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Everyone loves a good comeback story. In Ogilvy PR's case, though, few probably foresaw the scale of its turnaround when Michael Frohlich took charge of an ailing operation that had effectively served to hamstring the PR firm's wider regional ambitions for the best part of a decade.
That was in 2012 and, since then, Ogilvy PR's reinvention as one of the UK's best PR firms has been dramatic. The agency is now worth around £10m in fee income, and employes 120 people, having grown at a double-digit rate in each of the past three years. But numbers alone do not tell the whole story: Ogilvy PR is now a regular contender in some of the country's biggest pitches, helping it net significant new business (often global) from BP, Google, Puma, Merck, Allianz, AkzoNobel, the UN, and Hellman's, along with organic growth from key clients like Unilever, American Express, UKTI, UPS, Vodafone, Nestle and Ford.
Underpinning all of this is the firm's creative prowess, because it is a key reason behind Ogilvy's domination of the Holmes Report's Global Creative Index, thanks to such campaigns as Project Patty, Beyond Dark's Measure of Pleasure and — more recently — some superb work for British Airways, Puma, Vodafone and Old El Paso.
Frohlich has also assembled a well-rounded leadership team that features plenty of creativity and insight, including deputy MD Lara Leventhal, employee engagement head Lizzie Barrett, issues/crisis lead David Carter, and sports marketing head Jonathan McCallum — all of which has helped to support a model that features increasing specialisation. And, as befits an Ogilvy group agency, the firm is able to actually walk-the-walk where integration is concerned, giving it access to market-leading capabilities across planning, creative technology, digital/social media and healthcare. —AS
Blue Rubicon (Independent)
Since its inception 15 years ago, Blue Rubicon has been distinguished by founder Fraser Hardie’s belief in “joined up thinking”—the convergence of corporate and marketing communications and public affairs—a rigorous approach to stakeholder analysis and account planning—it employed its first researcher when it was just four people strong—and by a “total communications” approach begins with forensic research and analysis, continues through an insights and creative planning phase to execution and sophisticated evaluation.
All of that has helped Blue Rubicon grow into one of the largest independents in the UK, with 225 people and fees of $34m last year (the firm also has 20 people in three international offices—Doha, Dubai and Singapore—funded in part by the sale of a majority stake to private equity firm LDC). It has strengthened its capabilities in recent years by its acquisition of public affairs firm Open Road and its launch of the Blue Rubicon Institute, a reputation consulting business. Clients include Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, HSBC and the Qatar 2022 World Cup, and the work ranges from strategic counsel to troubled UK retailer Tesco to corporate communications support for fast-food giant McDonald’s (on both sides of the Atlantic) to a SABRE-nominated campaign for BDO (championing the UK’s mid-sized businesses).— PH
Golin (Interpublic Group)
After two consecutive years as the Holmes Report's UK Consultancy of the Year, Golin could be forgiven for taking a breather in 2014. Then again, that option is rarely available at publicly held companies and —in any case — UK chief Matt Neale (who has now expanded his remit to include EMEA and New York) is not exactly the type of agency head to rest on his laurels.
So in 2014, Golin grew by another 18% in the UK, reaching £15m in fee income (which does not include its Virgo Health subsidiary). Headcount grew by 30% to 150 people, at a consultancy that now combines serious consumer and corporate heft with some excellent digital and social media capabilities.
New business highlights included more big UK brands, such as First Great Western, Sainsbury's; global consumer briefs, from Unilever Spreads, AB Inbev, Smirnoff, and WorldPay; and social/digital work for Siemens. Golin's campaign work also saw a notable improvement in quality, after the firm's global g4 restructuring and its acquisition of local digital firm Fuse, helping it develop some top-notch work for Kenco ('Coffee vs Gangs'), and Johnnie Walker ('Fabric of Flavour.)
Also of note is the the firm's deep UK leadership team, which now includes UK MD Bibi Hilton, head of social Neil Kleiner, creative head Charlie Coney and corporate head Nick Bishop. And, in keeping with Golin's reputation, there is plenty of focus on internal culture and thought leadership. London is a key element in Golin's ambition to be the agency of this decade; the evidence suggests that the operation is firing on all cylinders. — AS
After a difficult period during the Global Financial Crisis, one of the UK's most respected PR firms has roared back to relevance over the past 24 months, as much a testimony to business growth as it is to its enduringly unique, independent culture, which sees 100% of the business owned by a third of its 100 staffers. Lansons always rates highly on workplace metrics, and with good reason — this is a firm that understands the value of its people, who have responded in turn by helping deliver 25% growth in 2014 to almost £12m in fee income.
Founded in 1989, Lansons success owes much to the vitality of its founders Tony Langham and Clare Parsons, who have ensured that the firm progresses with the times. Best known for its financial services focus, Lansons has evolved in recent years to a higher-level strategic position, counselling such clients as the Co-Operative Bank on its stabilisation and turnaround, Novartis on employee engagement, and the board of the Stobard Group. Change management has become an increasingly important component of the firm's offering, along with solid capabilities in digital, social media, B2B and issues/crisis.
In 2014, there was major new business from Novartis, Barclays, BNY Mellon and Luxembourg for Finance, adding to a client roster that already includes Xuber, Xchanging and the Isle of Man Government, and significant retainer work for the Payment Protection Fund. Lansons also contributed to the national success of MoneySuperMarket in the past year, culminating in their ad campaign being the inspiration for the front page of The Sun on the day after the 2015 budget.
Probably the biggest campaign highlight was the firm's continued work for the Cooperative Bank, helping to re-establish its ethical credentials in the face of tough reputational challenges and media scrutiny. Lansons worked as a close adviser to Invesco Perpetual to manage the communications following the departure of fund manager, Neil Woodford, and was selected to launch UK fintech body Innovate Finance to the UK media and Government. And it has been handling employee engagement for Novartis on the planned integration of the GSK oncology business.
One of the benefits of independence, of course, is flexibility — demonstrated by Lansons' decision to hold on to most its staff during the recession, even as its publicly-held rivals were aggressively slashing costs. If the past two years are any guide, that type of thinking appears to have paid off, with Lansons bouncing back to impressive top and bottomline growth. — AS
M&C Saatchi PR (M&C Saatchi Group)
Given its size (£5.7m in 2014 revenue) and relatively low profile, it is easy to forget that M&C Saatchi PR started life five years ago, following a restructuring of parent M&C Saatchi's PR resources upon the departure of Talk PR from the building. Under the leadership of global CEO Molly Aldridge, MD Chris Hides and (more recently) ECD Steve Strickland, M&C Saatchi PR has established itself as a topnotch addition to the UK's already-crowded consumer PR market, handling business for a range of major brands, including EE, Ocado, Capco, Currys PC World, Peroni, Moroccanoil and viagogo.
In 2014, the agency also added some significant new assignments, including KP and all consumer PR for Red Bull’s Culture Clash and Soapbox events; international mandates for Foot Locker and Lastminute.com; making AXA's roster; Universal's 50 Shades of Grey movie; and a Muslim Charities project promoting the Muslim Charities and Organisations.
All of that helped revenues grow by 40% in 2014, helped by the launch of an in-house events and experiential unit led by director Tom Johnson. There were also several eye-catching campaigns, notably the Britain's 'Next Top Supplier' for Ocado; the House of Peroni; and Muslim Charities and Organisations. —AS
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