DACH PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report

2019 DACH Consultancies of the Year

Our 2019 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 will be unveiled at the 2019 EMEA SABRE Awards dinner in London on 22 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winner: Achtung! (Independent)

As its name suggests, German independent Achtung! demands attention. First, for its work, which has earned it a reputation as the most creative of Germany’s indigenous PR agencies: it was named number one in PR Journal’s ranking of the most creative firms in Germany for the fifth time last year; it was the only German firm to feature on our Global Creative Index last year; and it earned four nominations in this year’s EMEA SABRE Awards competition. And second, for its explosive growth, having almost doubled in size since 2014, with fee income for 2018 of more than €19 million, up 9% on the year.

With offices in Hamburg, Munich, and Düsseldorf, Achtung! is a full-service player, with capabilities that span corporate and public affairs, consumer and digital, and the financial and technology sectors. Founded in 2001, digital and social were embedded from its earliest days (and now operate as achtung! Engage), and it was quick to add an advertising unit, ensuring that it could deliver integrated creative solutions across channels and media. Founder Mirko Kaminski is supported by a leadership team that includes Max Ströbel, head of strategy, and CFO Thorsten Beckman. A key addition in 2018 was Ogilvy veteran Babette Kemper, who joined to lead the newly-created integrated business, Achtung! Mary.

New business last year came from Telefonica, Alphabet, BCD Travel, and Generali, joining a client list that includes Airbnb, Barclaycard, ebay, Siemens, mobile.de, Mini, Acer, Coca cola, BMW, Swiss, Nestle, and Procter& Gamble. Among the standout work, achtung! partnered with another creative German agency, Jung von Matt, on campaigns for eBay corporate services (commemorating a historic football match with “The Unforgotten Goal”); for women’s rights non-profit Terre des Femmes (the Gender Salary Experiment); and for adidas (“The Ticket Shoe,” an eye-catching piece of guerrilla marketing). On the social media from, the E.ON Powergames were a hit on Facebook, while the firm also partnered with Metro AG and Serviceplan Germany on the “Own Business Girls” initiative to encourage female entrepreneurship.—PH



Faktor 3 (Independent)

It seems the only limit to Faktor 3’s growth is finding talent: the owner-managed firm had another great year, increasing fee income by 20%: its fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth, to €18 million. The Hamburg-based agency now employs more than 210 people in a refurbished leather factory that it remodelled last year to include a garden, basketball court, grill station and six different creative rooms, including one dedicated to VR and other focused on voice technology.

Faktor 3 started life in 1995 when young entrepreneurs Sabine Richter, Stefan Schraps and Volker Martens got together to support the roll-out of AOL in Germany. From its strong technology roots, it now works across industry sectors, with the likes of Microsoft, Porsche, EA Games, Velux, Samsung Electronics and Logitech in its client portfolio. In 2018, it added clients including Canon, Adobe and Netflix, as well as acting as the pan-European hub for a major car manufacturer.

Last year, Faktor 3 introduced a new approach it calls Content Relations, putting a constant cycle of content creation and distribution at the heart of its work. For example, it has created a physical newsroom for Nivea with an integrated team of analysts, designers, editors, web specialists and filmmakers.

The agency’s events are an integral part of the technology industry in Germany: its CIO Move roadshow takes 70 of Europe’s leading chief information officers on a four-day road trip around Germany and to New York to discuss their challenges and share experiences; its Next conference – run alongside Europe’s biggest music festival, the Reeperbahn – attracts 1,500 digital experts every year; and its annual IT Strategy Days bring together around 800 digital managers and CIOs. — MPS


Farner Consulting (Independent)

Farner, now 67 years old, has been the Swiss market leader in corporate and public affairs for as long as anyone can remember, with seven offices in Switzerland: Zurich, Bern, St. Gallen, Lausanne, Geneva, Basel and Lugano. Yet Farner is not just a domestic heavyweight, but one of the best players in the region, as evidenced by its selection as DACH Consultancy of the Year in 2018. That award recognised Farner’s impressive diversification beyond traditional corporate and public affairs work, reflected in a new ‘Closer’ positioning that highlights the firm’s proximity to clients and their politicial and societal context and bolstered by the 2016 acquisition of brand marketing specialist YJOO, Switzerland’s third largest PR firm. 

That approach helps to explain the 2018 launch of Farner Lab, in which the firm co-creates prototypes in such areas as AR/VR, voice-first technologies, neuromarketing, and AI in cooperation with specialized technology partners and the University of Lucerne. The firm also made some significant appointments in 2018, naming public affairs specialist Dr Tim Frey to lead Bern and Romandy and Isabel Schorer to lead St Gallen. Michel Grunder was also promoted to public affairs head, while the firm also welcomed new heads of consulting and performance marketing.

With 145 employees and fee income of more than €26 million, Farner is now number one among all creative agencies—advertising and PR—in Switzerland. It represents a host of leading Swiss companies and multinationals, including Julius Bär, McDonald’s Switzerland, Birgit Nilsson Foundation, Coop, Touring Club Switzerland, Swiss Post, Swissport International, Swissmilk, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé Nespresso. New business success in 2018 included PostFinance, SBB, Stäubli International, World Vision Switzerland and Roche Pharma.

And the firm’s work reflects the fact that 30% of its mandates now utilize at least two practices. Highlights included the #Window2TheFuture sponsorship campaign for Julius Bar, and a sophisticated employer branding campaign for SBB. — AS

Hering Schuppener (WPP)

It’s a tribute to the management strengths of Ralf Hering—whose death in February of 2018 shocked the entire industry—that the firm he founded and led for 24 years was able to survive in the year after his passing, maintaining its place as the leading German advisor on mergers and acquisitions and other “special situations,” and seeing fee income top €50 million—enough to rank Hering Schuppener among the world’s top 50 PR agencies. Of course, it’s also a tribute to the leadership team Hering built at HS—managing partners Folker Dries, Alex Geiser, Brigitte von Haacke, Phoebe Kebbel, and Tina Mentner preside over what might be the deepest bench of senior consulting talent anywhere in Europe—and who are carrying his legacy forward.

Once again, Hering Schuppener worked on more deals (42) than any other firm in Germany, while in partnership with UK partner Finsbury (owned by WPP, which also holds a majority stake in the German agency) the firm was number three in Europe by deal volume and number two in terms of the value of deals worked. Globally, the partnership ranked fifth in terms of deal volume and third in terms of value. Highlights included representing Bayer in its acquisition of Monsanto, the merger of Praxair and Linde, Innogy’s takeover by E.On, and ABB’s sale of its power generation business to Hitachi.

The M&A work is high profile, of course, but Hering Schuppener’s expertise goes far beyond its capital markets work to include crisis communications (it continues working with Volkswagen on the aftermath of the “deiselgate” crisis, has helped Deutsche Bank with reputation management as its name continues to surface in investigations into Donald Trump’s financial dealings, and provides change management counsel to Aidi and Lafarge Holcim among others); public affairs, with the Berlin-led business doubling in size last year; employee engagement and management consulting services; and a surprisingly strong digital group, which has been growing rapidly.

Last year’s double-digit growth was driven by high-profile assignments for leading German and international clients such as ABB, Audi, KKR, Blackrock, Bayer, Deutsche Bank, innogy, Oracle, LafargeHolcim, Uber, Volkswagen, and Zurich Insurance. The global network continued to expand also. Following the addition of US public affairs powerhouse Glover Park in 2017, Swedish advisory firm Fogel & Partners and French financial PR specialist Image Sept became part of the network in 2018.—PH

Schwartz Public Relations (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. Schwartz has come a long way since its launch 25 years ago, with 25 employees, 50-plus clients and €4.2m in fees — up 20% from the previous year, making 2018 the firm’s most successful year yet. 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.

New clients include Sound United, TÜV Süd, GoCycle, OnePlus, KPS, Cherwell, Jamf, LLamasoft and Constellium, joining a roster populated by the likes of Alibaba, Fujitsu, Malwarebytes, Here Technologies, ABB, 1&1 Versatel and Sharp. Notable work over the past year included on-site support of Alibaba’s Global Shopping Festival, which focused on the importance of the event for German companies; Coverage included more than 1,100 pieces in German media. For the German launch of littleBits, the electronics building toy, Schwartz’s efforts targeting tech fans resulted in more than 570m consumer interactions over five months and widespread coverage in tech, family, lifestyle and business media.

In addition to Schwartz, the agency’s board includes Jörg Stelzer, Julia Kaiser and Sven Kersten-Reichherzer. —DM