Public relations has not escaped the current squeeze on marketing
services at the moment, and public relations has not escaped. Several
agencies among the top 20 report staff cuts in response to client budget
Cohn & Wolfe, however, claims to have boosted staff to 120 from 93 back
in the spring, on the back of business wins that have "far outweighed
losses". And this following a 33% rise in income in 2000.
The agency is owned by WPP, acquired when the latter snapped up the
Young & Rubicam advertising group last year. It was Y&R's number-two PR
network, arguably providing an outlet for conflicting accounts for its
big sister agency, Burson-Marsteller.
Earlier in the year, managing director Martin Ellis said C&W's focus had
always been on understanding the client's brand and its audiences, and
delivering tangible, measurable results, predominantly through media
relations programmes. "We don't believe in having media relations
specialists," he added. "Every one of our staff is talking to
journalists every day of the week."
It is an approach that appeals to many clients. Account gains in the
past year, worth around £1.7m, include Sky, Unilever (Domestos),
AstraZeneca (Zyban), Unisys, Samsung, Playbox, Biogen, Wildfire and
Losses, amounting to £730,000, have included Deloitte, Lloyds TSB,
the Department of Trade and Industry, I-Fusion, First Quote and Top
Coca-Cola's much-praised Coke Auction web site (www.cokeauction.co.uk),
offered the chance to bid for 'must have' teenage items, and experiences
that cannot be bought. Publicising sales promotions is notoriously
difficult, and Cohn & Wolfe's answer was to create a series of
newsworthy prizes that could be built into the programme.
The promotion was launched with an opportunity on the auction site to
bid for a free university education. Other prizes included a chance to
enjoy a white Christmas by having your house covered with real snow.
The programme achieved coverage in every national newspaper and many
regional titles, with a combined reach for the coverage of 150
Equivalent advertising space would have cost £1.3m. More than
250,000 people registered on the web site, and more than 4 million
ringpulls and labels were collected.
Coverage was at least as extensive for the launch of GlaxoSmithKline's
Zyban, the first prescription-only treatment to help people stop
smoking. Here, though, the key objective was to raise awareness while
avoiding claims of 'wonder pills'. All objectives were met, according to
Omnicom's Countrywide Porter Novelli has been gearing up for growth. Its
three-year plan includes investing in the 'growth' practices of
healthcare, financial services and IT/telecoms, and targeting key
clients with growth potential. the plans also saw Neil Backwith promoted
to chief executive of the UK agency and of Porter Novelli Europe. Fiona
Joyce was promoted to UK managing director, and Sally Williams to
managing director for strategic business development.
The healthcare practice has grown by 60%. Despite a difficult year for
the City, financial services is up by 80%. And the agency is claiming a
150% growth in IT/telecoms work, where it has established a new global
practice, Porter Novelli Convergence.
The list of account wins includes GlaxoSmithKline, AXA, Barclays, the
Food Standards Agency, Worldcom, GNR, Esso Lubricants, Johnnie Walker
Countrywide Porter Novelli won two categories in this year's Public
Relations Consultants Association awards. One of these, in the finance
sector, was for a campaign for the GM credit card, which offers loyal
users discounts on Vauxhall cars. The agency created a credit card index
that changed the perceptions of journalists, leading them to put less
emphasis on interest rates, and more on features such as loyalty
HILL & KNOWLTON
Although Hill & Knowlton prides itself on being a multi-skilled agency -
it loathes the term generalist - it is also firmly established as the
biggest player in consumer public relations. Almost half its income -
£13.1m last year - is derived from addressing the consumer market,
and it gets almost twice as much business from this sector as any of its
This year it has established two startups - PiranhaKid to handle
conflicts, and Bisquit, a design offshoot to handle everything from
event management to web design.
Most account losses in the past year have been due to budget cuts at
dotcom companies such as Eurobet, BuildOnLine and Stepstone, the agency
claims. Gains have included Marconi, Compaq, Philips, Findus, the Rugby
Football Union, Nestle, the AA and Britvic.
Recent projects have included work for Crookes Healthcare to tackle the
problem of young eczema sufferers resisting the use of creams to help
their condition. The agency created two characters, Mr itch and Mrs
Soothe, and stars to go on a wall chart every time emollient cream is
applied. The prize for full compliance over time is an electronic pet -
an apt choice, since many eczema sufferers are forbidden normal
Grayling is a subsidiary of Havas Advertising, which plans to
restructure its below-the-line holdings due to the current economic
climate. Nevertheless, Grayling claims, its owner is pleased with its
performance. The second half of the year, it adds, has been far better
than the first.
New business includes Manganese Bronze Holdings, the British Toy & Hobby
Association, CGNU, and the Department of Health. Grayling lost the
accountancy software company Sage.
A campaign for Bayer's Canesten this year yielded the memorable headline
that embarrassment is becoming a health hazard. It was based on market
research showing that men and women don't like discussing conditions
such as sweat rash, athlete's foot, 'jock itch' and thrush, and often
would rather ignore them. Media coverage was widespread, prompting
demand for two booklets produced by Grayling - one for health
professionals and one for the general public.
TOP 20 PUBLIC RELATIONS AGENCIES
Rank Agency Income 2000 Income 1999 %
(pounds) (pounds) change
1 Incepta Group 36,795,000 30,027,000 22.54
2 Weber Shandwick Worldwide 31,929,000 28,845,000 10.69
3 Bell Pottinger Communications 30,479,000 24,514,000 24.33
4 Hill & Knowlton UK 28,934,000 25,201,000 14.81
5 Countrywide Porter Novelli 20,906,000 19,019,000 9.92
6 BSMG Worldwide 17,919,000 9,821,000 82.46
7 Burson-Marsteller 17,187,000 17,554,000 -2.09
8 GCI/APCO 16,282,000 11,706,000 39.09
9 Good Relations Group 13,124,000 9,876,000 32.89
10 Biss Lancaster 11,282,000 9,688,000 16.45
11 Chime Online 10,741,000 n/a n/a
12 Ketchum 10,570,000 8,806,000 20.03
13 Edelman PR Worldwide 10,458,000 9,001,000 16.19
14 Medical Action Communications 10,200,000 9,900,000 3.03
15 College Hill 9,831,000 7,457,000 31.84
16 Grayling 9,291,000 8,794,000 5.65
17 Cohn & Wolfe 8,409,000 6,309,000 33.29
18 Fishburn Hedges 8,158,000 6,768,000 20.54
19 Freud Communications 7,485,000 6,690,000 11.88
20 Firefly Communications 7,076,000 5,652,000 25.19
Source: Marketing league tables.
WEBER SHANDWICK WORLDWIDE
In the category of one to watch is Weber Shandwick, the product of much
rationalisation within Interpublic. During 2001, the agency has worked
for clients including Coke, Kodak and British Midland. Weber, which
included under its umbrella McCann PR and Ludgate, merged with Shandwick
This is the grouping in second place in the table, which is based on
figures for 2000.
This autumn, however, Interpublic has merged it with BSMG, a PR network
it acquired when it bought True North.
The rationale for the latest merger was apparently surplus capacity in
the US, but it creates a UK agency with an income of some £50m.
Fishburn Hedges is a subsidiary of ad agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO,
in the Omnicom stable. In an intriguing move, it has recruited Sue
Garrard, a senior board director at AMV, to help broaden its marketing
perspective. It also has a well-established design arm, and has
recruited Martin Brown, formerly of the Design Council, to head it.
Fishburn Hedges is also among the few big agencies to have increased
staff numbers in what has clearly been a difficult year for the
Account gains in the past year have included Transport for London, on
congestion charging, an internal communications brief from Consignia and
corporate communications for Investcorp and Visa. It lost first-e bank
and the design and production of Railtrack's accounts.
One of its most interesting recent projects has been for
The brief was to raise awareness of the client's expertise in working
with under-performing internet businesses. However, it wasn't possible
publicise case studies because of confidentiality issues.
The pan-European campaign therefore hinged on PwC taking ownership of
issues such as cash 'burn rates' and share prices. Widley covered in the
media, the programme is credited with attracting at least five new
clients for PwC.
Four years ago, Firefly Communications ranked somewhere in the industry
leagues table's mid 30s. Now, for the first time, it has reached the top
20 - and it has done so without falling for the blandishments of the
many who would like to acquire it. As ambitious as it is independent,
Firefly opened a Paris office last year, and one in Munich in
As an IT specialist, it has suffered somewhat on the business front from
dotcom failures and slashed budgets. Recent account gains, on the other
hand, have included Andersen, i2 Technologies, Indigo Vision and
Shortlisted for the CBI innovative company of the year, it was PR Week's
agency of the year in 2000. In this year's PRCA awards, managing
director Claire Walker was voted 'best old professional'.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of 3M's Post-It Notes, Firefly linked
with the Royal Academy and invited distinguished artists and celebrities
to create miniature masterpieces on Post-Its. These were exhibited in
the Royal Academy restaurant and auctioned on line, raising thousands of
pounds for charity. One subsequently achieved an entry in the Guinness
Book of Records as the most valuable Post-It Note ever.
It was a story the media loved. Opportunities to see have been
calculated at 57 million.