Africa PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report

2018 Africa PR Consultancies of the Year


Our 2018 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 Amsterdam on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. 

Winner: Clockwork Media (Independent)

Launched just five years ago, South Africa's Clockwork Media has already reached $5m in fee income, making good on its vision of changing the way PR is perceived in Africa, and across the globe. The consultancy now number 100 people, focused on four key components — strategy and data, concept, production and dissemination. Led by two former tech journalists — Tom Manners and Nic Simmonds — the firm brings a refreshingly agile approach to its business, investing in such areas as as influencer marketing, video production and data analytics, helping it to become one of the largest consultancies in the country, one capable — more importantly, perhaps, of winning global remits.

In that respect, 2017 marked something of a watershed year for Clockwork Media, with growth of 50% powered by a £1m Microsoft assignment to run, and in 46 markets – establishing the firm's 15-strong interactive team and marking it out as one of the world's agencies to watch. There was also new business from LaLiga, Lafarge and Exxaro, media relations accounts that have expanded to encompass the full spectrum of public relations across offline and online. In addition to Microsoft, Clockwork's client roster also features such names as NBCUniversal, LG, Lafarge, Exxaro, Tile Africa, Tata Motors, Mimecastand L’Oreal.

Clockwork's capabilities also expanded considerably, with the firm adding a data and insights component to its strategy division, a conceptual team featuring a creative director, copywriter and art director, an interactive team focused on producing digital work on a global scale and an activations team aimed at bringing concepts to life in the physical realm. All of that helps to explain the firm's remarkable progress in such a short space of time, further highlighted by brand repositioning for Dell Alienware, content strategy for L'Oreal, TVCs for Tile, radio ads for Lafarge and websites for Microsoft and Exxaro. 

And there have also been some notable hires to help manage the growth, including Monica van der Spuy to oversee the PR business unit and three former Wunderman execs — Emilia Brooks, Ciaran Burnand and Lisa Cohn — to oversee operations, interactive and strategy, respectively. — AS


Burson-Marsteller (WPP)

Burson-Marsteller (which became Burson Cohn & Wolfe earlier this year) continues to operate the most comprehensive network of offices in Africa, covering 53 of 56 African nations, 36 of them under the Burson brand. But it is not merely the scope of BM’s African network (500 people) that sets it apart: it’s the fact that so many of its members (from hub agency Arcay Burson-Marsteller in South Africa to Engage Burson-Marsteller in Kenya to CMC Connect in Nigeria to Blast in Mauritius—are market leaders, and the fact that under the chairmanship of Robyn de Villiers the firm has made such a major contribution to the development of the PR profession across the continent.

There was an impressive 50% increase in the amount of work referred from the South African hub into the rest of the region last year as more and more clients begin to recognize the massive growth opportunities in Africa. Key clients include Net1 (for issues management and stakeholder engagement); Turner Broadcasting including CNN, Cartoon Network and Boomerang; Pernod Ricard; SES (media relations across 15 markets); Novo Nordisk; and Allen & Overy. There were new assignments in 2017 from ACE Packaging, Colgate-Palmolive, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Thyssenkrupp, Toshiba, and Trafigura,

The firm’s impressive work includes leveraging strong in-country media and stakeholder relationships our affiliates in Ghana, DRC, Tanzania, Tunisia, Guinea and Nigeria to secure widespread media coverage for the Natural Resource Governance Index; a campaign driven by Engage in Kenya to follow the coffee experience from “farm to cup” on behalf of Nestle; a “Be a Buddy and not a Bully” CSR campaign for Turner’s Cartoon Network; and a free trade public affairs campaign for Nigerdock led by CNC Connect.— PH

Djembe Communications (Independent)

Djembe Communications has organically grown a local network that spans Angola, Morocco, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, the United States and the United Kingdom. These offices all operate under a single budget, which enables Djembe’s Dubai office to be a gateway for clients and acts as the design and media epicenter for all clients. Beyond that, Djembe’s Luanda and Maputo offices spearhead the consultancy’s Lusophone client engagements; Djembe‘s Rabat office serves as the digital hub for the network, while Europe is overseen from its Zurich outpost.

In 2017, some long-term client shifts (notably involving Angola's sovereign wealth fund) meant that fees declined slightly to $6m across 47 employees. There was new business from the likes of Vlisco, Philips, L'Oréal, RA International, Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra, Afton Chemical, Honoris United Universities and Hennessy, joining an existing client roster that includes the African Innovation Foundation, Porto de Caio FACRA, Estrela de Floresta, the African Law Library and the Innovation Prize for Africa.

It is Djembe's work, however, that provided the real highlight of the year, helping the agency net a SABRE Awards nomination for its Innovation Prize for Africa campaign, elevating the overall impact of the event to impressive effect. 

The leadership team includes MD Mitchell Prather; regional director-EMEA Nicole Suter and international director Kevin Nolan. — AS 

FleishmanHillard (Omnicom)

With 60 people in its Johannesburg office, FleishmanHillard is one of the market leaders in the South African market. And last year was another strong new business year, with retainer and project assignments from General Motors, Global T20 Cricket, Ascendis Health, pan-African fund manager Harith, French bakery Paul, and Danone. They join a roster that includes ABSA (the South African operation of Barclays), Akzo Nobel, Discovery Networks, MasterCard SSA, Microsoft South Africa, Nike, Omidyar Network, Pernod, and Philips Group. 

Sharon Piehl, who joined FleishmanHillard in 2011 to lead its brand marketing team, was promoted to general manager in April of 2016—only the third GM in the 30-year history of the firm. She is supported by four directors—Vanessa Sabbatini (client services), Penny Motsamai (reputation management), Clare O’Donovan (crisis and issues), and Joanne Theodorides (financial)—who round out one of the most experienced senior leadership teams in the region. New in 2017 were Khaya Buthelezi, who will lead the firm’s financial services practice in the region, and former newspaper journalist Francois Rank as head of content.

The firm earned two SABRE Awards for its work last year: one for the opening of Paul’s first French bakery in South Africa, which included an exclusive baking class with a master baker and media interviews with the firm’s chairman; another for the launch of Mastercard’s Masterpass QR mobile app in Kenya, which helped the company increase share of voice in a fast-growing market. — PH

Meropa (Independent)

Founded in 1989 by Aubrey Sussens and Peter Mann, Meropa may have turned 21 in 2017, but does not appear to have missing a spring in its step if its numbers are any guide. The independent firm grew 10.5% to almost $6m, powered as much by a vibrant staff culture as by its ability to build long-lasting, profitable client relationships. The firm employs 86 people across wholly-owned offices in Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, supported by its own pioneering AfricaOne affiliate network, which spans 18, mainly sub-Saharan, markets.

Under the leadership of Mann and CEO Patrick Gearing, Meropa has built a reputation for client quality, particularly in the automotive, aviation, healthcare and government sectors. This is illustrated by a roster that includes the South African National Roads Agency, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, British Airways, Boeing, Black & Veatch, BP, Exerian, Mauritius Tourism and Lancet. In 2017, there was also new business from Boehringer Ingelheim, Monsanto, Sodastream, South Africa Scenarios, ICASA, the Society for Family Health, the International Partnership for Microbicides, and the Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company (BAIC).

Notable work includes issues management for SANRAL; supporting the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) study is run in collaboration with the US Institutes for Health, the Medical Research Council and 15 clinical research sites in South Africa; #MyFordStory; and an internship programme for BAIC. — AS