Middle East PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report

2017 Middle East PR Consultancies of the Year

Our 2017 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.

Winners were unveiled at the EMEA SABRE Awards in London on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 21 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winner: FleishmanHillard (Omnicom Group) 

With 35 people across the UAE and Saudi Arabia, FleishmanHillard's Middle East presence may not have the scale of some of its rivals, but has been able to outperform some of them nonetheless. That is partly down to the experience of regional veteran Jim Donaldson, who oversees the firm's operations in London and the Middle East, and partly down to solid local market growth under regional leaders Robert Hanvik, Lucy O'Brien and Cameron Walker.

In particular, Fleishman prevailed over numerous rivals to secure the keenly-contested Saudi Aramco global PR brief, and has also netted significant new business from Gulf Marketing Group. As a global retainer, the Saudi Aramco assignment immediately becomes one of Fleishman's largest in EMEA, with a broad range of services expected to include creative strategy in addition to traditional media relations and content development. There has also been good work for Qatar National Bank, while Hanvik brings a specific level of expertise to the firm's work with government ministries, large private institutions and healthcare clients in the region. An important new appointment, furthermore, sees global social innovation lead Jared Carneson arrive from South Africa to oversee efforts in the region.  — AS


ASDAA Burson-Marsteller (WPP)

Under the leadership of founder and CEO Sunil John, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller has been a pioneering force in the Middle East’s public relations industry, establishing one of the largest networks of offices in the region—wholly-owned operations in the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Jeddah), Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt—innovating in the corporate, crisis and public affairs practice areas, and launching the annual Arab Youth Survey, a defining piece of through leadership that is now widely quoted in the region and beyond.

Last year was another good one for the firm, which saw fee income rise by 12% and headcount increase to more than 160. The firm has launched its own operations of the BM brands Proof (an integrated design, digital marketing and social media agency) and Penn Schoen Berland (research), strengthening its credentials in two key areas. New business in 2016 came from the Kuwait Ministry of Finance; Crown Prince Court, Abu Dhabi; the Saudi Arabian Industrial Investments Company; Noon (a new e-commerce company), Visa International, and Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, while the firm continues to work with Ford, Emaar Properties, General Electric, Nestle, HTC, the UAE Prime Minister’s Office, the Saudi Royal Court, and the Egyptian Tourism Authority.

Work for major government clients in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt has positioned the agency as the go-to choice for public entities requiring strategic, evidence-based communications programmes, while other highlights included Ford’s “Warriors in Pink” breast cancer education campaign, overcoming a stigma associated with the disease in Middle Eastern markets; the “Minds+Machines” campaign to launch GE’s transformation into a digital industrial company in the region; and the launch of an iconic new real estate development in Dubai for longtime client Emaar Properties. — PH


Communication Partner (Turkey/Independent)

Market conditions in Turkey are not exactly favorable for public relations right now, with political turmoil and the erosion of secular and democratic institutions giving overseas companies cause for concern, so the continued growth of local PR firms like Communication Partner, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is doubly impressive. New business came from National Bank of Saudi Arabia / Türkiye Finans, Abbvie, IFC, Letgo,  Garenta, Ikinciyeni.com, Arvento, and Eurofins, while the firm continues to do good work for Barilla, KFC, Pizza Hut, Fiat Group, Amway, First Quantum Minerals, Enerjisa /Eon Energy, Orhan Holding, Oyak Group, and Otokar.

A strong year in 2016 can be attributed to two things. First, the firm has impressive crisis communications capabilities, and crisis management became especially important to clients last year.

And second, managing partners Kerem Ayırtman and Ufuk Carşibaşı have been focused on a creative approach to brand communications, challenging the traditional leadership role of advertising agencies in the brand-building arena, creating an innovative partnership with brand strategy firm Siegel&Gale and adding creative talent from ad agencies and digital backgrounds to offer a more integrated creative approach. The launch of a new turkey wrap for KFC, for example, included a social media campaign and a competition through which customers could win a helicopter trip over the city of Istanbul, while the firm formed a number of strategic partnerships with nutrition and environmental groups to help Barilla introduce its sustainable “Milan Protocols” in Turkey.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies (WPP)

At 30 years old, H+K is the oldest international PR firm in the Middle East and remains one of the best, under new leadership in the form of Bashar AlKadhi, who joined from WPP sibling Asda'a Burson-Marsteller to oversee H+K's 120 consultants across eight Middle Eastern markets. Last year, the firm's flagship Dubai office (which employs around 70 consultants) grew by an eye-catching 27%, expanding beyond its healthcare and sports leadership roots into such areas as brand marketing, energy/industrials and government work. 

All told, the firm grew at a high single-digit rate across the region, bolstered by strong offices in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. There was significant new business from Coca-Cola and EGA, reflecting a much stronger new business pipeline, while the firm has also stepped up its efforts hire and train local talent in the markets in which it operates. In addition to AlKadhi's appointment, Melissa Quackenbush was promoted to client services director in the UAE, while Sara Jurkowsky took charge of the firm's energy practice from Dubai. New hires included Elias Markopoulos to oversee content and digital for MENA, along with campaign director James Mitchell in Dubai. — AS

Memac Ogilvy (Independent)

Last year’s Middle Eastern Consultancy of the Year, Memac Ogilvy has been a fixture on this list largely as a reflection of its flair for creativity, demonstrated by a string of SABRE Award winning campaigns— for the likes of Grohe, the King Khalid Foundation, and most recently for Coca-Cola, which picked up one of last year’s Global SABREs for its “Ramadan Dark Iftar” initiative. This year the firm has already picked up and In2 SABRE for its cheeky advertising efforts on behalf of Royal Jordanian Airlines (drumming up traffic and trolling Trump at the same time), and is SABRE nominated for its Volkswagen “Human Crossing” campaign and its Huawei “One Ramadan” program.

At the same time, the firm’s regional footprint and overall business growth probably deserves just as much recognition: it now has 130 people across 14 offices across MENA, generating an estimated $10m in revenue after another year of solid growth. Indeed growth over the past five years as seen the firm more than double in size.

The firm’s ability to drive cutting-edge integrated work owes much its positioning within the broader Memac family, but PR head Saada Hammad now oversees leadership team that also includes genuine strength in public affairs and technology as well as consumer and corporate. It has struck a good balance between global and local clients, critical across MENA, and now ranks within the top four in all of its markets. — PH