Global Technology Agencies of the Year 2018 | Holmes Report

2018 Global Technology Agencies of the Year

The 2018 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 450 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across North AmericaEMEA 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 are announced at the 2018 Global SABRE Awards, which take place at the PRovoke18 Global PR Summit in Washington, DC, on the evening of 24 October. 

Winner: IN.FOM (Asia-Pacific, Independent)

No longer the new kid on the block after seven years of remarkable growth, IN.FOM continues to bring plenty of energy to an offering that has already won multiple Agency of the Year Awards from the Holmes Report. And the firm’s performance over the past 18 months proves that it looks set to navigate the difficult teenage years as successfully as it handled its inception, with eye-catching growth of 50% to US$3.7m.

That expansion was underpinned by new business from Ruckus Networks, Expedia and SGInnovate, along with increased spend from key existing clients Microsoft and UnionPay. Other important relationships include Xbox, Engine, CA Technologies, Herbalife, Intralinks, Intel and Nokia — with IN.FOM increasingly taking on regional duties from its Singapore hub.   

Despite the growth, IN.FOM continues to eschew the scale and bureaucracy of established firms in favour of an approach that prizes sustainable employee and client relationships. The leadership team includes managing partners Wong Voal Voal and Mike Liew, who bring impressive pedigrees with global agencies H+K and Burson-Marsteller, respectively, and who understand the transformation of marketing and technology.  And there continues to be considerable investment in talent and training, including twice-yearly pay adjustments and bonuses to convince the market’s best talent that IN.FOM is the best place to build their careers. An up and coming generation of leaders suggests that this approach is paying off, with non-traditional PR revenue also growing commensurate with a broader skill base. 

As ever, the work impresses — including seven Diamond/Gold SABRE nominations and two IN2 SABRE Awards — for multiple campaigns conducted on behalf of Microsoft, SGInnovate and Expedia. — AS


Brands2Life (UK/US, Independent)

Few firms take the business of PR quite as seriously as Brands2Life. Founders Giles Fraser and Sarah Scales’ intelligent and conscientious approach to achieving business results for clients has made Brands2Life one of the defining agencies of the UK PR industry.

The 18-year-old agency, which now has 134 people, had yet another year of record growth, with fee income up 18% to £13.8m. This included a contribution of more than £400,000 from the first year of its new San Francisco office, shortlisted for our new US agency of the year award. In 2017, Brands2Life achieved its highest-ever levels of client retention and satisfaction and won more than 30 new clients, including Barclays, Nokia Digital health, Fanta, Premier Inn and Puma Energy.

From its tech roots, Brands2Life has become a true integrated agency, carrying out more multi-country, multi-platform programmes than ever before for digital-first brands from high-growth disrupters to tech giants. It now encompasses consumer, corporate, finance, crisis, B2B, social, healthcare and public affairs expertise, and has diversified into health, energy, financial and professional services, retail and property and construction. Organic growth is impressive, as the agency is often brought in to handle one assignments for clients, who then realise that it works across disciplines and borders and can support all aspects of creative and paid work as well as traditional PR via earned and owned channels.

Meanwhile, under the oversight of US MD Rene Musech, Brands2Life’s San Francisco operation is working with nine technology clients, bringing in revenue of more than $500k from a team of seven. Assignments include Renault Silicon Valley Innovation Lab; thought leadership for Verizon Connect; executive profiling work for Tipalti; Internet of Things World media relations activity; supporting Celonis’ market growth and increasing US brand awareness for Thomsons Online Benefits. — MPS/AS

Chameleon (UK, Independent)

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

PAN Communications 
(US, Independent)

We said, last year, that PAN had hit an impressive stride after more than two decades in operation. This year, the agency has continued to forge ahead, reaching new heights of achievement around its business performance, caliber of work and culture.

In 2017, PAN grew 14% to $17.7m with 78 people across offices in Boston, San Francisco, Orlando and New York (which was a new office in 2017). Twenty-eight new clients and an increase of more than 20% in new average deal size fueled the firm’s growth in 2017. New clients Alegeus Health, Outsystems, Acquia, Radial, NUorder, AppDirect, Nanigans, phononics, iBoss, SuccessFactors joined a portfolio that includes SAP, Perfecto, CloudBees, Fuze, Maestro Health, MediaMath, MobileIron and Nice. While firm’s 2015 purchase of Vantage Communications didn’t quite yield the Silicon Valley boost that was intended, bringing on West Coast PR veteran Phil Carpenter in early 2017 has certainly helped build PAN’s presence in San Francisco. It also opened a New York office in 2017. 

In the competitive B2B media category at the Innovation SABREs, PAN impressively earned two nominations. One was for a feature story for Cogito in Inc. Magazine that showcased the company’s AI-driven empathy capabilities (the work has also been shortlisted for a Gold SABRE Award). And PAN took home the category trophy for “How SAP Ariba Technology is Stomping Out Modern Slavery” that was anchored in a the Fast Company that addresses how technology can help solve the modern slavery crisis. The judges called the work “brave — it shows how SAP Ariba is going beyond typical CSR and looking to combat human trafficking within supply chains.”

PAN president and CEO Phil Nardone has been at the helm since its founding in 1995. Other key executives are EVP Mark Nardone, EVP/MD Phil Carpenter and SVPs Lisa Astor and Darlene Doyle. The firm recently unveiled the “The Power of Voice,” a five-step guide that includes idea generation, market opportunities and engagement program building. In addition to other thought-leadership, PAN’s eBooks have 20% conversion rate. — AaS 

Zeno Group 
(Global, DJE Holdings)

With Zeno now celebrating its 20th anniversary, and firmly established as one of the leading midsize agencies in North America (and increasingly, the world), it’s slightly surprising to remember that a decade ago this was an agency in disarray, with a succession of short-lived CEOs causing the firm to lurch from one position to another, always feeling like a second-string option for clients conflicted away from Edelman. But Barby Siegel joined in 2009, and eight consecutive years of double-digit growth followed, taking Zeno from 55 people to more than 500, from a consumer boutique to a firm with strong corporate, healthcare, and technology capabilities; a robust strategic planning process; and what may be the most advanced analytics credentials among its peers.

Innovation and disruption are at the heart of the firm’s leadership. It has brought in researchers, planners, and advanced data and analytics people to fuel The Human Project—research into how people relate to the brands in their lives—and other research, including some new insights into millennials. And breakthrough work in measurement has the potential to transform not only PR but the entire marketing mix. Fueled by this approach, the work includes integrated marketing (including paid) “I Move Me” campaign for Asics; repositioning ABB from an engineering company to a forward-looking tech brand; issues management and sustainability positioning for Scotts Miracle-Gro; global brand-building for Turtle Wax; HPV awareness and vaccination promotion for Merck; executive communications for McAfee after its spin-out from Intel; and work for Netflix that included global campaign strategy and development for consumer brand stories.

The agency’s new business performance in 2017 was exceptional. It added work from Bayer and Novartis, and J&J’s flagship Tylenol brand in the healthcare arena; major technology clients like AT&T, Lenovo, and Salesforce; consumer brands like Avon, Marriott, Motorola, Nestle and PVH; and ABB, Ace Hardware, Barnes and Noble Education and Fidelity on the corporate side. The new year is off to an equally impressive start, with work from abbvie, Baxter, Coca-Cola and more. And clients like AB InBev, intel, Johnson & Johnson, Lenovo, Merck, Microsoft, Netflix, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and Turtle Wax—names any multinational firm would be pleased to add to their roster—are now served in multiple regions beyond North America. — PH