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Lansons’ 31-year pedigree demonstrates how independence, ethics and culture can combine to keep a historic agency as relevant as the latest hot consumer shop. Founded by Tony Langham and Clare Parsons in 1989, the duo’s extraordinary energy and focus on employee wellbeing over profitability will surely help it adapt to the challenges posed by 2020, as will the fact that it entered this year in strong shape. Significantly, Lansons is 32% employee-owned, consistently wins best workplace honours, and has effectively eliminated the gender pay gap across its 90 employees in London.
2019 was something of a landmark year for Lansons thanks to the acquisition of New York financial firm Intermarket at the start of the year. Back on home turf, Lansons continued to impress, winning 66 new clients including Abbott Nutrition, Cayman Islands Government, Cityscoot, Free2, Gregory Pennington, the Independent Investigation into the Collapse of London Capital & Finance, Instanda, Legal & General, Tech Nation and WeWork — joining an existing roster that features Abbott Laboratories, Aldermore Bank, BlackRock, Givaudan, Invesco, Investec, Isle of Man Government, JP Morgan, LV=, and St James’s Place.
That all came amid a reasonably tough year for corporate communications, but Lansons’ focus on reputation management (including a new book authored by Tony Langham) and its considerable experience in financial services sets it apart from many of its peers. The leadership team also features Laura Hastings and Rebecca Mayo, along with CFO Stuart Graham and senior hires James Dowling to lead public affairs and Danny Calogero as board director. Campaign highlights include the SABRE-nominated Imagine Conference for Givaudan, along with eye-catching efforts for Post Office Money and the Isle of Man. — AS
Hanover (Avenir Global)
In Hanover’s first year of operation after being bought by Canadian group Avenir in April 2019, the agency founded by Charles Lewington 22 years ago grew by 9% to over £20 million. The consultancy is now a 172-strong heavyweight with true trusted advisor status, working with some of the world’s biggest businesses on the most complex global communications challenges. Hanover’s corporate heartland, led by MD Gavin Megaw and deputy MD Gary Cleland, grew by 18%, and there was also strong performance from healthcare, up 21% and now working with half of the world’s leading pharma companies. Outside London, Hanover Middle East, led by Jonty Summers, contributed more than £2 million to revenue.
The agency welcomed new clients including Merck, Instagram, Astra Zeneca, Centrica, LaLiga & Airbnb, but again put a strong internal focus on organic growth, so by the end of 2019 more than half of new revenue came from additional projects for existing clients, who include Facebook, Sky, Goldman Sachs, Novartis, Roche, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Apple and Uber.
To attract new talent, Hanover launched ‘Live Uncommon’ to show what it’s like working at the agency, highlighting its investment in employee-development and wellbeing, training and Live-Smart workshops to reward good work through spot prizes and bonuses. It launched the Mackay Programme to find more experienced healthcare hires – a sector where the talent shortage is particularly acute. The agency also added a global crisis offering, which has provided preparedness and testing for situations from industrial relations issues to terrorism for major corporate around the world. And, always innovating, Hanover introduced a strategy and insights team comprised of communications, research and data analysts, a sustainability and purpose offer called Hanover 360° and a methodology for aligning culture, purpose, employee advocacy and engagement and risk management called NOWPROOF. — MPS
MHP (Engine Group)
Corporate powerhouse MHP added a new string to its bow in 2019, as parent group Engine brought it together with its consumer shop Mischief to create one agency (although, for the moment, the separate brands remain). The result was combined fee income up 8% to £26.4 million, with nearly 200 staffers working across 200 clients, including MHP advising on more IPOs than any other consultancy last year.
The agency revamped its corporate communications offer, developing a new Brand & Reputation practice led by new hire Rachel Bower, formerly an Edelman managing director, and expanded its planning and content production capabilities. And after Mischief’s CEO Frankie Cory left the agency last February, CEO Alex Bigg promoted from within, naming creative director Greg Jones as Mischief’s new MD and partner Daniella Bertolone supporting him as operations director. In 2019 the combined MHP Mischief team – which now covers consumer PR as well as corporate reputation, brand strategy, crisis and issues management, capital markets, public affairs, health and financial services – won more than 60 new clients, including Barclays, Costa Coffee, Gilead, NHS Digital, Revolut, Southampton FC, South Western Railway and Syngenta, joining the likes of AstraZeneca, Asda, Coca Cola, E.ON, the UK Home Office, Huawei, National Trust, Nationwide Building Society, Restaurant Group, and the RSPCA on the client roster.
Stand-out work in 2019 included highlighting E.ON’s commitment to energy efficiency by building 16ft lungs to show levels of air pollution around London, which drove sales growth of 56%. The team also worked with Vodafone around the introduction of 5G with the first ever hologram call, launched Lego’s biggest ever brand campaign, and helped Huawei grow its share of the UK handset market, while managing its political and stakeholder relations. Integrating two distinct agency cultures and getting the balance right between harmony and distinctiveness was, not surprisingly, one of the agency’s biggest challenges last year. Beyond introducing one P&L, there is now one HR team so applicants can find the home that suits them best, and plenty of focus on mentoring and training across the agency. – MHP
Seven Hills (UK/Independent)
Michael Hayman and Nick Giles have always cut a slightly different figure to their market peers since they launched Seven Hills in 2009, along the way becoming a perennial presence on this list and winning Global Agency of the Year honours in 2014. The duo have been avid creators of content, developing an events and campaign mentality that has seen them develop their intellectual property in a bid to showcase their thought leadership and connectivity credentials to clients. It is an approach that has paid off handsomely, with Seven Hills reporting fee income of £4.3m in 2019. While that was effectively flat growth, Seven Hills’ work continues to impress, not least after it literally wrote the book (‘Mission’) on how businesses tap into their core purpose to break through, and starting two TV shows — Change Makers and the Capital Conversation.
Best known for its focus on the entrepreneurial economy, Seven Hills has honed its positioning to focus on two practice areas: purpose and impact, and innovation and investment. Accordingly, the firm is perhaps best known for its focus on such organisations as the Business Growth Fund, Here East, One Young World, Tech London Advocates, Innovate Finance and Small Business Saturday. Other key clients include Here East, the Valuable 500, Advertising Week Europe, the Canary Wharf Group and Clearly, while there was new business in 2019 from Strava, the Inclusive Economy Partnership, Plexal, Unmind, Generation, Percent, the Good Business Festival, TechUK, YPO and Young Enterprise.
While the external results were good, much of the firm’s focus in 2019 was internal, via several initiatives to support training, development and workplace culture. There was the usual complement of high-quality thought leadership, including Hayman’s regular newspaper columns exhorting business to behave more positively, and a slew of events that the firm has created, such as student enterprise competition GradVenture with the University of London, and the Frontline interview series with the London Stock Exchange.
Unsurprisingly, the best of Seven Hills’ work reflects its campaigning mojo — for One Young World’s Annual Summit in London; for Tech London Advocates, for BGF’s Ready Business campaign — all of which brings together thought leadership and business opportunities to strong effect. — AS
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