report
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2019 Creative Consultancies of the Year

Our 2019 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 will be unveiled at the 2019 EMEA SABRE Awards dinner in London on 22 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winnner: Hope&Glory (UK/Independent)

Now eight years old, consumer brand agency Hope&Glory now has 75 people in its team generating income of just over £7m, and shows no sign of losing its creative edge (it’s still one of the most award-winning agencies in the UK industry, including being our global creative agency of the year for 2018) or slowing down on growth.

And you don’t increase fee income by 26% or double profits to achieve a 21% margin by resting on your laurels: founders Jo Carr and James Gordon-MacIntosh still believe the agency’s best work will be its next campaign.

The agency won new work from Argos, Adidas, Vita Coco, Reebok, Uber, Uber Eats, Photobox, StubHub, LinkedIn, Facebook Watch and the Edrington-Beam Suntory UK portfolio of spirits brands including The Macallan, Famous Grouse and Courvoisier. It also retained long-term accounts for clients such as O2, HTC, IKEA, Airbnb, Barclays and The Royal Mint.

The team created a broader range of creative campaigns than ever across advertising, content, experiential, digital and influencer campaigns., including Hope&Glory’s first cinema film for Facebook to global TV ads for Pokemon, a socially-activated “Memory Tree” for Marie Curie at Christmas, its biggest ever events for Reebok and Adidas and an online community for Sony.

Conscious that the biggest threat to its continued rapid growth and creativity is a gradual drop in standards, Hope&Glory lasered in on keeping clients, and people, happy and doing the best work of their career. It turned down briefs to maintain quality, implemented a new training programme and mental wellbeing initiatives and launched an exchange programme so team members can visit other independent agencies in New York and Sydney. A third of its diverse, gender-balanced team has been home-grown from interns and only two people left for other agencies. Meanwhile, 100% of its clients would recommend the agency, with 66% saying they would do so more now than ever. — MPS

Finalists

Edelman (DJE Holdings)

Overall, Edelman’s EMEA revenues were down about 2.4% in 2018 (although with 1500 people and $188 million in fees, it’s still among the market leaders). That decline means that this is the first year in a decade that the world’s largest independent PR firm has not been among the finalists for our EMEA Consultancy of the Year honor. But its continued commitment to creativity, particularly in the digital and social space, and its 12 EMEA SABRE nominations—more than any other firm except BCW Global—mean that it continues to be worthy of recognition in the creative category.

Highlights of the firm’s work around the region include the purpose-driven “Share a Meal” campaign for Knorr in Italy; fighting food waste via the “Old Milk” campaign for Coop in Sweden; the “Omen by HP Challenge” for the tech giant’s line of gaming computers; promoting toilet access for Domestos via the “Use Our Loos” campaign in the UK; Heineken’s global “When You Drive, Never Drink” corporate responsibility effort; Shell’s “Engineering Real Life Heroes,” featuring the female engineers of the Shell Eco-marathon; and “Blackout Track” for Asics, billed as “the first running track to train your mind.”

The acquisition in 2014 of Swedish agency Deportivo (which billed itself as an “earned advertising agency” and was hailed as the “best and the bravest on the planet” by Contagious) was less about giving Edelman a presence in Stockholm and more about adding to the firm’s creative capabilities, and the relocation of Deportivo chief executive Mattias Ronge to London, where he now serves as chief creative officer, has helped sprinkle some of the boutique firm’s magic throughout the EMEA network.

The firm also continues to add creative talent, with Thomas Crampton joining as global chair of digital (based in London) from Ogilvy, and Frances Gibbs joining as planning director from Leo Burnett, continuing the firm’s commitment to bringing in talent (like EMEA region president and CEO, and BBDO veteran Carol Potter) from advertising and other adjacent businesses. — PH

Talker Tailor Trouble Maker (UK/Independent)

Talker Tailor burst onto the London comms stage in 2016 with all the flamboyance you would expect from founders Gary Wheeldon and Steve Strickland, and in their second year of operation they’ve already burst through the £1m fee income barrier – 25% over its target – and now have a team of 25.

The agency added briefs from Deliveroo, Burger & Lobster Pride in London. Poundland, Jacamo and King of Shaves. Its creative work over the year included partnering Deliveroo with Missing People UK in a campaign that helped reunite four people over the Christmas period with their families, by putting the faces of missing people on delivery backpacks. It also generated 5,000 pre-orders for the new Elvie breast pump, working with a model and mum to express milk on the London Fashion Week catwalk, and trolled KFC for Burger & Lobster by creating the Double Drown lobster burger.

And as they added more people and accounts for big, global brands, Wheeldon and Strickland have worked hard to finesse the agency’s distinctly irreverent attitude and tone of voice and be more robust about grown-up stuff like HR, training, finance and office management.

This year Talker Tailor created two new senior roles, hiring former Freuds’ deputy managing director Jo Grierson as partner, and promoting Kim Allain to be one of the youngest black female creative leads in the industry.

Talker Tailor bills itself as straight-talking, fun-loving (Tuesday is showtune day), smart-thinking and risk-taking. And it has clear guiding principles: the agency is “hungry not greedy” (not marking-up third party costs, and focusing on KPIs rather than timesheets) and believes in “mutuality marketing”: client and colleague transparency to foster an environment of mutual respect and trust, including unlimited holiday and work from home Wednesdays. It also continues to offer awards outfit budgets to staff, as well as providing a free bar, breakfast and lunch.

In addition, the agency pledges to “never whitewash”, creating campaigns for audiences as diverse as possible by hiring people from different backgrounds. Diversity has been in its DNA from the off, meaning Talker Tailor is refreshingly balanced with 60% non-graduates, a 60% female to male split, 19% LGBTQ+, 23% BAME and 40% non-Londoners. — MPS

Tin Man (UK/Independent) 

It was a pivotal year for Tin Man, one of the most admired young agencies in the London PR scene. Now five years old, the firm became truly independent in 2018, as founder Mandy Sharp bought out the other shareholders at Unity who had part-owned the company from its inception.

The bold move has allowed Tin Man to soar: it grew income by 71% to £1.3m with 24% margins in 2018, and is already on course for above 50% growth this year. Staff numbers leapt from 14 to 26, including Sharp bringing in a second creative director, James Hoyle from MSL and Weber Shandwick, to work with Paul Valentine, and Hannah Milne fromBrands2Life as associate director, and giving share options to the senior team.

The agency improved its pitch conversation rate from 67% to 82%, winning bigger briefs from brands such as Barclaycard, Unilever, Ferrero, Plenty of Fish, TalkTalk and Thomas Cook Airlines. The agency is known for building creative campaigns with heart, and its stand-out work last year included building a giant statue of Matilda standing up to Donald Trump for the Roald Dahl Story Company to celebrate the character’s 30th birthday, and engaging 5-13-year-olds in STEM careers by creating the first pop video engineered entirely by kids for the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Tin Man also continued to innovate in its services, including introducing the Consumer Pulse quarterly research into consumer sentiment towards brands, and the Heart Monitor measurement tool to assess everything from perception change and consideration to purchase, to landing site visits and percentage of coverage in high value news sites for SEO.

The agency invested in its in-house digital creative production team to meet client demand for quick turnaround, high quality digital and creative content; this now has its own revenue stream and is forecast to double in size this year. And due to a growth in alcohol clients, including distilleries and whisky and gin brands, the agency developed a dedicated spirits team and is putting its members through gold-standard training from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust to create real industry experts. — MPS

Unity (UK/Independent)

Unity has consistently ranked among the most creative agencies in the world in our Global Creative Index, and has always been one of the most effective, thanks to its understanding of both people and profit, culture and commerce, and brands and business. And in the wake of co-founder Nik Done’s departure at the start of 2018, CEO Gerry Hopkinson is driving the 14-year-old agency forward with a renewed focus on strategic consulting as well as insights-based creativity, purpose-led work and sound craft skills.

Unity is now as much a strategic corporate consultancy as a creative consumer shop, delivering work in 2018 beyond PR's conventional remit, such as CSR platform creation, brand strategy and new product development. In fact, the new standalone strategic consulting business – which aims to delivers transformational growth strategies via communications – now accounts for 40% of fee income; this grew overall by 20% in 2018, with 22% EBITDA.

The agency, which now works mainly across premium and luxury brands, healthcare and wellbeing and large, complex heritage brands, picked up new briefs including AXA, BT, Lloyds and a major cinema chain, joining ADT, AEG, Action Aid, BT, Costa, Hovis, Premier Inn, Starwood and Universal in its client portfolio.

Stand-out creative work over the year included launching the Clever Cup, the UK’s first contactless payments-enabled reusable coffee cup, for the Costa Coffee chain with Barclaycard; a multi-sensory event using the iconic BT Tower to promote BT’s new combined fibre and 4G connection; the #GetTheInsideOut campaign with 74 influencers for Lloyds and Mental Health UK to tackle taboos around mental health; and boosting sales of ADT’s home alarm systems by 9% by publishing the first ‘edutainment’ crime fiction novella, ‘A Dark Time’.

Unity also drives value for clients with tools including Brandcestry, unearthing value in heritage brands to renew and evolve brand narratives. The agency is also immersed in culture, with events and exhibitions in its own gallery space. — MPS