Rising turnover in consumer PR signals something of a resurrection since the difficult times of just a few years ago, when major firms faced dangerously declining returns

Rising turnover in consumer PR signals something of a resurrection since

the difficult times of just a few years ago, when major firms faced

dangerously declining returns

On the following pages we present our annual analysis of the main areas

of PR specialisation. Readers are urged to interpret these broadly,

using them as a guide to scale of operation and degree of


Precise positions in the tables are not important, bearing in mind that

the figures provided by consultancies are often rounded to the nearest

5% or 10%, while rankings are often separated by a few hundred pounds.

All of the consultancies shown in the sector tables are specialists, in

the sense that they derive substantial turnover from those areas.

In a year when an increasing number of PR firms declared their intention

to target the attractive growth areas of financial services,

telecommunications and pharmaceuticals, consumer PR finally began its

climb out of the doldrums.

Turnover attributed to consumer PR in 1995 grew by 15% to pounds 79.2m

for the top 40 firms. The top 10 firms on the list enjoyed even higher

rates, with a year-on-year rise of 23%. This compares with a drop for

the top 10 of 16% in 1994, and a less than exciting increase of 2% in


The list of consumer PR specialists is longer than any other, reflecting

the importance of this discipline to the industry and to its clients.

However, the fall-off below pounds 400,000 is quite rapid, with only two

companies between pounds 300,000 and pounds 400,000: Maureen Cropper PR

and Pielle. Cropper, better known as a medical specialist - one can

imagine much of its consumer work is in the OTC sector - just creeps

into the table, and Pielle just misses.

Apart from the economic outlook, a number of factors have contributed to

the resurrection of consumer PR.

First, brand owners are finally beginning to try to bypass the vice-like

grip of retailers with the use of stronger and more integrated


Second, the emphasis on wringing every ounce of effectiveness out of

every pound spent on marketing communication has seen a small but

observable shift of budgets into less costly techniques, like PR.

Finally, with more intense scrutiny of products by consumers in the

light of the continuing food scares, the onus is on brand owners to be

more open about ingredients and their effects.

Turning to the table, Hill and Knowlton dislodges Shandwick and emerges

this year at the top, with almost half its total turnover now attributed

to consumer work for clients like Adidas, Kodak and Walkers Smiths. This

continues a very impressive record since 1993, with growth rates between

1993/4 and 1994/5 of 50% and 175% respectively.

Admittedly, this year’s figure includes the budgets for two consumer

related sponsorships which could have been allocated to the sponsorship

table. But David McLaren, H&K’s chief executive, is looking for further

growth from this sector.

‘I don’t buy the proposition that there is a ceiling beyond which we

will have to spin off a new subsidiary,’ says McLaren. ‘We are nowhere

near that situation yet.’

Countrywide Communications, again in the second slot, saw a 10% rise in

turnover from consumer PR, helping to boost overall turnover by almost a

third, to pounds 21.3m. A lot of the firm’s growth came from its

existing client list, says chairman Peter Hehir, although there were new

business wins, including Great Western, Hewlett-Packard and Safeway.

According to Hehir: ‘What we are trying to follow is some very simple,

clear principles of running a business. There are two areas we have

concentrated on.

‘One is quality management, through the ISO 9000 system, so we are now

running the business in a more consistent way. We are also working very

hard on the Investors in People programme - they are also a client and

so that keeps us up to the mark.’

While on the surface Shandwick seemed to have a relatively uninspiring

year, shedding a number of marginal clients, at the same time it has

attracted new, prestigious names such as the Unilever brand Magnum and

Disney Interactive. The company is also busy investing heavily in

technology over the next three to five years to co-ordinate its systems


Biss Lancaster enjoyed a 22% boost in turnover from consumer PR work,

contributing to the 28% rise in total turnover to pounds 10.4m.

Graham Lancaster, chairman of Euro RSCG International Communications and

Biss Lancaster, says: ‘We have indeed had a strong year, with margins

picking up as well.

‘Margins were squeezed during the recession but now we are seeing far

higher margin growth.’

He argues that what kept Biss Lancaster on the growth track, even during

the darkest days of the recession, has been an unshakeable commitment to

training and recruitment. Biss Lancaster, like Countrywide, is following

the Investors in People programme.

In fifth place is Freud Communications, which has gone from strength to

strength over the past few years. It is not only the fastest-growing

agency in the top 50, climbing 70% over the previous year, but also tops

PR Week’s table of top-performing companies over the past five years.

Freud’s offering of strategic thinking combined with streetwise nous,

has landed it prominent clients, such as Pepsi, Channel 4 and the Big

Breakfast, although it parted company with games specialist Sega after

only ten months.

Charles Barker has had an exceptionally strong performance in consumer

work in 1995, up 30% on the previous year, which accounts for over 80%

of its 1995 turnover of pounds 7.5m.

As Steve Gebbett, managing director of Charles Barker Consumer Marketing

Division, explains: ‘This substantial increase was a mixture of

acquisitive growth - we bought Concept PR in May 1995 which added an OTC

and retail consumer portfolio - and organic growth, with some extremely

fine wins.

‘A particularly successful sector was exhibitions, where we were

appointed as lead marketing agency for the 1996 Society of Motor

Manufacturers and Traders’ International Motor Show, and as PR agency

for the 1996 Ideal Home Exhibitions at Earls Court and the Birmingham


And though the contract with Eurotunnel ended, Charles Barker was hired

by Sea France for the launch of its new service.

One of the latest trends in consumer PR is to try to make advertising

travel further by getting coverage for the ads themselves.

As Jonathan Choat of Cameron Choat, points out: ‘PR can often be

opportunistic and needs to be topical, but it does need the good, solid,

hard graft research, preparation and media contact as well. And this has

to be adequately reimbursed.’

The results of Richard Mulcaster & Associates (RMA) prove that

specialisation brings its own rewards.

Consumer PR, which is 90% of the business, is up 12%, as is turnover

generally. RMA has replaced the loss of accounts of Wines of South

Africa, which opened its own UK office and a Whitbread project, with

organic growth from existing clients and new businesses.

For example, the United Distillers’ business expanded from a programme

for Bell’s whisky, to the complete portfolio of all whiskies, brandy and


Now the agency wants to add food clients to its mainly drinks-based

portfolio with, among others, projects for Safeway.

Tan Harrington, managing director of the agency, says: ‘Over the last

year it has become increasingly apparent that clients are seeking out

the specialist PR company.

‘They have experienced at first hand companies whose transient staff

cannot know the relevant and ever more complicated media in any detail,

or develop a complete understanding of the product, the structure of the

trade or the market.’


Top 65 consumer PR


   Consultancy                    Turnover 1995    Consumer PR

                                     (pounds)       (pounds)

 1 Hill and Knowlton                20,025,000      9,212,000

 2 Countrywide Communications       21,263,000      5,316,000

 3 Shandwick UK                     36,843,000      4,790,000

 4 Biss Lancaster                   10,447,000      4,492,000

 5 Freud Communications              4,560,000      4,469,000

 6 Lynne Franks PR                   4,542,000      3,679,000

 7 Charles Barker                    7,510,000      3,654,000

 8 Cameron Choat & Partners          4,676,000      3,133,000

 9 Burson-Marsteller                15,657,000      3,131,000

10 Attenborough Associates           2,882,000      2,882,000

11 The Public Relations Business     3,190,000      2,552,000

12 The Quentin Bell Organisation     4,089,000      2,453,000

13 Richmond Towers                   4,975,000      1,990,000

14 Jackie Cooper PR                  1,790,000      1,790,000

15 Cohn & Wolfe                      4,144,000      1,740,000

16 The Rowland Company               4,724,000      1,701,000

17 Text 100 Group                    7,405,000      1,481,000

18 Fleishman-Hillard                 3,656,000      1,426,000

19 Richard Mulcaster & Assocs.       1,537,000      1,383,000

20 Beechey Morgan Associates         1,878,000      1,315,000

21 Harrison Cowley                   3,962,000      1,268,000

22 Kable Public Relations            1,202,000      1,172,000

23 The Grayling Group                6,764,000      1,170,000

24 Key Communications                3,256,000      1,140,000

25 Wearne Associates                 1,279,000      1,087,000

26 Scope Communications Group        4,662,000      1,026,000

27 Lexis Public Relations            2,092,000        941,000

28 Manning, Selvage & Lee            3,605,000        901,000

29 Spreckley Pittham                 1,584,000        871,000

30 Consolidated Communications       2,853,000        856,000

31 Nelson Bostock                    1,293,000        840,000

32 Jane Howard PR                      926,000        833,000

33 Communique Public Relations       1,760,000        827,000

34 Holmes & Marchant PR Div.         3,913,000        822,000

35 Aurelia Public Relations            812,000        812,000

36 New Media Group                     844,000        802,000

37 Elizabeth Hindmarch PR            1,010,000        778,000

38 Staniforth Public Relations       1,939,000        776,000

39 Mathieu Thomas/Herald             1,529,000        703,000

40 Nexus PR                          1,377,000        689,000

41 GCI Group London                  6,872,000        687,000

42= Darwall Smith Associates         1,289,000        670,000

42= Stephanie Churchill PR           1,117,000        670,000

44 Media Enterprises Intl.           1,114,000        668,000

45 The PR Connection                 1,131,000        656,000

46 Barkers PR (Birmingham)             801,000        653,000

47 Fishburn Hedges                   3,593,000        647,000

48 Willoughby PR                       949,000        636,000

49 Daniel J. Edelman                 5,176,000        621,000

50 Infopress                         1,934,000        619,000

51 Harvard Public Relations          2,880,000        576,000

52 Gordon Bruce Associates           1,044,000        574,000

53 Seal Public Relations               953,000        572,000

54 Handel Communications             1,171,000        550,000

55 Leedex Group                      2,937,000        529,000

56 Storm Communications                518,000        518,000

57 Ptarmigan Consultants               956,000        478,000

58 Craigie Taylor Intl.              1,708,000        461,000

59 Condor Public Relations             904,000        461,000

60 Golley Slater PR                  2,122,000        446,000

61 The Red Consultancy                 777,000        435,000

62 Paskett Public Relations            509,000        433,000

63 Band & Brown Comms                1,642,000        411,000

64 McCann-Erickson PR                1,351,000        406,000

65 Maureen Cropper PR                  884,000        318,000



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