Paul Holmes 01 Jun 2013 // 1:16PM GMT
Last week’s SABRE Awards dinner in Barcelona marked a dramatic shift in the balance of power in the European public relations industry. Okay, not really. But it was interesting to see a couple of markets enjoying tremendous success—out of all proportion to their size. In short, Norway is the new Sweden; Slovakia is the new Romania. In both cases, the success of a single agency last year seems to have prompted an increase in the volume of top quality entries. Only a couple of years ago, a Norwegian PR man suggested to me that we would never see the same kind of work from Norway that we have historically seen from neighboring Sweden. The reason had nothing to do with the kind of work being done in Norway; it was more a matter of national character, he said: Norwegians were too modest, and entering awards was viewed as a form of “showing off.” But last year, the relatively young Norwegian agency Trigger enjoyed some success (as did the Oslo office of Hill+Knowlton Strategies) and this year we saw seven winners from Norway: two for Trigger; three from the longtime market leader Geelmuyden Kiese; one from H+K; and one from Burson-Marsteller. (The Swedes didn’t perform too badly: six in total). Romania has enjoyed success in the SABREs since we launched the competition in Europe, but really exploded on to the scene during our fourth EMEA competition in Venice, with local agency The Practice a regular guest on the stage. The Romanians took home a couple of prizes this year, but that success was eclipsed by five Slovakian winners: two for Dynamic, one for Seesame, and two for Neopublic Porter Novell. It’s possible that this year’s Norwegian and Slovakian success suggests a dramatic improvement in the work coming out of those markets. More likely, though, it’s simply a consequence of increased enthusiasm for awards as a source of differentiation, employee motivation, and celebration. That makes me think that there is still a tremendous volume of great work out there—from markets that are still under-represented in the SABREs—that we’re still not seeing.