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Our 2016 EMEA PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 200 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The former Mmd was a pioneer in the Eastern European public relations market, establishing a network of offices across the region at a time when most of its competitors were small local players, and focusing on high-value corporate, financial, and public affairs assignments at a time when the field was primarily about publicity. Now operating as part of Huntsworth’s global Grayling brand under the leadership of 20-year agency veteran Jan Simunek, the firm maintains an impressive footprint, with 160 full-time people in 10 offices generating fee income of around €9 million despite market conditions (troubled political times from Hungary to Ukraine, a reduction in the number of multimarket assignments, a limited talent pool) that have forced some competitors to scale back in the region.
Grayling continues to handle some of the most interesting regional assignments for clients such as British Airways (seven markets); Astra (six markets); and Diageo, Google, HP enterprise, UK Trade & Investment and Visa (five markets each)—as well as connecting clients such as Croatia, DHL, eBay, and Lego across both western and eastern European markets. Public affairs has been a major growth driver—the firm has been working with Visa to lead discussion around the “shadow economy” in the Czech Republic, and with Poker Stars to reduce taxes on gambling—but other highlights range from employer branding for Novo Nordisk to destination marketing for Croatia, to promoting British expertise in energy, healthcare and infrastructure across the region for UKTI. New business, meanwhile, came from the European Gaming & Betting Association and PGE in Poland, SAP in Croatia, Foxconn in the Czech Republic, and TowerCom in Slovakia, among others.
The Croatia-based 404 is active not only in Croatia but in all the former Yugoslavia countries (Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro). The firm was founded in 2014 when the agency the founders previously worked for went bankrupt. The timing, of course, was far from ideal. The Croatian market was in bad shape and many were losing hope in any recovery.
Even so, founders Nikola Vrdoljak and Martina Pintarić marched onwards with the belief that the modern corporation holds communications central to its core. 404 launched in Zagreb as an integrated communications and digital agency. When hiring, the firm looked for senior talent who sought to broaden their expertise into digital. The combination of senior talent with emerging services has yielded growth from €686,934 in 2014 to nearly €2m in 2015 (headcount more than doubled to 33.)
Key clients include Croatian Telecom (T-Mobile), Franck, Istra D.M.C., Croatian National Television, Rochester Institute of Technology, Spar, Wrigley, Schneider Electric, Lavazza, including new wins Coca –Cola HBC, Coca-Cola Services, Crodux, Uber International Holding B.V., British American Tobacco (BAT), Belje, Ledo, Philipps Romania and BMW. Notable work includes change management communications for Croatian Telecom, as well as applying its mindset to native advertising, measurement and editorial initiatives. — AaS
All Channels Communications Group (Bulgaria/Independent)
Fourteen years after being established in Bulgaria, ACCG has garnered a number of awards — including being the first Bulgarian agency to win a Global SABRE Award. So it’s not surprising that growth is up 52% with profits at 94%. The firm now has 70 people. CEO A. Dourchev created All Channels in 2001 when he was just 24-years-old. Now its client portfolio includes Raiffeisenbank, Philips, AVON, EKO Hellenic Petroleum, LG, Discovery, Mobiltel, Zagorka Brewery, Coca-Cola, Fanta, European Commission in Bulgaria — in addition to new wins European Parliament, Amstel, BASF, Bfashion, DHL, Fox International, Henkel and Reckitt Benckiser.
Notable campaigns includes work to increase sales for Philips headphones by creating a soundtrack of the sounds of urban life. The result included 30% increase in sales. For Avon, ACCG created a campaign related to domestic violence — including the launch of a product developed to cover domestic violence bruises. The firm also launched a few internal programs: All Channels Xcelerator, an internal startup program designed to foster creative and entrepreneurial endeavors among employees and the Golden Headlamp to enhance relationships with its current clients, among others. — AaS
Dăescu Borțun Olteanu (Independent)
Formed by the 2014 merger of Borțun Olteanu PR and the Digital Consulting & People Public Relationships Agency, Dăescu Borțun Olteanu quickly began to stand out—even in a Romanian market that punches considerably above its weight in terms of creativity. The firm won its first EMEA region SABRE Award in 2014 for a small but perfectly executed campaign relaunching Cafeneaua Veche, the oldest café in Bucharest. It took home its second Gold SABRE Award last year for its work with Mediagalaxy, and this year earned four nominations—more than any other firm from Eastern Europe.
The work ranged from its “Zero Redness” campaign for Gillette and the launch of the Fusion ProGlide FlexBall razor to “The City Changes With Us” campaign for Bucharest’s Mega Mall. But while consumer PR is clearly the firm’s greatest strength, it also offers considerable expertise in CSR and cause marketing—it launched UNICEF's first online fund in Romania, a raising awareness campaign in order to offer support for families in need and their children—and in the creative industries, which has been a particular focus over the past 12 months. That has seen the firm pick up business such as Romanian Design Week; Ideo Ideis, a major theatre festival; and Cockaigne, a fashion and related arts magazine that the agency is editing. Another emphasis has been gaming, with new business from Amber Studio, the biggest Romanian independent gaming studio; Carbon, an incubator for independent game developers in the region; ESL Arena, which organises gaming events; and Philips TV. They join more mainstream clients including Gillette, Old Spice, adidas, Logitech, Marina Yachting, AOC, Philips MMD, King, CanPack, and Subway. — PH
MSLGroup (Publicis Groupe)
Last year’s Eastern European Consultancy of the Year winner, MSL has only grown stronger in the region over the past 12 months as the disparate parts of its network have started to work more closely together. That means improved integration between the market-leading Polish operation (the former Ciszewski Public Relations), the creative hub in Romania (the former Practice), and the Bulgarian operation (the former MARC), as well as the creation of a network that includes Publicis Groupe owned offices in 11 additional markets, all under the leadership of newly-appointed CEE chief executive Sebastian Hejnowski. He leads a team that includes Romanian creative; managing director, Poland, Sebastian Stępak; Sofia-based head of research Maya Marashlian; and new additions including BartekJanik, head of digital in Poland. As a result, MSL is working on more multi-market business for clients such as Bristol Myers-Squibb (nine markets), P&G (six markets), Siemens, Honeywell, and Reckitt Benckiser (four markets) and is sharing more business (GSK, Samsung, Renault, OMV) with its Publicis Groupe sister agencies.
The firm is also developing new capabilities: Brand Heart is a new digital newsroom offer; People’s Lab is an online research tool that monitors social channels; DiverCity brings together experts in everything from neuroscience to IT to provide specialized client counsel. The work reflects that diversity of thinking and emphasis on creativity, from helping Discovery Networks celebrate a 30th anniversary by allowing viewers to become programme creators to helping Philips recruit brand ambassadors for its TVs in Bulgaria, to supporting McDonald’s with stakeholder outreach in Romania to educating people about hepatitis B for BMS. — PH
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