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The reputation of Chameleon has reached the stage where larger global rivals on both sides of the Atlantic may well groan when they know they’re on a pitch list against them. The agency punches well above its weight for a team of only 16, with fee income up 14% to £1.97m in 2017.
This was the culmination of CEO Tom Berry and MD Tom Buttle’s three year post-MBO strategic plan to transform a stagnant tech outfit and turn it into one of the world’s most creative, results focused B2B technology agencies. The two Toms’ ambitious plan, underpinned by their “be less beige” mantra, worked: under their leadership the agency has seen 40% top line growth and a 331% increase in profits over the past three years, and a client net promoter score of +90.
They say they only work for two types of clients: those who want to change the world through technology and those that want to change themselves. Over the past year, Chameleon has added companies like Gartner, Belkin and Hootsuite to its portfolio and is already tracking at double-digit top line growth and 20% profitability for 2018. There’s a real focus on delivering solid business results for clients, too, from generating £1m worth of enterprise leads on a £4k budget for UK fintech Cashfac, to building Google Cloud’s analyst relations programme from the ground up, delivering 80% positive sentiment from the analyst community.
And while Chameleon is winning Silicon Valley work on a regular basis, Berry and Buttle have no intention of opening a San Francisco office. Instead, they have focused on building strong relationships with other independent agencies in the area and proactively visiting hot tech companies on the West Coast. The agency is also properly embedded in the technology industry: it is involved in the board of the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations, is regularly asked by private equity firms and VCs to coach their investments on PR and marketing, and is a strategic advisor to the association for Chief Information Security officers. — MPS
If AxiCom has hitherto billed itself as the best kept secret within WPP, this looks set to be the year that the secret is out. The tech firm has been designing and building campaigns for big tech brands, industry pioneers and disruptive start-ups across Europe since 1994, and has grown to 91 people in seven wholly-owned offices in London, Munich, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Amsterdam and Stockholm.
The year started with a challenge: the decision by Dell EMC to consolidate agencies following the IT industry’s biggest-ever merger. AxiCom, Dell’s European agency of record since 2006, continues to be the strategic lead for the new combined entity, but lost local implementation budgets. However, the team rose to the occasion and redundancies were avoided by every office across the group working together to plug gaps in fees. By the end of the year, AxiCom had won more than 50 new clients across the network, 15 in the UK office alone. Its client portfolio, ranging from enterprise computing to business apps, telco and mobile to fintech, now includes Orange, Nokia and LG.
Acquired by WPP as part of the Cohn & Wolfe Group in 2008, last year was also the first full year since the post-earn out departure of AxiCom’s founders Helen Ridgway and Julian Tanner, leading to a brand “reboot” and the appointment of a new senior leadership team, now led by CEO Henry Brake, who has been with the firm for 19 years (Cathy Pittham joined as global CEO from Racepoint in July 2016 but left at the start of 2018). Brake is supported by strong country managers, including Martina Brembeck in Germany, Monica Gonzalez in Spain and Kate Stevens in the UK, plus director Stephen Orr, who is the driving force behind a new content studio. — MPS
After two consecutive years as our Technology Consultancy of the Year (including Global recognition in 2017), you could forgive Harvard for having a quiet 12 months. You would be wrong though — on the numbers alone, Harvard had a storming year, with revenues up (for the seventh consecutive year since Louie St Claire too charge) from 32% to £5.4m, 19% margins and profits up 28%, hitting £1m for the first time. But of course, impressive financials aren’t the only measure of an agency’s success.
What also marks the UK’s oldest technology specialist agency out this year is clever, innovative work that has had commercial impact for clients (see the 2.7x customer conversion uplift for payments company Square) and social impact (UNICEF’s digital skills programme for Syrian refugees, for example). Plus, deeply conscious of staying on the right track through this extended period of growth, Harvard has put new programmes in place to support staff and better service clients.
After winning 17 clients in 2016, Harvard added a further 25 new clients in 2017, including SAP, Sky, OnePlus and Vodafone. Non-traditional PR work has grown 74% year-on-year, and 26% of Harvard’s work now sits in its creative and digital engagement team. Ellie Thompson was named PR & AR managing director last year, while Pete Marcus became group planning director and Marc Allenby joined as creative director.
The agency carried out its first client survey, with directors spending an hour with every client and subsequently putting in place a programme to give clients more regular creative counsel and scheduled time with board members. The agency has a net promoter score of 9.1/10 and clients, who include Cisco, clearly love them.
Harvard’s “kick-ass, people-first” culture is also noteworthy. The leadership team (with a 50/50 gender split) takes care of the wellbeing and development of its 55 people at all levels of the business, nurturing and stretching everyone from the newest to the most experienced, and has a staff retention rate of 90%. — MPS
Hotwire (Enero Group)
Hotwire PR rebranded as Hotwire, the global communications agency last year, and its hot pink logo wasn’t the only vibrant thing about the new-look agency. A year on from buying Silicon Valley firm Eastwick Communications, the successfully-integrated business is now worth $33.3m globally, including fee income in the UK of just over $10m, and an $8.2 million contribution from continental Europe. The group now has European offices in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Madrid and Milan, together with co-branded partners in the Netherlands, Belgium and the Middle East.
Eastwick founder Barbara Bates became Hotwire’s global CEO last May, after Brendon Craigie, who had been with the tech firm for 16 years, left to set up a new agency, Tyto. Her go-getting spirit and 25 years’ experience of working with technology companies have pervaded the entire agency, and Bates and her leadership team (including Alex MacLaverty, COO and president of EMEA and ANZ, and Andy West, group chief development officer) have worked hard to ensure a strong culture at the merged agency.
In 2017, as part of the brand overhaul, the agency launched Hotwire 2020: its mission to be “the best agency you’ve ever worked with or worked for”. It’s still a work in progress but there’s no doubt the team are doing cracking work for clients, and picking up some serious wins across the region, including Eaton (UK), Facebook (UK), Dell EMC (France), Citrix (Germany), eBay (France), Seagate (Spain), and MioDittore (Italy). The agency also introduced two solid pieces of thought leadership during the year: “The Changing Face of Influence”, looking at what influences the purchasing decisions of 1,2000 senior IT and marketing execs, and “Understanding Generation Alpha”, on what makes children born after 2010 tick.
Schwartz Public Relations (Germany/Independent)
What started as a one-man-show founded by Christoph Schwartz in his home office in 1994 has become a mainstay on our Agencies of the Year - Dach list. It’s safe to say that Schwartz has come a long way since then. 2017 was a banner year in the agency’s 23-year history, hitting a new revenue high, nearly no staff turnover and winning big clients, like Here Technology. The agency ended the year with 22 employees, 50 clients and €3.5m in fees — up 6% from the previous year. Additionally, Schwartz finalized its transition from an agency with a focus on earned activities to a broader content management oriented agency working across earned, paid, owned and shared media. Schwartz’s familial culture has been the foundation of the agency since its inception and continues to be at the core even as the firm grows.
Schwartz added 20 new including Here Technology, Linkando, Polk Audio, Definitive Technology and BlueYonder. They join a roster including other top-tier companies such as Alibaba, Zumtobel Lighting, Sharp, Fujitsu, Malwarebytes, 1&1 Versatel, ABB, Wonder, Exaring, Forcepoint, Questback, Steelcase and Messe Frankfurt. The firm has also continues its a CSR project that includes PR responsibility of "little Art" — a Munich-based non-profit organization that promotes the intellectual, emotional and artistic development of children and teenagers.
In addition to Schwartz, the agency’s board includes Jörg Stelzer, Julia Kaiser and Sven Kersten-Reichherzer. — AaS / DM
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