Global Corporate PR Agencies of the Year | Holmes Report

2016 Global Corporate Agencies of the Year

The 2017 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 400 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across North America, EMEA and Asia-Pacific.

Analysis of all of the Winners and Finalists across specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners were announced at the 2017 Global SABRE Awards, which took place at the PRovoke17 Global PR Summit in Miami on the evening of 25 October.

Winner: Adfactors PR (India, Independent)

Indian powerhouse Adfactors—which, with fee income of $18m is the only firm from the sub-continent to rank in the world’s top 100—is best known for its work in the corporate and financial realm, but its continued excellence in the SABRE Awards competitions this year reflect its growth into a well-rounded full-service firm capable of delivering great creativity as well as strategic counsel. That’s partly the result of adding a new value—innovation—to those that established Adfactors as a market leader: freedom, transparency, integrity and respect for the individual.

Those values manifest themselves in numerous ways that have differentiated Madan Bahal’s firm from its competitors: an investment in professional development that has seen Adfactors send its rising stars to the Indian School of Business, Indian Institute of Management, and Harvard, among others; an in-house gymnasium and regular yoga classes; and a commitment to corporate responsibility that has led the firm to decline clients in tobacco and gambling as well as major multinationals with dubious environmental records.

Bahal continues to focus plenty of his energy on transforming the firm’s offering, in line with his ambitious goal of becoming one of the world’s top 20 global PR firms, targeting $120m in revenue within six years. That will require further international expansion, but the signs are that Adfactors is ready for the challenge. The firm grew 9% in its most recent fiscal year, and continues to post strong margins.

Long-term clients include some of India’s biggest and most respected companies:  Adani Group; Bombay Stock Exchange; Citibank; ICICI Bank; Infosys; Jet Airways; Larsen & Toubro; Mahindra Group; State Bank of India; and Vodafone. Indeed, a good way to measure Adfactors emergence as a PR powerhouse is to observe the facility with which it often bests its domestic rivals on major consumer and brand PR assignments, in addition to its traditional strengths in corporate and financial. That was again reflected over the past year, with new business from Godrej, Hinduja, Star India, Times Network, GoAir and IDFC Bank. — AS


Allison + Partners (MDC Partners)

Allison + Partners continues to impress with another year of remarkable business performance, continued global scale while also growing its service offerings. CEO Scott Allison has built the firm — now in its 15th year — around a commitment to operating under a single P&L.

Revenues were up more than 30% to $48.8m and headcount is now 300 across operations in the US (which accounts for 91% of revenue and 225 of its employees), Europe and Asia. While Allison was once mostly known for its consumer and technology expertise, increasingly the MDC-owned firm is gaining momentum as a corporate player. Corporate work now represents 27% of its overall revenue and 80% growth since 2014 with clients that include Adecco, Deloitte Digital, Flowserv and Materne. Meanwhile, the firm is also making notable strides in healthcare by doing In2 SABRE award-winning work on Dignity Health’s Great Kindness Challenge. Last year, its consumer practice changed hands to Corey Martin while adding big-name clients such as Nike, Pinterest, Tiffany and Seventh Generation.

In Asia, meanwhile, Allison's corporate capabilities are particularly pronounced, three years after entering the region via a deal with China’s Wolf Group Asia. Allison+Partners has built a credible regional presence, bolstered by further acquisitions in China (Century PR) and, this year, Japan (Focus PR), along with expansion into Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. In China, the firm has has 36 staffers working across such clients as Schneider Electric, Canola Council of Canada and Textron Aviation. Growth in that market reached 36%, driven by the firm’s ability to provide credible senior-level reputation and issues management counsel to C-suite executives. For example, Allison has helped Schneider Electric navigate a range of issues around cybersecurity, a brief that has involved significant work with the company’s business leaders and the Chinese government. And, of course, there is plenty of crisis management work to occupy the time of Allison’s China leaders — David Wolf and Jerry Zhu. — AaS / AS

Hering Schuppener
(Germany, WPP)

In March, when a Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf crashed in the Alps—a tragedy deliberately caused by the copilot—the Lufthansa-owned carrier called in Hering Schuppener. In September, when Volkwagen found itself embroiled in scandal after revelations that it had distorted emissions tests results, it made the same call. The fact is that whether it’s high-profile corporate crisis work (the firm also represented Takata and Honeywell last year) or high-stakes transaction business (Hering Schuppener handled 30 transactions worth $60 billion last year, more than any other German firm), Hering Schuppener’s phone number is on speed dial for the smartest CCOs in the German-speaking world.

Its client list is a veritable who’s who of German business: adidas, Lufthansa, Volkswagen, Henkel, Siemens, Lanxess, Osram, ThyssenKrupp, RWE, KKR, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Post DHL, Rothschild, Airbus. Its leadership team has unmatched depth and longevity: in addition to chief executive Ralf Hering, partners Alexander Geiser, Tina Mentner, Brigitte von Haacke, Phoebe Kebbel, Georg Jakobs, Martin Bury, Henriette Peucker and Felix Schönauer are minority shareholders in the firm and veterans of corporate and financial PR, public affairs, and employee communications, with an average tenure at HS of more than 10 years. The newest addition to the team, meanwhile, is Andreas Winiarski, formerly of Rocket Internet, who gives the firm newfound digital credibility. Revenues last year topped €25 million (€35 million for the group as a whole), healthy double-digit growth for the year, and the was also bolstered by its new partnership with Finsbury. — PH

Joele Frank (US, Independent)

“We help our clients take control,” is the Joele Frank promise. In the context of the world in which the firm operates—mergers and acquisitions, proxy battles, activist attacks and other high-stakes special situations—that’s a big promise, and one on which the firm has been delivering for 15 years. Over that time, the firm has grown to 100 people—including 19 partners—and expanded to the west coast, with a new San Francisco office in 2015, supplementing its crisis work with some broad retainer-based investor relations and corporate communications work (two-thirds of its special situations turn into retainer assignments) for clients such as Alcoa, American Airlines, DuPont, Martin Marietta, Merck, Monsanto, Procter & Gamble,, Sears Holdings and more—as well as new additions AB Electrolux, Avon Products, , Humana, Teva Pharmaceutical and Yum! Brands.

In the US, Joele Frank led the mergermarket rankings last year in terms of deal volume (132) and came in second by value of deals worked, with highlights including work for DuPont in its proxy contest against Trian Fund Management and subsequent merger with The Dow Chemical; GE with the announcement of its plan to sell most of its GE Capital assets; The Williams Companies in its sale to Energy Transfer Equity; Teva Pharmaceutical in its unsolicited proposal to acquire Mylan and its acquisition of Allergan’s generics business; and Humana in its sale to Aetna. The firm also assisted on 72 management changes in 2015, and handled several restructurings in the energy and commodities markets. — PH

Peppercomm (US, Independent)

Peppercomm’s restlessness is reflected in its evolution over the past 20 years into a full service strategic communications firm with a broad range of expertise, particularly in financial services, consumer, professional services and industrial/B2B, across offices in New York, San Francisco and London.

The firm’s revenues in 2015 reached almost $21m, an impressive 10% uptick on the year before, generated by 106 employees. New business included Darden Specialty Restaurants, Nestle Shield, Levl, Genpact, White Lodgings, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Mariner Holdings, Mitsubishi Capital and Harry & David, joining a client list that features EY, Mini, Oppenheimer, Saint-Gobain, Steelcase, Vonage, Wilbur-Ellis and Wilmington Trust.

The firm remains led by co-founders Steve Cody and Ed Moed, supported by partner and president Ted Birkhahn. Key staff additions in 2015 included media and content specialist Joe Checkler, previously of the Wall Street Journal and digital MD Mike Friedin, a former head of Accenture’s digital group.

Last year also saw Peppercomm step up its ability to help financial services clients overcome regulatory hurdles, by persuading companies from a relatively cautious sector to increase their visibility on industry topics. The firm remains a leader in the financial services and B2B sectors, and often takes a counter-intuitive approach to the space, last year producing research that demonstrated why marketers should use joy and humour to drive success.  

Indeed, Peppercomm’s thought leadership activity remains a notch above many of its rivals. In addition to Cody’s RepMan blog and RepChatter podcast, the firm last year launched an interesting partnership with the Economist Group to survey B2B marketers and their audiences regarding brand content strategy and perceptions. That focus on insight has helped Peppercomm’s work stand out. It’s Hedge Fund social media study was covered extensively across industry media, while its campaign activity for SourceAmerica and Steelcase also caught the eye. — AS