The Red Consultancy is Marketing's PR Agency of the Year, capping a notable 12 months during which it maintained its feat of growing every year since it first opened its doors 17 years ago.
The agency impressed with a string of high-profile account wins and eye-catching campaigns, backed up by strong sales metrics. 'A refreshingly clear, honest and to-the-point agency,' was the verdict of the judging panel.
Red added more than 30 new clients in 2011, amounting to more than £3m in fees. Most notable among these was a hotly contested pitch for Boots' £1m consumer PR account. The agency was also selected by Gatwick Airport as it set out to challenge Heathrow's status as London's leading airport, with a major PR campaign.
Other brands turning to Red in 2011 included Coca-Cola, 20th Century Fox, Westfield and Game. The agency also held on to big names such as McDonald's, Barclaycard, Johnson & Johnson, Molson Coors, Odeon and Cadbury.
Red has used digital media to good effect over the past 12 months, with a viral campaign for Molson Coors' Grolsch brand (see box, below) and a drive to promote Innocent's range of children's fridge magnets, which included 26 'mum and dad' bloggers crowned King or Queen of a different letter.
Judges were most impressed, however, by the results Red achieved for its clients. A good example is the agency's 'Britain's most talented pets' campaign for online shopping comparison site Kelkoo, which generated a 16% increase on the previous month on natural traffic leads on pet products. Similarly, a media relations campaign for anti-virus software brand McAfee helped build the company in the UK and contributed to a 13% uplift in its web commerce sales. The PR programme also helped McAfee to maintain its number-one position in share-of-voice in the UK media.
Its contribution was summed up by McAfee's UK PR manager, Michelle Spencer. 'Thanks to Red, McAfee has consistently achieved top spot in share-of-voice in the UK, building McAfee's brand and ensuring PR has a direct sales impact,' she said.
Red also ran a PR campaign for the launch of Quick Tap, a contactless payment service, from Orange and Barclaycard. Videos of the process have been watched by more than 100,000 users.
Red's reputation was further enhanced this year by a vocal stance on the topical subject of unpaid interns in the PR industry, with chief executive Mike Morgan calling on other agencies to follow Red's practice of paying its interns £13,000 a year.
FOCUS ON GROLSCH
Red flexed its creative muscles with a Christmas 2010 viral campaign for Molson Coors' beer brand, Grolsch. The company had briefed the agency to drive conversations about the Grolsch Swingtop, with the focus on the bottle as well as the brand.
Red created a seasonal viral campaign which put the swingtop bottle at the heart of the story: a Christmas carol played entirely through each element of the bottle - glass, air, beer and the swingtop mechanism.
The video soon appeared in several 'top viral' lists. The Best Reviewer site ranked the video as one of the top 10 best Christmas viral videos, while Brand Mix rated it second in festive recommendations.
BEST OF THE REST
Pretty Green may be a relatively new kid on the PR agency block, but it is posing a threat to the established order.
Mark Stringer's agency ended its third year in its best shape yet, enjoying a high level of contract wins and 100% growth. The agency also registered a 36% increase in total head count in the past year.
'It is young, small, dynamic and progressive,' said the judges. 'Watch out you old timers - Pretty Green is heading through and is not going to take a glance backwards as it passes by.'
Clients joining Pretty Green in 2011 included Sony Ericsson, Paddy Power and sportswear firm Under Armour. Cadbury stepped up its use of the agency, briefing Pretty Green to promote its Dairy Milk, Creme Egg, Twirl and Flake brands.
Pretty Green also ran the Spots v Stripes Race Season for Cadbury, which aimed to raise awareness of the brand's role as the 'official treat provider' of the London 2012 Olympics. The campaign involved celebrities taking part in live record attempts in association with broadcast media including Daybreak and OK! TV. It out-performed the agency's targets, producing 241 pieces of coverage, which helped the Big Race Bar achieve sales of 13m units.
Last year's winner Frank PR failed to cling on to its crown, but still had a strong year. The agency, run by Graham Goodkind and Andrew Bloch, enjoyed 18% profit growth in the UK, and 81% profit growth for its fledgling Australian arm.
It had a pitch success rate of 76% this year, and reeled in Cow & Gate, Bisto, Douwe Egberts, Strongbow and Southern Comfort as new clients. The agency, set up 11 years ago, also managed to retain founding clients Brylcreem and Amshold (the holding company for Lord Sugar's business interests) for another year. Judges noted its 'roster of impressive clients', and that once brands started to work with Frank they tended to stay loyal to it.
Frank ran several effective tongue-in-cheek campaigns in 2011, including relaunching cheese brand The Laughing Cow under its fresh 'made with laughter' positioning. To gain coverage and a buzz across national, consumer and online media, the agency conducted an experiment investigating whether cows have a sense of humour.
Comedian Milton Jones created and performed his 'Pull The Udder One' comedy set to a field of Friesians, while leading cow expert Bruce Woodacre monitored the cows' reaction. Some 180 pieces of coverage were secured and the brand posted a 15% sales uplift over the period of the coverage.
Also shortlisted were Blue Rubicon, PHA Media and Weber Shandwick.
2010: Frank PR
2008: Blue Rubicon
2007: Blue Rubicon