Russia/CIS PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report

2019 Russia/CIS 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: CROS (Independent)

CROS is one Russia’s longest-standing communications firms, founded in 1995 by Sergey Zverev, whose CV includes notable work including co-founding NTV, the TV channel, and serving as one of the architects of the post-Soviet 500 Days economic reform program. Zverev has leveraged his deep-seated experience and wherewithal navigating the Russian business environment to build the CROS group of companies, each with expertise in a particular sector — CROS, CROS Marketing, CrosDigital and APR. All of which, however, also work in sync, collaborating and sharing expertise that breed results.

CROS logged a healthy $13.6m in fee income in 2018, up from $11m the year before. The company’s 120 employees have worked on 5,000 projects across more than 15 Russian and international industries over its nearly quarter-century history. In addition to corporations, clients include NGOs, associations and public agencies. New clients include Boiron, Citibank, CSKA Danone, KIA, Mosmetro, Novartis and Pfizer, adding to a list that includes 2. Gedeon Richter, Hasbro, KFC, M.Vide, Malltech, Nornickel and PPF. Also in the last year, the firm ramped up capabilities in pharmaceutical communications, analytics, media research and digital. — DM 



EM (Independent)

Since its inception in 2010, EM has certainly made an impact on the financial PR and IR landscape — in particular in Russia (its HQ is Moscow and the firm has offices in London, New York, Beijing and Hong Kong).

For its backstory, EM started as the Russian unit of M:Communications before completing a successful management buy-out in 2013. This deal, in fact, took place just months before the Russian market fell off a cliff with sanctions, tumbling oil prices and a sharp currency devaluation. But EM stuck it out and has thrived, growing by double digits every year since. In 2018, the firm’s revenue rose 25% on an organic basis to $5m. Today the agency has dedicated teams serving Russian clients in the international markets — for instance, the 24-person shop has advised on a significant number of Russian IPOs and ECM transactions, as well as M&As.

New clients include Deutsche Bank, Sibur, GV Gold, Kerama Marazzi, Samolet, Sistema and Talao, joining existing ones such as Aeroflot, Moscow Exchange, PhosAgro, Etalon, MD Medical Group, Tinkoff Bank, Sistema, VTB and X5. Notable work for the Moscow Exchange includes the Russian international capital markets roadshow with major events attracting record numbers of participants in Moscow, London, New York, and Shanghai. In addition to "traditional" media relations, we made video interviews of key opinion leaders at the Moscow Exchange events and promoted them across various social media.

Tom Blackwell, founder and CEO of EM, has worked in Russia communications for more than 15 years. The leadership team includes Sam Vanderlip and Tom Kiehn, Peter Morley and Anna Yarmarkova. — AaS

Ketchum Moscow (Omnicom)

One of the few international PR firms that has continued to prosper despite Russia’s geopolitical tensions and sanctions, Ketchum Moscow will next year celebrate the 10th anniversary of its acquisition by Omnicom. And it looks like it will do so in excellent shape, after reporting its best ever financial performance in 2018, with revenue up 11% and profitability from the 77-person firm also improved.

Under the leadership of general director, partner and founder Michael Maslov, Ketchum has emerged from a relatively quiet period to demonstrate that international ownership need not hamper the agency’s ability to compete with other Russian players. In 2018, the firm secured a string of new assignments, including UFC, Geely Motors, SVEZA, Expo 2020 Dubai, MediaTek, CNH Industrial, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Kerry Group and Oppo, all of which join a client roster that features Google, Mastercard, Rolls Royce Motor Cars, Emirates, Hyatt International,, Philips, Whirlpool, Boeing, Western Union and Adidas.

That client roster reflects the firm’s strengths across automotive, technology and industrial — along with its burgeoning digital  capabilities in influencer relations, social media, visual storytelling, social listening and analytics. Ketchum sought to bolster this evolution by introducing a new training programme that covers such areas as media, digital, crisis and business transformation. Meanwhile, with Fifa World Cup projects requiring significant manpower, Ketchum stepped up its focus on recruitment, expanding its tech practice and expanding its brand repositioning skills.

Unsurprisingly, the work bears out Ketchum’s evolution, demonstrated by campaigns for UFC Fight Night Moscow, Adidas’ ‘Creativity is the Answer’ effort, BMW’s ‘Opera Without Borders’, and Hotpoint’s collaboration with Jamie Oliver. — AS

One Philosophy Group (Independent) 

Last year’s Consultancy of the Year in Russia and the CIS, One Philosophy has continued to grow both in size (it now boasts a team of more than 100 in its Kiev headquarters, following growth of close to 40% in 2018) and in stature (founder Natalya Popovych is a thought leader in the PR business regionally, as well as a prominent ambassador-activist for Ukraine internationally and co-founder of Ukraine Crisis Media Center).

The Be-it Agency, One Philosophy’s legacy company, severed ties with Russia’s PRP Group—Weber Shandwick’s longtime affiliate in the region—in 2014, after the start of the Ukrainian revolution, quickly establishing itself as a leader in the Ukrainian market. The company has since expanded, in 2016 launching Republic (which specializes in governmental relations) and Be-It Health & Social Impact. In 2017, the group added Zeitgeist Design and Changers, which added branding and leadership development capabilities, and formally created the One Philosophy Group, a network of multidisciplinary and highly entrepreneurial agencies united by the idea that fostering—and rallying stakeholders around—a shared purpose is key to driving success.

The firm works for a host of multinational clients, including Mastercard, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, P&G, Danone, Avon, UNICEF, Philips, HMD Nokia, and Sanofi, with key additions in 2018 such as UEFA, Glovo, OLX, Boehringer Ingelheim, Wartsila, and the Ukrainian Institute. President Natalya Popovych, a 20-year veteran of the agency business who also heads a One Philosophy outpost in Copenhagen, was joined in 2018 by CEO Yulia Gumenia, who brings 12 years of industry experience to the role. The firm also added Inga Vyshnevska as managing director of the Zeitgeist Design business.

As for the firm’s work, its campaigns for Avon (encouraging women to be #BRAve in seeking out breast health checks); UNICEF (engaging teens for HIV/AIDS awareness and raising awareness of psychological and emotional bullying); Mastercard (sponsorship of UEFA Champions League Final in Kiev); and the Anne de Kyiv cultural center in France (fundraising) were all impressive.—PH

PBN H+K Strategies (WPP)

PBN was one of the first western firms to establish a foothold in Russia 27 years ago, building a solid portfolio of business that revolved around market access and public affairs work, primarily for western companies—expanding to Ukraine (it celebrated its 21st anniversary last year) and then Kazakhstan (20 years). But the firm has diversified its business considerably since Myron Wasylyk took over as chief executive in 2014, emphasizing the firm’s “trusted advisor” status and its ability to create “big ideas,” and the firm now handles a wide variety of integrated creative and consumer briefs in addition to the corporate work for which it is still best known.

Consumer now makes up 25% of the firm’s total business, with growth last year from FMCG and travel industry clients looking to leverage the World Cup in Russia. There was growth in healthcare too, with assignments from Gilead, Sanofi, PharImex, Teva, Janssen, J+J Medical, Dr Reddy’s, and Pfizer. And in the technology sector, the firm added United Card Services, Yandex, Facebook, Alibaba, Spike, UBER, Tinder, NetApp, NCR, Intel, and Dolby. Finally, the corporate and public affairs practice continued to flourish, with wins such as Westinghouse, , PwC, Visa, and HSBC and an uptick in crisis communications and media coaching assignments. Growth across the region was close to 8%, and the firm now has more than 70 people across the three offices.

The firm has also been enjoying success on the awards front, with recognition for its “Cashless” campaign for Visa; its social media and influencer work around the "Take Another Look" campaign for the Azerbaijan Tourism Board; its energy reform project, financed by the British Embassy and the UK AID; and a battery recycling project for Duracell, which is among the finalists in our EMEA SABRE competition this year. A particular highlight: in September H+K won the Azerbaijan Tourism Board’s  tender for communications support, rolling-out the country’s national branding campaign in 12 markets from Europe and the CIS and beyond.—PH