France/Benelux PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report

2019 France/Benelux 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: Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

Weber Shandwicks’s attempts to establish itself as a leader in Brussels’ EU public affairs market have met with mixed success over the years, but the reality is that its overall Brussels business has been enjoying strong growth—the office saw its revenues increase by better than 12% last year, as it diversified its offer to include an offer focused on sustainability and “circular economy” issues; healthcare (from biotech to digital health); business-to-business marketing; and Belgian public affairs. Indeed, the local market offer was up by 50% on the year, a key driver of the overall performance.

In the neighbouring Netherlands, meanwhile, Weber Shandwck has a team of more than 20. Last year’s growth was a more modest 5.6% under the leadership of managing director Hafida Abahai as Weber Shandwick consolidated the very impressive 50% increase in revenues from 2017, during which it picked up new business from TP Vision (the Philips TV offer) and Unilever—two of the agency’s largest European accounts now hubbed from the Amsterdam office. The corporate practice was a particular success, with fees up 33% thanks to new business from UPS, IBM, NRK/Dutch Plastics Foundation.

In Brussels, the firm picked up six pieces of business worth six-figures or more (from Mars Petcare, Barry Callebaut, packaging and recycling trade group EXPRA, Ericsson, Once, and Viam). The sustainability work stands out, including assignments for FEVE (which represents the European glass packaging industry) and EXPRA, with the SABRE-nominated Endless Ocean initiative a particular highlight. Other impressive work includes the Bayer Youth Ag Summit and GSK’s migraine awareness campaign, led from Brussels, and the “Wish Maps” initiative for Make-a-Wish and support for Bayer’s anticoagulant Xarelto out of Amsterdam.

Benelux is also benefiting from the expansion of some of Weber Shandwick’s innovative regional capabilities, with 2018 seeing the expansion of the United Minds consulting business to the Brussels office (adding considerable data and analytics expertise), and the addition of a local team under the Flipside banner providing support to Ericsson and Mars Petcare, and supplementing the Brussels-based creative studio that has a heritage in visual storytelling. — PH


Kingcom (France/Independent)

Rooted in the East of Paris, Isabelle Wolf and Pascale Azria have established Kingcom’s reputation as an independent and agile agency with a human touch. With that in mind, the firm’s transformation over the past three years is significant, not least because it has helped it reinvent its offering to better balance the demands of realtime issues with longterm reputation management. In response, Kingcom has developed sophisticated data, AI and measurement capabilities, bolstered by Azria’s work to bring evaluation to the forefront of French PR practice. 

Now numbering 38 staffers from across PR, digital and performance marketing, Kingcom grew its revenues by 4% to €4.7 million in 2018, well ahead of the market’s anaemic GDP expansion. There was new business from McDonald’s, La Poste Mobile, Domaine de Peyrasoll, Vacanceselect and Atol Les Opticients, joining a client roster that also features SEB Group, Andros Group, Duracell, E. Leclerc, Bonduelle, Roxane Group, Groupe Fox, Doudou et Compagnie, Ricard Group and Unicef.

Kingcom also benefits from a 15k strong influencer network that includes journalists and opinion leaders, helping it to deliver more insightful work than most, and supported by its #NoFakeInfluencer solution — a data-driven effort to assure brands that their investments are driving authentic returns. And Kingcom’s employee culture is similarly vibrant, featuring mentoring and reverse mentoring, and a competition with Syntec RP to find the next generation of the country’s PR talent. 

Campaign highlights reflect the firm’s strong influencer capabilities — including 50th anniversary of the Big Mac, a new innovation from Ricard, and the national launch of a new product range and segment for Andros Group. — AS


JIN (France/Independent)

Founded just six years ago by Edouard Fillias, who previously held digital leadership roles in French organizations, including a stint with Publicis, Jin is a leader among a new generation of digital-native agencies in the French market. With its headquarters in Paris, and additional operations in London, Hamburg, and New York—as well as a network of social media experts in 15 European markets—Jin (Japanese for “benevolence”) has successfully blended PR, online marketing and technology capabilities to serve a diverse roster of clients.

That roster includes Groupe Bouygues, Europcar, Tarkett, Chipotle, BIC, FNTP, TF1, and Virbac, with new additions in 2018 including Coca Cola, Allianz, BPCE, Crédit Agricole, Twinings, PureLeaf, Vallourec, Foods International. Those wins contributed to a healthy increase in fees from €5.5 million to €7 million as the firm leveraged its expertise in the healthcare, technology, travel, food, real estate and manufacturing sectors, and its specialist capabilities in employee advocacy and (new in 2018) financial communications—although digital and influencer expertise is still the core.

Highlights of the firm’s work include continued support for Chipotle, for which the firm handles brand awareness in France, targeting micro communities ranging from vegans to fitness addicts to basketball fans via integrated PR, social and digital, leading to an increase in the brand’s online communities and a 9% increase in sales. For Coca-Cola, meanwhile, the firm has expanded reach on social media through employee advocacy centered around the brand’s CSR strategy, and for Allianz it has been addressing younger audiences through an advisory board of digital natives.

In addition to Fillias, the agency leadership team includes co-founders Alexandre Villeneuve, a digital marketing veteran, and Romain Boudré, who serves as chief technology officer and is the architect of Plugr (the agency’s social listening tool) and Pitchboy (a proprietary virtual reality sales training offer). Patrick Bonin, a veteran of several French agencies including Kingcom, leads the Paris office.—PH


LVT Group (Netherlands/Independent)

Our 2018 Benelux PR Consultancy of the Year, LVT since its inception in 1994 has grown from as a technology public relations specialist to a well-rounded corporate and consumer public relations business. But its technology credentials—embodied in specialist subsidiary Progress Communications—continue to shine. Meanwhile, LVTPR continues to work across a number of business-to-business categories, with clients in the fintech, aviation, mobility, construction and real estate, and consumer and retail sectors. Last year the 80-person shop saw the revenue rise for the first time past the €9m.

With integrated campaigns becoming the norm, the group’s specialty agencies — LVTPR, Progress Communications, Eventive, Contentbureau and SjansenDesign — have stepped up their collaboration. LVT’s consider IT investments over the year included tools that facilitated the cross-agency work. None of which, however, comes at the expense or expertise of the individual

groups, which will continue to keep their names and hone their capabilities. New business came from a mix of international and local client wins, including Bosch e-Bikes, Mindspace, NTT Security, Sharp, South African Tourism Petronas, Plantronics/Polycom, Teamleader, Toyota and Vinum et Spiritus. They join existing partners Air Belgium, DOMO, Haacht Brewery, Natuurmonumenten, Microsoft, The North Face, Sonos and Veeam. — DM

Whyte Corporate Affairs (Belgium/Independent) 

A decade after it was launched by former Interel exec Emmnanuel Goedseels, Whyte Corporate Affairs has positioned itself as a leader in corporate affairs in the Belgian market, and spend its 10th anniversary focusing on furthering its position through recent initiatives (investments in visualisation and digitalisation and growing its internal comms practice), strategic hires (added a fifth partner and hired a crisis communications expert) and expanded geographic reach (the new operation in Antwerp covers the Flanders market).

Whyte’s founding partners (Sandrine Agie, Joris Bulteel, Eveline de Ridder and Emmanuel Goedseels, who still run the agency) also marked the occasion by formalizing their vision for the future by developing a strategy plan; While that plan stayed true to Whyte’s founding principles and plan, it did shift operations into higher gear around innovation, diversification and upgrading the firm’s core corporate affairs services. It’s called Whyte 2.0. The firm also continues to offer valuable insight into the Belgian media, political, corporate, social and academic landscape, an expertise that allows Whyte to define the right audiences, recommend the most appropriate channels of communication, to formulate the right messages and to anticipate actions and reactions. That expertise has been strengthened by a commitment to analytics and research and a growing emphasis on digital channels and visualisation.

Over the last two years, Whyte has seen 25% percent growth, with fee income of $5.5 in 2018 and $4.7 in 2017. New business came from AXA Group, FedEx, telecom company Proximus. They join a roster that includes Uber, Burger King, Carefour and the federal government’s food agency. — DM