Global Creative PR Agencies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report

2017 Global Creative PR 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 — MullenLowe (US/IPG)

Since 2015, MullenLowe has consistently delivered Best in Show caliber work in both the Gold and Innovation SABRE Awards. Its signature work for American Greetings — ”World’s Toughest Job”— clearly wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan, not that there should have been any doubt.

For example, its JetBlue FlyBabies campaign won the Brand Video category at the Innovation SABRE Awards earlier this year while also making the Best in Show shortlist. “This changes my perception of babies crying on flights and I’ll think of this every time I hear one now” is what one of the judges said. That’s exactly what this campaign intended. Also consider MullenLowe’s follow-up work with American Greeting. The campaign disrupted SXSW by going totally analog at a digital festival as a way to combat the notion that greeting cards are dead. The “Give Dad Nothing” work with Century 21 allowed people to literally give their dads “nothing” on Father’s Day with a parcel of Nothing, Arizona — an uninhabited ghost town about 120 miles from Phoenix. 

Over the past year, the firm has bundled more of its services within the larger MullenLowe brand adding new dimensions like CEM/CRM, shopper marketing, SEO and experiential to its PR work. Managing partner Sheila Leyne has overseen the PR group for more than 20 years with a leadership bench that includes SVPs Tony Labriola, Kelly Burke and Jaclyn Ruelle.

Revenues grew by 18% in 2016, making this the sixth consecutive year of double-digit growth (the agency as a whole has grown more than 100% over the past six years). In addition to American Greetings and JetBlue, clients include Capital One, Century 21 Real Estate, Naked Juice and Tropicana Probiotics, Unilever (new), Country Crock (new) and Atrium Innovations (new). 

MullenLowe has again and again proven itself reliable for creating buzzworthy pop culture moments that actually break through. — AaS 


Faktor3 (Germany/Independent)

Started with three entrepreneurs in 1995 who formed the agency to launch AOL, Faktor3 has grown to 190 employees with 85 clients — and has continued to thrive despite the faltering of its first client. Not only that, the firm has transformed from a media relations shop to employing editors, analysts, engineers, motion designers on top of communications consultants. The firm’s headway towards digitalisation also includes its approach “Content Relations” which is “a permanent cycle of development and distribution of content, as well as the fostering of genuine, sustainable relations.”

The firm partnered with Microsoft to tell its story on the future of work, that told a four-part story through #worklifeflow and other thought-leadership. The team also launched LogiTech’s Jaybird wearables in Germany to many journalists and influencers.

Fees are up more than 22% to €15.3m fueled by clients like Microsoft, Sopra Steria Consulting (new), Samsung Electronics, Logitech, Tourism Australia, Audi, Porsche, Adobe, eBay, GroupM, among others. Founders Sabine Richter and Stefan Schraps run the agency. — AaS

Marco de Comunicacion (Spain/Independent)

When fast-growing Spanish agency Marco de Comunicación beat out a number of multinational agencies—as well as independent firms from across Europe—to handle communications for COP22, the UN Climate Change Summit in Marrakech, it was vindication of founder Didier Lagae’s aggressive growth strategy over the past couple of years, which has seen the firm double-down on its expertise in Africa and its ability to deliver (often through its affiliation with MSLGroup) international reach. For COP22, MdC engaged more than 200 journalists from all over Africa in a set of unprecedented press trips and generated more than 44,000 news pieces globally, underscoring the event’s key messages.

With offices in Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Paris, Casablanca and Miami and a team of close to 100 professionals, MdC offers a full range of services including publicity, events, audiovisual and design, as well as online communications, public affairs (including a new EU affairs offer), social media, and influencer campaigns. It has been growing by about 25% a year over the past three years, with 28% growth in 2016 thanks to new assignments from COP22, the Union for the Mediterranean, Kaiserwetter, World Water Council, SMC, the International Monetary Fund, Ivanhoe, Springfield, Idealo and Herbalife, and continuing assignments for Netflix (which helped drive the firm’s expansion into the Portuguese market), Unilever, Etihad Airways, Springfield (Cortefiel Group), Conforama, Mexican Tourism Board, and AFEVI / Friends of Glass.

MdC was a pioneer in digital and social in the Iberian region, and quickly realized that new media knew no geographic boundaries. As a result, the firm has built a team multilingual consultants from 17 different nationalities. It has also launched a dedicated digital marketing agency, Influencia. And last year it introduced another innovation, an “experience room” located in Madrid’s barrio Salamanca that serves as a showcase for consumer clients. — PH

Unity Marketing Group (UK/Independent)

The sheer volume awards is almost certainly what strikes more Unity observers as most remarkable. The UK firm ranked number in our Global Creative Index weighted by headcount, making it pound-for-pound the world’s second-most creative PR firm for the second year in a row. That might have left Unity feeling a little miffed after ranking first in 2016, but the good news is they were overtaken by sister firm Tin Man, in which they hold an ownership stake under the Unity Marketing Group. 

For Unity, last year’s haul included one Global SABRE, four EMEA region SABREs, and six In2 SABREs, which recognize excellence in insight and innovation. The latter wins point to something that’s even more impressive than the numbers: Unity specializes in creativity with a purpose and a process. Its mission is “to increase human happiness,” which might sound like a lofty (even pretentious) goal for a PR firm, if founders Gerry Hopkinson and Nik Govier did not clearly believe it so strongly and bring it to life in both the agency culture and the work. And all of the big ideas are driven by a suite of strategic tools such as Brandcestry, a brand planning process that draws on clients’ heritage, and CommUnity, an approach for planning and launching CSR strategy.

Launched in 2013, meanwhile, Mandy Sharp's Tin Man differs from other boutique firms by bringing a considerably stronger focus on planning and creativity, along with a level of business savvy that has seen it achieve profitability since year one. As the name suggests, the firm's positioning revolves around creating 'campaigns with heart', and the volume and variety of its award nominations and wins over the past couple of years suggests that it has been able to bring a level of emotional resonance that many PR firms would struggle to match. That may also be because Tin Man has always been just as comfortable declining clients as it is winning bigger briefs such as Monarch Airlines, Justgiving, William Grant, Cartoon Network, ITV and Trainline. — PH/AS

Veritas (Canada/MDC Partners)

Originally established in 1993 as a healthcare communications specialist, Veritas has diversified over the years and today focuses on 'influencing the influencers,' drawing on a 'custom convergence' model that brings together cross-functional teams and multichannel solutions to ensure the appropriate solution for a range of complex challenges. Based in Toronto, Veritas has built its reputation by staying ahead of the increasingly complex and changing media universe, an approach that is clearly paying off if the firm's stellar growth and campaign work is any guide.

Now numbering 65 people across offices in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, Veritas grew its fee income by 12% in 2016 to US$8.3m, powered by new business from Audible, Kijiji, General Mills, Bayer, Kimberly-Clark, Revlon, Collegium Pharmaceuticals, Tangerine, Metro/FoodBasics and Volkswagen. They join a client roster that already includes Microsoft, CBC, Subway, Labatt, Church and Dwight, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, and other brands from Kimberly Clark and Bayer.

The new business haul is impressive enough, but under president/CEO Krista Webster, it is Veritas' development into a credible creative contender that is particularly worthy of recognition. Veritas' 'Bring Back the Bees' work for Honey Nut Cheerios represents an ideal example of this approach, blending word-of-mouth and influencer marketing to deliver real business results and win numerous awards. The firm's workplace culture, via the ROWE (Results-Oriented Work Environment) concept, also stands out, as does its commitment to influencer research, via its proprietary Influencer Impact methodology. — AS