Midsize PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report

2015 North America Midsize PR Agencies of the Year

Our 2015 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada.

Analysis of each of the Finalists for each category can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. Winners were announced on May 5 at the SABRE Awards in New York, where winners also received their trophies.

Midsize Agency of the Year — Finn Partners

 It’s always a challenge balancing core values—in the case of Finn Partners, “work hard and play nice,” “make a difference in the world,” and “collaboration” with growth, but so far Peter Finn’s firm seems to be doing a decent job. Founded at the end of 2011, it has seen revenues increase from $25 million to $65 million—with interesting acquisitions including education specialist Widmeyer in Washington and last year’s Johnson King in the UK and DVL Seigenthaler in Nashville supplemented by strong underlying growth. At the same time, it maintains its commitment to creating one of the industry’s best workplaces.

The firm has genuinely national reach. In addition to its New York headquarters office, which has 170 people, there are now 80 people in Nashville (a growth market so far ignored by the giant multinationals), 60 in DC, 50 on the west coast, and 40 in the Midwest, including a new office in Detroit that is building on the firm’s work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to play a role in—and benefit from—the city’s recovery. The acquisitions have brought in new talent—Ronald Roberts and Beth Seigenthaler Courtney in Nashville, for example—to join Finn, president Richard Funess, and industry veterans like Scott Widmeyer in DC and Ron Rogers in LA in a formidable leadership cadre.

The business portfolio is well-balanced too, with technology and education the largest practices, but significant business in the consumer, CSR, healthcare, public affairs and travel groups, supplemented by good digital capabilities. The client list includes ExxonMobil, Hotels.com, Hyundai Hope on Wheels, IEEE, Jack Daniel’s, Jamaica, the Kellogg Foundation, Petsmart, and Turkey. Interesting work ranged from helping the somewhat staid IEEE (the professional organization for engineers) build its digital and social presence to working with Jamba Juice on the launch of its freshly-squeezed line, to launching the No More domestic violence initiative, a campaign that builds on the success of the agency’s past work on the issue with Liz Claiborne, creating a movement around an issue the team clearly feels strongly about.—PH


Allison + Partners (MDC Partners)

Allison + Partners has been a mainstay on our Agency of the Year list for consistently showing remarkable growth coupled with impressive work. Even as the firm has grown to new geographies around the world, CEO Scott Allison remains committed to operating under a unified P&L that rallies everyone around one goal: doing great work.

Now in its 14th year, Allison is up 12% to $37m and headcount is 230 across its operations in the US, Europe and Asia.  Allison’s client portfolio is a balance of household names and emerging disrupters across many sectors. Among these: Toyota, Samsung, Sony, WhatsApp, Orbitz, Best Western International, Progressive, Seventh Generation, BoxedWater, NBC Universal, Honeywell, Dick Clark Entertainment, Merlin Entertainment, Adecco and Harley-Davidson. Increasingly, Allison has achieved a feat that many agencies of its size is trying to do: grow clients into multi-region, multi-sector assignments. Already, Allison has accomplished this by growing clients like Basis, Costamare, Rally Software and Spredfast among others.

Allison has also managed to grow across both technology and consumer — which, together, represent 30% of revenue. Next on its plate is growing its corporate practice with solid reputation and crisis communications expertise. While nearly all agencies are looking for fresh talent to build out new offerings, Allison has made smart investments with Kevin Nabipour from the New York Times leading its content strategies group and putting Cathy Planchard on the research and insights work.  

Allison created the “Hello Texas!” campaign for Toyota as it relocated from California to Plano, Texas. The multi-faceted campaign involved VIP receptions, block parties and a $1m contribution to the Plano ISD Academy High School and car donations. Attendance to the events topped 12,000 — 3x the number expected. With Progressive, Allison helped the insurance company when it decided — instead of dropping millions on a Super Bowl ad — to produce a YouTube spoof with ESPN personality Kenny Maynes and Marshawn Lynch. Allison secured 550 million impressions, 47 minutes of earned air time and 57 million digital impressions around the effort. — AaS

Coyne (Independent)

With nine campaigns shortlisted in this year’s SABRE Awards, Coyne has proved to be a consistent standout when it comes to driving results while also delivering standout work. The firm is built on the seemingly simple — but too often overlooked — idea that the best people will bring the best clients.

The New Jersey-based firm has satellite offices in New York and Los Angeles. Now in its 24th year, Coyne has grown to 155 employees and revenues are up 14% and stands at $23 million in fee income. CEO and founder Tom Coyne and president Rich Lukis lead the firm’s impressive portfolio of clients that include: The Walt Disney Company, Hard Rock International, Chrysler, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Shell Lubricants and Pfizer, plus new add-ons in 2014 that include TripAdvisor, Novartis Global Oncology, Newman’s Own and Wyndham Worldwide among others. Last year, its top sectors were across consumer, digital and healthcare and the top services were PR counsel, social media expertise and digital capabilities.

Coyne’s body of award-winning work include the Pennzoil - Breaking Barriers campaign that made an unexpected splash with media outside of Pennzoil’s typical coverage area to drive the company’s credibility as a technologically-advanced organization with cutting edge products. For IMAX, Coyne worked to show audiences that IMAX adds to the cinematic experience — even as movie goers are grappling with rising pricing. To drive the company’s overall goals amid Hollywood’s downward trend, the team positioned IMAX as a technology and industry leader and drove trial at the box office with a new audience. — AaS


Once  known primarily for its consumer media relations capabilities, DKC has diversified to impressive effect over recent years, and now ranks as one of the 10 largest independent PR firms in the country. Importantly, that growth (+14% in 2014) has come as much from geographic expansion as from a smart broadening of its service capabilities, beyond its traditional strengths in consumer marketing and media/entertainment into such areas as public affairs, digital and social media, strategic marketing, advertising and branding, the latter of which included the launch of a specialist arm called BR&.

Headquartered in New York, with additional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC and Albany, DKC now numbers 200 staffers across the country, generating fee income of $41.5m in 2014. Key new business over the past 12 months  included Foursquare, New York Road Runners, Steinway Piano, National Board of Review, Anheuser-Busch’s Goose Island Beer Company, Cars.com, Nickelodeon, Medium, NYU Langone Medical Center, JC Penney, Liberty Science Center, New Republic, Evolution Media Capital and OpenTable. The new business added to roster that includes key clients Delta Air Lines, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Jaguar Land Rover, USTA/US Open, Esquire magazine and Gannett.

Much of DKC’s success likely stems for its settled leadership team, which has been overseen by president Sean Cassidy for more than a decade now. Other key figures include managing directors John Marino, Joe DePlasco and Matt Traub, with the firm adding a number of senior executives in 2014, including EVP Molly Currey and SVPs Ella Robinson and Michelle Cox.

DKC’s campaign highlights, furthermore, illustrate the firm’s ability to blend its specialist expertise into something that is more than the sum of its parts, such as the successful launch of Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts documentary, and eye-catching work for Airbnb at the Sundance Film Festival.— AS

Ruder Finn (Independent)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the fracturing of the old Ruder Finn is that it appears to have worked out well for all three sibling agencies — the other two are also included among our Agency of the Year finalists — with the business still operating under the Ruder Finn brand experiencing 17% growth last year and seeing revenues of around $74m, good enough to hold on to a position among the top five US independents.

Almost as surprising, growth in the US was around 20% (the firm also has a thriving China operation) and 60% of RF's revenue now comes from seven-figure clients. The healthcare practice is still formidable, (serving clients such as abbvie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, and Novartis) but the business is now better balanced, with strong contributions from technology (Cisco, Nokia); corporate (Citi, Genentech, MetLife); and consumer (Cartier, Home Depot, Volkswagen).

New business in 2014 came from Nokia, Belkin, Barclays, Sanofi, McDonaldís, and Blancpain. High-profile assignments included helping Cisco digitize nations around the world, including France and India; launching a new tablet for Nokia; and digital and experiential work for McDonaldís. The RF Studios unit continues to produce a wealth of great content supporting these cases, and the firm has also enhanced its analytics capabilities in recent months.— PH