Agency of the Year 2007: Public Relations Agency of the Year - Best of the rest

This year will go down as the one in which PR agencies worked to consolidate their digital skills, either by integrating staffers into their mainstream practice or setting up specialist divisions. All four shortlisted agencies (the list was derived from Marketing's sister magazine PRWeek's shortlist for agency of the year) invested considerable sums in meeting clients' desire to influence consumers online by targeting bloggers and social networking websites.

Red was one agency that went down the specialist division route, setting up Shiny Red to offer clients online expertise. It succeeded in pulling in new clients Philips, Sky and Microsoft. In its first year, this unit has generated more than £300,000 in revenue - testament to the market potential.

The judges were impressed by Red's creativity, which included creating a 'Domesday Book' of emails by Windows Live Hotmail, in conjunction with the British Library. Email Britain attracted 20,000 emails of a 'memorable' nature that would sum up the times we live in, and 1m visits to the associated website as well as extensive media coverage. 'Big thinking, which generated big results,' said one judge.

Other notable creative ideas included eBay Speedbays - booths set up in shopping centres that allowed shoppers to take part in five-minute auctions for charity. The activity prompted 60m in-page impressions on eBay and raised the excitement factor in online bidding.

Fee income rose by £1m over 2007 to push the agency past the £10m mark, with profit margins sustained at 20% (above the 15% industry average). New business came from Nintendo, John Lewis, Abbey, Nokia and videogames company Electronic Arts.

Retention was also good. Red now has four clients (Johnson & Johnson, MSN, McDonald's and B&Q) that have remained with the agency for 10 years or more. It also managed to keep staff churn down to an impressive 10%.

Event PR specialist Cake succeeded on this front too, with only 15% of staff leaving throughout the year - well below the 24% industry average.

The agency's stand-out work in 2007 included Ben and Jerry's' Sundae on the Common music festival and the Moto Red Square live music event for Motorola, publicising the hand-set manufacturer's association with Bono's RED campaign. The Scissor Sisters' show took place in Trafalgar Square, but had an audience of 1.3m via transmission on Channel 4.

The agency picked up 12 pieces of new business from May 2006 to 2007, including Expedia, Vodafone, Visit London and Air New Zealand, and lost Reebok only when it merged with Adidas last year.

Seven-year-old Cow PR also added a good haul of blue-chip clients in 2007, including Kellogg, Heinz, More Th>n and Fish4, helping to boost its pitch conversion rate from 45% to 70%. The agency secured a significant amount of organic growth, with half of its clients expanding their briefs.

This growth, both organic and new, led to a 25% boost in fee income to £2m and a very healthy 25% profit margin for the agency.

Cow is in the early stages of initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint by 30%, including altering its electricity sourcing and using a taxi firm that drives hybrid cars.

One judge described Cow as 'a fun, lively agency clearly much-loved by clients and employees alike'.

Edelman is the only shortlisted agency to have undergone a significant change in management this year, after the integration of JCPR saw one of its founders, Robert Phillips, take the chief executive role. Partner Jackie Cooper is now vice-chair and UK creative director.

Although Edelman's 25% staff turnover rate is higher than other shortlisted agencies, the company boosted its staff numbers by 19%. Its 11% increase in fee income is all the more impressive given its status as one of the UK's 10 biggest agencies. New clients included Motorola, Shell and Merck.

JCPR's big campaign this year was the consumer launch of videogame Halo 3 for Xbox. It replicated the style of a blockbuster film launch, with a red-carpet premiere event and party attended by celebrities.

Edelman has also striven to innovate in the digital sphere this year, creating Story Crafter, a web-based tool for publishing news releases to social media sites. It also hosted an event that debated how web 2.0 will influence society in the future.


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