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Golin (Interpublic Group)
It’s a little more than a year since Golin declared itself a “progressive public relations agency,” reclaiming a term that had fallen from favour in some sectors of our business while also pledging a forward-thinking, earned-centric approach to building stakeholder relationships. For the EMEA operations in general—and the flagship UK office in particular—the new positioning feels more like an evolution than a revolution since the firm has been out in front on issues such as diversity, gender equity, and mental health in the workplace.
The firm has grown to be one of the top 20 in the UK and has additional offices in France, Germany, Latvia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Turkey and the Middle East. The region has been a great training ground for senior talent in recent years: current global CEO Matt Neale was instrumental in reviving the firm’s European operations, while Bibi Hilton, who led the London office for the past five years, was named to a new role as global engagement director for Unilever at parent company Interpublic. The operation is now being led by Ondine Whittington, who was most recently managing director of the firm’s Virgo Health unit. Other new talent in 2019 included Sophie Hodgson, who joined from Aspectus Group as executive director in the corporate and business-to-business practice.
But it’s the quality of the firm’s creative work—even in a year when the firm’s UK revenues declined slightly—that truly stands out. Golin garnered 15 nominations—more than any other agency, including several much larger networks—in this year’s EMEA SABRE Awards competition. The firm’s shortlisted campaigns include “#ThisIsParenthood” for Water Wipes; the Magnum Ruby Launch for Unilever’s premium ice-cream brand in Turkey; a sleep comfort campaign for Premier Inn in the UK; capital markets communications for Franklin Templeton and Fondul Proprietatea in Romania; a crisis communications initiative for Lidl, also in Romania; the digital “#TrackRecord” campaign for LNER in the UK; and the “Keep An Eye On The Road” campaign for new client Gartner.—PH
Ogilvy was one of the most dominant agencies in the SABRE awards shortlists this year, with 12 nominations – including a particularly strong showing for the teams in Germany, Ireland and Africa – confirming its place as one of the most creative agencies in the region.
After a somewhat rocky 2018 as the global agency underwent the disruption of its “refounding” to become One Ogilvy, 2019 turned out to be fertile ground for creative, impactful client work across the region. Cross-fertilisation across previously-siloed disciplines started to happen, and far from PR being reduced to a supporting role, the team’s expertise in big earned creative ideas has influenced every other part of the business.
This was evident in senior hires, too, with Matt Buchanan coming on board last February to lead the PR & influence capability in the UK from Australian consumer shop One Green Bean, and former adland creative Ben Bailey joining the London team in the autumn to focus on earned creative across the entire business.
Stand-out creative work across EMEA ranged across sectors as diverse as bioscience and aviation, and for clients from Google and Aldi to Guinness and Nestle. The agency’s visually-stunning, data-driven No Need To Fly campaign for German Rail, for instance, which showed how much cheaper it was to get to places in Germany by train that were as beautiful as flying to other countries around the world, led to a 24% rise in revenue. And the Saudi team made the most of record summer temperatures in Kuwait by introducing the Sun Flame Grilled Whopper for Burger King. — MPS
The Romans (UK/Independent)
Launched in 2015 with minority investment from celebrated UK ad agency Mother, The Romans immediately caught the attention of London’s fiercely competitive consumer market by boldly professing its embarrassment with the existing quality of PR creativity. Co-founders Joe Mackay-Sinclair and Misha Dhanak brought considerable pedigree from their previous agency postings and, while Dhanak departed last year, it seems reasonable to observe that The Romans have been backing up their fighting words with some real creative victories. The firm landed no fewer than five EMEA SABRE finalists, including ‘The Vagina Emoji’ for Twitter, ‘The Invisible Look’ for Santander, ‘Refuse to Snooze’ for Eve Sleep, ‘Drag Cleans’ for Method and ‘Think Before You Thank’ for OVO Energy.
All of which puts The Romans in rarefied company for an agency of 28 people, proving that its stellar creativity is driving topline results by growing 28% in 2019 to £2.5m in fee income. While Mackay-Sinclair serves as ECD, the focus has always been on identifying the best creative talent in the market — a nod to the Roman Empire’s own heritage of famous individuals. And like its assertions about creativity, The Romans is backing up this particular claim too. There is a substantial focus on leadership training, the firm has won the Young Cannes Lions on multiple occasions and its staff base is 22% BAME, while 60% of the leadership team is female. — AS
Talker Tailor Trouble Maker (UK/Independent)
Talker Tailor burst onto the London PR stage in 2016 with all the flamboyance you would expect from founders Gary Wheeldon and Steve Strickland; in their third year of operation they achieved 7% growth to take the agency to well over £1m in fee income, with a team of 21. The agency added briefs from Pernod Ricard, Leon and Deezer, which joined consumer brands including Deliveroo, Mastercard, Direct Line, Burger & Lobster and Pride in London on its client roster, with creative highlights including its Burger & Lobster “Mixed-ology Cocktails” and Deliveroo “Second Best Delivery” campaigns, both of which have been shortlisted for SABREs this year.
Talker Tailor bills itself as straight-talking, fun-loving, smart-thinking and risk-taking, and views diversity as the key to its success, including an all-female management team. The agency has overcome the challenge of attracting diverse candidates from recruitment agencies by partnerships with organisations such as The Taylor Bennett Foundation, mentoring and an internship programme. And while Wheeldon and Strickland will never be boring, they have finessed the agency’s distinctly irreverent attitude and have become more robust about management of areas such as HR, training and finance, as well as underlining their position as creativity leaders in the industry by adding free creative training sessions for clients, new business prospects, other agencies and freelancers. — MPS
Tin Man (UK/Independent)
It was a game-changing year for Tin Man, one of the most admired young agencies on the London PR scene. The six-year-old firm became independent in 2018, as founder Mandy Sharp bought out the other shareholders at Unity who had part-owned the company from its inception. Tin Man has not only thrived in its independence, it has surpassed all expectations and targets: in 2019, it grew by 63% to break through the £2m income barrier, won over 40 awards and maintained a happy team of 26. Tin Man was also named “pound for pound the UK’s most creative PR agency across EMEA” by PRovoke for the third year running.
Tin Man’s biggest challenge for 2019 was to win more big retainer work, while maintaining creative impact. Investing in creative talent and putting a focus on new business helped it beat seven agencies to win Virgin Media and winning the six-figure Hilton hotels EMEA brief against four networked agencies.
Other new wins included Smart Energy GB and Britvic, who joined Barclays, Unilever, Plenty of Fish, Fox, National Geographic and Sky on the client roster. But while everyone loves an account win, Sharp didn’t want to overstretch the team or neglect existing clients: last summer she halted pitching for two months, just to bed in new clients. This resulted in huge organic growth from clients like Barclaycard and Ferrero.
Tin Man’s stand out 2019 campaigns included ‘Tick Tock Till Bedtime’ for global jobsite Indeed- a bedtime story to engage parents in conversations around job hunting; ‘The Longest Wait’ for Megabus, a content led campaign charting the emotive journey of long distance relationships; a campaign for J2O Spritz calling time on #MocktailMadness; ‘The Silent Thank You’ for Anthony Nolan, video content depicting stem cell recipients trying to find the words to thank their donors and a trust-building and positive sentiment generating campaign for dating site Plenty of Fish.
As the geographic reach of its “creative campaigns with heart” spread beyond the UK, Tin Man has started to build a EMEA network of like-minded agencies in Germany, UAE, France and Turkey. It also developed the Heart Score evaluation tool to evidence the power of emotional connections in its client work, introduced its Prosper diversity and inclusion initiative and educational outreach programme, and launched the Hearts & Minds mental health and wellbeing programme for employees and the wider industry. — MPS
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