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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 2019 Global SABRE Awards, which take place at the PRovoke19 Global PR Summit in Washington, DC, on the evening of 23 October.
There are other contenders for the (non-existent) title 'PR Acquisition of the Century' on our Agency of the Year list this year, but few have a stronger case than M Booth. It’s certainly possible that M Booth might have made the jump from highly-creative traditional public relations to analytics-driven digital and social content creation shop without the support of its technology-focused parent Next Fifteen, but there can be little question that the 2009 deal accelerated the process. It also gave the parent company access to founder Margi Booth’s not inconsiderable talent at the group level (with Ketchum veteran Dale Bornstein taking the reins in a succession that was not entirely seamless but is now paying dividends).
And of course, M Booth has grown considerably in the not-quite-a-decade since the acquisition. In 2009, it was an $11 million firm. It ended 2018 at almost four times that size ($40.2 million in fee income, up by 18% in 2018), maintaining and expanding its relationships with longstanding clients such as Wharton (40 years), American Express (15 years), Edrington (15 years), JCPenney (10 years), and adding a host of new clients, including Northwestern Mutual, Beiersdorf (for the Nivea, Aquaphor, and Eucerin brands), Lyft, Evolution Fresh, Qurate Retail Group, Scholastic, and Simply Business.
But it’s not just about growth. M Booth has established itself as one of the most progressive midsize agencies in the world when it comes to integrated campaigns, building formidable resources in all the areas that forward-thinking firms are investing in. After bringing in Adriana Bevilaqua as chief creative officer at the beginning of 2015, the firm has expanded its creative department from two to 25—the firm is now the lead creative agency (across paid and owned as well as earned) for several clients. Social capabilities have expanded too: 35% of the firm’s work integrated traditional and social efforts, and a growing proportion is social only. And the data and analytics group tripled its billings last year, while informing almost everything the agency does.
All of that, of course, leads to some of the most impressive content creation, digital and social programming in the business. The firm’s work for Tinder, transforming the brand’s positioning and winning Best in Show at this year’s In2 SABREs for the #RepresentLove campaign (it’s on the SABRE shortlist this year too) has perhaps garnered the most attention, but there’s plenty more. For The Macallan (M Booth manages creative, earned, social, influencer, and tech innovation), the firm used VR to provide media and influencers with a tour of a new distillery in Scotland. For Nivea, the firm harnessed sports celebrities and social content to persuade men to shave their bodies. And for Google, the firm leveraged the NCAA basketball tournaments to showcase “Know What Your Data Knows” and the Google Cloud.—PH
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 front, 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
AKA Asia celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019, but showed little sign of slowing down. Indeed, under the leadership of founders and former Grayling directors Kate O’Shea and Amy Wright, the consultancy has seen sustained growth in recent years, improving topline revenue by 29% to S$5.4m after 46% growth in 2017 helped underline its crowning as last year’s Asia-Pacific Consumer Consultancy of the Year.
Now numbering 37 staffers, AKA’s portfolio spans several sectors, with a formidable brand communications practice bolstered by an in-house design and product team that has created everything from cinema ads to website design to social content. Significantly, AKA does not silo its teams, focusing instead on a cross-matrix structure that has featured such new hires as planning director Sian Jenkins. And while AKA has set a relentless pace of growth over the past couple of years, it also used 2018 to take stock, stepping up investment in employee culture and development via a series of initiatives that helped to underpin a talent retention rate of 87.5%.
Growth has been driven by the increased focus on design and production, along with broad capabilities across corporate, consumer and digital. AKA Asia continues to serve as creative agency of record for Jetstar and the Singapore Science Festival, responsible for all ATL and BTL content, while also adding integrated assignments from Impossible Foods, Sephora and Facebook. There was also new business from several government clients, joining an existing client roster that also features British Council, Manulife, Discovery Networks APAC, Deliveroo and Electrolux SEA.
The client roster is impressive enough, but what also catches the eye is AKA’s ability to deliver multi-channel integrated work. SABRE-nominated highlights included launching the Impossible Burger in Singapore, rolling out the Singapore Science Festival, and highly creative work that significantly increased sales for Jetstar’s Okinawa route. — AS
Didier Lagae founded Marco de Comunicación in 2002, after a career that included senior roles at progressive icons Body Shop and Levi Strauss and global agencies Edelman and Weber Shandwick, and it is fair to say that his ambition was apparent from the new firm’s early days, when it was a scrappy newcomer disrupting Spain’s established market leaders. That spirit of disruption has not dissipated, and MdC has continued to grow faster than the market, adding both capabilities (it is a leader in sustainability communications and one of the most digitally and socially savvy firms in the region) and geographic reach (it opened offices in Mexico City, Bogota and Lima last year)—with the promise of more aggressive moves in the year ahead.
Fee income was up by about 18% last year, and MdC ended 2018 with fees slightly above $10 million and 120 people across two continents. A surge in new business was turbocharged by the decision to pursue several pieces of European Union business, with assignments from DG Comm (the Communication Directorate of the EU, a €95 million framework contract over the next five years for a consortium led by Marco), EUIPO (the European Intellectual Property Rights Office), EEA (The European Environmental Agency) and DG Connect. Other wins included glass recycling association FEVE (Friends of Glass), the World Avocado Organization, BIRD, DAZN, Spotify, Beabloo, OpenTable, Uberall, JUUL, Danone, Mattel, Grundig, Ikea Centers, supermarket Lidl, XPO Logistics, Mountpark, Rumbo.es and B The Travel Brand.
In addition, Marco works pro bono for the Climate Reality Project and Lagae serves as a “climate leader” for Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, just two examples of the firm’s leadership in the industry and beyond. Another interesting move in 2018 was the acquisition of Ejecutivos, a leading Spanish-language business magazine and organiser of Spain’s most sought-after business awards. Finally, the expansion of the firm’s MAS Consulting unit—focused on public affairs—into the Brussels market is a signal of its broader regional ambitions.
Award-winning work included using World Water Day as a catalyst to position the World Water Council as the global leader on water security and resources, a multi-country effort that gave the Council dominant share of voice. The #ActivateYourWellbeing campaign, developed for furniture retailer Conforama, used a multi-channel strategy to link Conforama with exercise and mindfulness, focusing on a yoga masterclass influencer engagement effort. MdC also partnered on the #IChooseGlass for an #EndlessOcean campaign, developed for Friends of Glass, and provided pan-European campaigns for the European Union Intellectual Property Office.—PH
It was a vintage year for Taylor Herring, the creative consumer agency founded by husband and wife team James Herring and Kath Taylor in 2001. Their 25-strong team, including ECD Peter Mountstevens, has redefined the modern PR agency, conceiving and delivering integrated campaigns that bust the boundaries of traditional PR.
The agency is known for high-impact launch campaigns and long-running PR programmes, and particularly for creating clever, compelling brand stories that have a tendency to flood social media and lead to sales spikes, as in the case of every one of the seven campaigns it ran for baker Gregg’s last year.
This innovative approach led to year-on-year revenue growth of 20%, to £3.6m, with 18% margins. As well as key clients EasyJet, Diageo, Samsung, Greggs, Paddy Power, Sky and Disney, Taylor Herring won some of the UK’s most hotly-contested pitches of last year, including Betfair, Coca-Cola, Fanta, Iceland, Kellogg's, Legoland, National Geographic, Penguin, Shell and Warner Bros. It was also the first PR agency to be awarded the Grand Prix at the Drum Marketing Awards.
The agency is passionate about earned media, but investing in creative craft has also been key to its success this year. At the start of 2018 it launched St Marks Studios, a production and event company to meet client demand for stylish and engaging newsfeed content at a competitive price. It produced 70 films and events last year, including a 12-market TV advertising campaign for Samsung, and turned over £1.2m.
Taylor Herring is also the owner and publisher of two influential media platforms: viral news entertainment site The Poke, which attracts 5m users a month, and PR Examples. By championing photographers, videographers, tweeters and designers, the team has also built a resource of freelance talent that feeds back into the studio. — MPS
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