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With difficult market conditions creating problems for most of the multinational PR agencies operating in Russia, Ketchum Maslov had to work overtime in 2015 to maintain its position as one of the market leaders in the Russian market. Looking back now, it can be pretty pleased with the way the year played out: it successfully repitched the Skoda business and then picked up luxury automaker Rolls-Royce and three brands from BMW (including MINI and Motorrad) to maintain its leadership position in the auto sector; it established a change in management practice and helped retail chain Tehnosila through a major rebranding; it expanded its social media capabilities and developed a campaign for new social networking client Odnoklassniki.ru (Russia’s Classmates).
The firm continued to deliver campaigns that gained recognition in Russia and in international competition: supporting the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme 2015, the longest bicycle stage race in the world; following up an award-winning effort from 2014 with the Chekhov is Alive series of theatrical online readings for Google Russia; and giving Western Union Russia a digital makeover on Facebook. Amid all of that, the firm still found time to support the development of the Russian PR market, delivering a new “introduction to public relations” course authored by client service director Oleg Abdurashitov, and contributing to the UN Sustainable Development “Global Goals” campaign. — PH
Last year was a particularly challenging year for the Russian business — consumer purchasing power plummeted 40% amid a massive economic crisis and government. So it’s unsuprisingly that government spend on PR contracted dramatically. In response, CROS quickly diversified its sector expertise beyond government to pharma, financial markets and automotive. The quick thinking paid off. CROS fee income grew 5.6% to over $19m with more than 150 employees. Founded in 1995 by Russian economist Sergey Zverev, CROS has evolved from a firm that specializes in public affairs into a broad range of PR specialities, including digital, marketing, crisis, information & analysis, as well as design and video production.
In 2015, the Moscow-based firm partnered with Chinese giant Blue Focus in an agreement to share best practices and work together on winning new clients. The firm is also a member of several PR networks including PRGN, IPRA, among others. The client roster includes over 200 international and Russian companies such as Panasonic, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Rosneft, Estee Lauder, Danone, Coca-Cola Hellenic, Mothercare and OBI. New clients include Lexus, Takeda, Gedeon Richter, Lilly, SUN InBev, National System of Payment Cards, 2019 Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia. In 2015, CROS launched CROSLabs – an analytics center designed to handle complex research and develop new solutions and directions for the communications industry in Russia. — AaS
FleishmanHillard Vanguard (Omnicom Group)
Launched as a joint venture between FleishmanHillard and leading local PR firm Vanguard in 2007, FH Vanguard (in which the Omnicom firm now owns a majority) remains one of the best PR firms in Russia. Unlike many of its international peers, it has navigated a crippling downturn to retain a double-digit growth rate across its Moscow and Kiev offices, with 150 people now working under the leadership of general director Elena Fadeeva,
Fadeeva's own industry leadership, as head of AKOS (The Russian Communications Consultancies Association) has also helped position FH Vanguard as visible, progressive presence in the market, particularly through her efforts to establish a new ethics code for country's PR firms and in-house communications operations in recent months.
The firm draws much of its client work from international and Russian MNCs, including are P&G, Pepsi, HP, MSD, National Clearance Center, Avaya, Singapore Airlines, Starwood, GSK and Global Energy. Last year's new business highlights included Samsung, KIA, Nestle, KFC, Bayer, Viber, Megafon, Carlsberg, Rosatom, Moscow Government. The firm's senior leadership team remains stable, reflecting broad strength across consumer, corporate, healthcare, technology and public sector. And its campaign work has always scored well, demonstrated by some persuasive campaigns for Pepsi, Nivea, the Global Energy Partnership and Megaton. —AS
PBN H+K Strategies (WPP)
San Francisco-based PBN was invited by Mikhail Gorbachev to open an office in Moscow, which it did in 1991. Over the next decade, the firm established offices in the capitals of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Latvia, focusing on the strategic end of the business, with particular expertise in public affairs and government relations, crisis and issues management, and corporate and financial communications.
Now marking its 25th anniversary in Russia, and owned by WPP under H+K Strategies, PBN continues to flourish in a difficult market, under a new leadership team led by CEO Myron Wasylyk. Its corporate and public affairs expertise was again showcased on high-level assignments for Tetra Pak, ArcelorMittal, Westinghouse, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, eToro and NaftoGaz Ukraine, alongside successful expansion of the firm’s capabilities into technology, healthcare and travel/leisure. The client roster also includes such brands as Alibaba Group (for which the firm developed a highly successful retail campaign); Instagram; Paramount and P&G.
All of this helped the firm triple its profit margin, while there was also some excellent thought leadership work and in-house training activity. —AS
SPN Communications (Independent)
SPN Communications counts among its clients some of the largest government agencies (the Ministry of Industry & Trade, the Ministry of Public Health, and the Ministry of Culture); some of the most prominent Russian companies (mobile operator MTS and financial services giant VTB Capital), and some of the leading multinationals operating in the former Soviet Union (LG Electronics, Procter & Gamble, and Audi). What attracts them to SPN is no great secret: the firm has impressive local market expertise, with offices in Russia, Ukraine and most recently Kazakhstan, combined with the sophistication and quality of an international firm (SPN was the local Ogilvy affiliate until 2013, and has won more international awards—more than a dozen SABREs—than any other Russian firm). It also offers an extremely integrated approach, with great experience in large-scale events and a growing content creation capability, that makes it the ideal firm for high-profile multifaceted, multichannel programming that reaches into every part of a vast market.
In a challenging environment last year, SPN grew by 35% in local currency (a number deflated somewhat by exchange rates) and ended the year with 230 employees generating close to $24 million. The growth was a result of impressive client retention and some big new business wins, including the Ministry of Finance (a nationwide financial literacy education campaign); the National System of Payment Cards (launching a local alternative to MasterCard and Visa); Norilsk Nickel (a new science festival to mark the company's 80th anniversary); KFC (sponsorship); Coca-Cola (internal communications in Kazakhstan); Electrolux; HP; and GE Healthcare.
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