Global Creative PR Agencies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report

2019 Global Creative Agencies of the Year

The 2019 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 AmericaEMEAAsia-Pacific and LatAm.

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. 


Winner: Ketchum (Global, Omnicom Group)

Ketchum’s financial growth in recent years has been rather anemic, which is especially surprising given the quality of the firm’s creative work, which is not only undiminished but arguably better than ever. Last year’s pick for North American Creative Agency of the Year garnered an impressive 19 SABRE nominations this year (only Weber Shandwick had more), and was shortlisted not only in the Creative category in North America, but also for Asia-Pacific Midsize (and Digital) Agency of the Year, Russia/CIS Agency of the Year and UK Agency of the Year. The firm also enjoyed success beyond the PR competitions: credited on 30 Cannes Lions winners, including a Grand Prix and a Titanium Lion; recognition from the Clios (30, including music and health), The One Show (16) and more.

A quick run through the SABRE nominations shows the impressive breadth of Ketchum’s creative output. There were plenty of strong consumer campaigns: Lay’s Taste of America and the Tostitos Royal Wedding for Frito-Lay, the Milk-Bone Dog of the Year award, and Clean is the Beginning for Clorox. There were also standout digital and social efforts, like Wendy’s We Beefin’ and purpose-driven work for General Mills and Michelin (road safety for teen drivers). And there were reputation management efforts for 3M and for Discover Puerto Rico, as well as employee communications, driven by the firm’s Daggerwing unit, for Axis Capital, and innovative measurement for Whirlpool.

In Asia-Pacific, Ketchum has smartly repositioned its offering around a digital/social-first model that focuses on audience marketing and social commerce. The firm’s SABRE nominations in the region comfortably confirms this transformation, perhaps best exemplified by the Conti Cities visual storytelling and social commerce campaign in China, which not only built awareness but also saw a considerable spike in sales growth. There was also sophisticated ‘hyper-local’ influencer work for Livat Beijing Shopping Complex, and social commerce activity for ThinkVision.

The firm’s London office was also of note, with CEOJo-Ann Robertson spending her first year in the role proving herself to be an agent of change and—where necessary—of disruption, including a renewed emphasis on culture and talent. Momentum is building: UK fees were up by about 7% last year—with 240 people, the firm is now back in the top 15. — PH/AS


Coyne PR (US, Independent)

There was a time when Coyne PR, with its values-driven, people-first culture, was a fixture on our Agency of the Year lists and a frequent visitor to the center stage at Cipriani. Then there was an interruption — financial shenanigans by a former CFO throwing the management team for a loop that took time to close. But if the quality of the work submitted to our SABRE competition is anything to go by, Coyne is back to its best: the firm garnered 11 nominations this year, the only firm outside the big three of Edelman, Ketchum, and Weber Shandwick to reach double-digits.

That work includes helping Red Robin demonstrate its support for National Teachers Day and drive traffic into its restaurants at the end of the school year; showcasing energy efficient technologies for Shell Lubricants via a coast-to-coast roadshow; positioning Banfield Pet Hospital as a leader in pet disaster readiness in the wake of several high-profile hurricanes; supporting Pacira Pharmaceuticals as it sought solutions to the opioid epidemic; peeling back the blue sticker for Chiquita bananas to drive trade media coverage; and — on the principle that bacon improves everything — helping Einstein Bros Bagels sell out its “cheesy shampoo and bacon conditioner.”

But it’s not just the work that stands out at Coyne. The firm has always understood the value chain in PR, that good people win good business, and that good people and good business translate into good profits, and so its mission has always been to focus on being the best place to work. To restore its pre-eminence in that regard, CEO Tom Coyne conducted meetings at every level of the organization to seek out ideas for improving both work life and client service, and then implemented unlimited time off, work from home programs, an onsite gym, extended maternity leave and paid paternity leave, and unique office amenities.

So even beyond the quality of creative work, 2018 was a good year. Fees were up by about 7% to $30 million, with new business from Chiquita, CSL Behring, FloSports, Happify, Hudson Group, and the International Code Council, joining a roster that includes Beam Suntory, ChapStick, Fiat Chrysler, Hard Rock International, Pfizer, and Timberland. — PH

Hope & Glory (UK, Independent)

Now eight years old, consumer brand agency Hope & Glory now has 75 people in its team generating income of just over £7m, and shows no sign of losing its creative edge (it’s still one of the most award-winning agencies in the UK industry, including being our global creative agency of the year for 2018) or slowing down on growth.

And you don’t increase fee income by 26% or double profits to achieve a 21% margin by resting on your laurels: founders Jo Carr and James Gordon-MacIntosh still believe the agency’s best work will be its next campaign.

The agency won new work from Argos, Adidas, Vita Coco, Reebok, Uber, Uber Eats, Photobox, StubHub, LinkedIn, Facebook Watch and the Edrington-Beam Suntory UK portfolio of spirits brands including The Macallan, Famous Grouse and Courvoisier. It also retained long-term accounts for clients such as O2, HTC, IKEA, Airbnb, Barclays and The Royal Mint.

The team created a broader range of creative campaigns than ever across advertising, content, experiential, digital and influencer campaigns, including Hope & Glory’s first cinema film for Facebook to global TV ads for Pokemon, a socially-activated “Memory Tree” for Marie Curie at Christmas, its biggest ever events for Reebok and Adidas and an online community for Sony.

Conscious that the biggest threat to its continued rapid growth and creativity is a gradual drop in standards, Hope & Glory lasered in on keeping clients, and people, happy and doing the best work of their career. It turned down briefs to maintain quality, implemented a new training programme and mental wellbeing initiatives and launched an exchange programme so team members can visit other independent agencies in New York and Sydney. A third of its diverse, gender-balanced team has been home-grown from interns and only two people left for other agencies. Meanwhile, 100% of its clients would recommend the agency, with 66% saying they would do so now more than ever. — MPS

JeffreyGroup (LatAm, Independent)

JeffreyGroup provides public relations services across Latin America to international clients, with 200 full-time professionals in its Miami headquarters and offices in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico (three markets that account for about four-fifths of multinational client spending in the region), supplemented by affiliates and independent contractors in other South and Central American markets and the Caribbean. Founded by Burson-Marsteller and Rowland Company alum Jeffrey Sharlach, the firm is led today by CEO Brian Burlingame, with Sarah Garrido joining last year as managing director of the Miami office, having previously served as director of business development at branding firm Conway+Partners.

Fees were up by about 24% last year, thanks to new business from Citibank, Enel, GE, HBO, John Deere, L'Oréal, MasterCard, PepsiCo, Roche and Samsung, while the firm significantly expanded its relationships with Amazon, Marriott International and Salesforce and continued its work with longstanding clients Airbus (11 years), American Airlines (8 years), Bayer (11 years), Facebook (7 years), and Mead Johnson (9 years). The work, meanwhile, is consistently excellent, with six Latin American SABRE trophies—more than any other agency —for work including the “Rebuilding An Icon” campaign for Camargo Corrêa Infra; “Energy Connects Us” for Enel; “Happn's Crush On Brazil” for Happn; and the Game of Thrones series finale promotion for HBO Latin America. — PH

Zeno Group (US, DJE Holdings)

It was another year of double-digit growth for Zeno in 2018, with fee income up 13.6% globally (17% in the US), continuing a pattern that has held since Barby Siegel took the helm almost 10 years ago. The firm now has more than 500 employees around the world, slightly more than half of them in the US, and other key metrics are equally impressive: it retained all but one of its top 20 clients last year, added a host of new business (including Constellation Brands, Blackstone Group and Eisai Pharmaceuticals—all of which now count among the firm’s top 10 clients in the US), and now serves more than half of its clients across more than one region.

Just as impressive, Zeno applies its “fearless pursuit of the unexpected” philosophy at the nexus of corporate reputation and brand marketing, providing a full-service approach few midsize firms can match. Zeno is still primarily known for its consumer work, and consumer is still about half of the firm’s total business, but the corporate practice now accounts for more than a quarter of the firm’s revenues after a year of 40% growth, and is developing new intellectual property around employee engagement. And of course, there’s strength in healthcare (44% global growth last year) and technology (up 55%). At the center of it all is a global strategy and planning group that has developed the firm’s “human project” methodology, informing social purpose campaigns and brand positioning and consultancy work.

Major US clients include Salesforce, AstraZeneca, Lenovo (for which Zeno handles everything from thought leadership and corporate reputation management to content creation), Netflix (it handled social marketing outreach around the show 13 Reasons Why), Intel (work around the PyeongChang winter Olympics), Kia Motors and Yum (Pizza Hut), while new business wins—in addition to the three mentioned above—include the Alzheimer’s Association, Aruba, Blue Nile, Electrify America (a VW subsidiary focused on charging stations for electric vehicles), Gensler, Kohl’s, Hollister, The Honest Company, and State Farm, while the firm also became a roster agency for Coca-Cola.

Finally, in terms of talent, Zeno strengthened an already impressive leadership team with New York managing director Byron Calamese (formerly of Porter Novelli) and deputy managing director John Blodgett (Edelman); as well as specialists in employee engagement (Megha Rao, formerly of MSL) and multicultural marketing (Denisse Montalvan from Axis Agency); and further additions to the data and analytics teams. — PH