2020 DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) PR Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke
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2020 DACH Consultancies of the Year

The 2020 EMEA PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 200 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the UK, Europe the Middle East and Africa. Analysis of each of the finalists across 20 geographic and specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are unveiled at the 2020 EMEA SABRE Awards, which will be taking place virtually, with details forthcoming soon.

You can find the 2020 SABRE Awards EMEA finalists here.

Finalists

Achtung! (Germany/Independent)

As its name suggests, our reigning DACH Consultancy of the Year 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 three 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 close to €28 million, up 45% on the year and enough to rank it number six among German agencies according to leading industry publication PR Journal/Pfeffers.

Headquartered in Hamburg with additional offices in 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 Engage achtung!), 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.

This year’s highlights include the “Lifeboat! The Experiment” campaign, developed by achtung! and competitor Serviceplan for the search and rescue NGO Sea-Watch, which documented the story of 50 Germans who volunteered to relive the journey of refugees crossing the Mediterranean in a small inflatable dinghy; the “#SayYesToEurope” lobbying campaign for Lufthansa; and “#LOVEMOB,” a campaign to combat online hate developed for client O2. Other notable clients include BMW, Coca-Cola, eBay, E.ON, Mini and Mobile.de, as well as (new last year) US fitness brand Peleton.—PH

Farner (Switzerland/Independent)

Farner, now 67 years old, has been the Swiss market leader in corporate and public affairs for as long as anyone can remember, with seven offices in Switzerland: Zurich, Bern, St. Gallen, Lausanne, Geneva, Basel and Lugano. Yet Farner is not just a domestic heavyweight, but one of the best players in EMEA, as evidenced by its selection as DACH Consultancy of the Year in 2018. That award recognised Farner’s impressive diversification beyond traditional corporate and public affairs work, bolstered by the 2016 acquisition of brand marketing specialist YJOO, Switzerland’s third largest PR firm. 

All of which serves as useful preamble for 2019, a year of remarkable transformation for Farner, which sits atop not just Switzerland’s PR market but also its advertising/creative rankings after acquiring data/tech agency Du Da and ad agency Rod Kommunikation last year. Farner also established its first branding division under former Publicis and Y&R CCO Markus Gut, enabling it to assist clients across the entire brand cycle, supported by Du Da’s data and commtech offering and Rod’s distinct creative focus, along with its proprietary Farner Lab, in which the firm co-creates prototypes in such areas as AR/VR, voice-first technologies, neuromarketing, and AI in cooperation with specialized technology partners and the University of Lucerne

Now numbering more than 140 staff, Farner reported fee income of almost $30m in 2019, an increase of 1.5%. Key clients include McDonald's, Roche Pharma, Nestlé, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Swiss Post, Julius Bär, Swiss Federal Railways, Coop and Touring Club Switzerland, while there was also new business from Siemens Building Technologies, Coca-Cola HBC Switzerland, PwC, Twint, auto-schweiz, Ringier, Fossil Group Europe, ViiV Healthcare, IMD and the Swiss Trading and Shipping Association.

And the firm’s work reflects that 30% of its mandates now utilize at least two practices. The firm has stepped up its training and development programmes to position itself as an employer of choice, while there is also a strong thought leadership offering that includes the SABRE-nominated Voice First Barometer. Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t the only campaign that caught the eye of SABRE judges, with Farner also landing another four finalists for PwC, Nespresso, Auto-Schweiz and TCS. — AS

FischerAppelt (Germany/Independent) 

Perennial powerhouse FischerAppelt took things up a notch in 2019 when it bought renowned ad agency PUK to take over top spot on the German PR rankings for the first time in its history. That helped to power 41% growth to $93m, from a 714-strong headcount that also includes a dedicated media agency to bolster its market-leading strength across public relations, reputation management, digital and creative, across 8 offices in Germany.  

While FischerAppelt can now cover the entire communications chain — from brand management to digital, content, and media relations as well as performance marketing and creation — the firm remains proud of its public relations mindset, for a client roster that includes the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Construction and Home Affairs Germany, Merck, Daimler, Deutsche Bahn, Astra (Carlsberg) and DAK. There was also specific growth in online and performance marketing, along with new business from Das Futterhaus and the ’30 Years of Reunification’ project for the German Federal Government. 

Andreas and Bernhard Fischer-Appelt, who were in their early 20s when they started the firm in the living room of their flat, continue to lead the agency today, supported by board member Matthias Wesselmann, who is responsible for overseeing the integration between PR and marketing. Dr Pascal Volz leads the performance team while Franziska von Lewinski has headed the digital and innovation division on the firm’s board of directors since 2014. Since acquiring PUK, furthermore, founder Hartwig Keuntje has taken on creative leadership of the group.

The firm’s pioneering approach to content marketing has always given FischerAppelt’s thought leadership a vibrant edge. And the same can be said for its campaign work, which last year included such impressive efforts as ‘Tilted World’ for Audi and ‘Frozen Store’ for Unilever, helping the firm land a strong of awards during the year. — AS

Schwartz Public Relations (Germany/Independent) 

What started as a one-man-show founded by Christoph Schwartz in his home office in 1994 has become a mainstay on our Agencies of the Year DACH list. Schwartz has come a long way since its launch 25 years ago, with 28 employees, 50-plus clients and €4.5m in fees — up 7% from the previous year, making 2019 the firm’s most successful year yet. Schwartz’s familial culture has been the foundation of the agency since its inception and continues to be at the core even as the firm grows.

New clients include Braun, Audio, tile, Deutsche Telekom Digital X, Global Healthcare Exchange, Fischer Connectors, Menschen für Menschen and Yes we Hack, joining the likes of Alibaba, Fujitsu, Malwarebytes, Here Technologies, ABB, 1&1 Versatel and Sharp. Over the last year, Schwartz’s team held steady, with its very low attrition rate a credit to the firm’s culture — and value it places on employees. Schwartz’s prowess in serving the tech industry is well-known in the region, as evident by the 150-plus unsolicited RFPs that came in last year.

In addition to Schwartz, the agency’s management team includes longtime leaders Jörg Stelzer, Julia Kaiser, and Sven Kersten-Reichherzer. — DM

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group) 

Weber Shandwick has a good growth story to tell in Germany, where it saw revenues increased by 14% last year to more than €24 million (enough to rank among the top 10 in continental Europe’s largest PR market), with close to 180 people working in offices across Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Munich. But the real narrative of the past few years is the firm’s transformation from a relatively traditional public relations business into a genuine integrated agency, with strong data and analytics, broad digital capabilities, influencer marketing expertise and more. So it did not necessarily come as a surprise when the firm brought in Ilan Schäfer—a veteran of media firm VCCP, ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, and creative shop Jung von Matt/Spree—to take on the CEO role after the departure of Christiane Schulz earlier in the year.

Last year saw strong growth in several key practice areasincluding healthcare (up 62%, with new business from Novartis playing a significant part); technology (21%); and corporate (10%). New business came from the likes of Aldi, GSK, Iron Mountain, oppo, T-Mobile and Sony Home Entertainment.

A major area of investment has been environmental, social and governance issues, with a strong sustainability offer expanding to include broader CSR issues, and a team of 10 delivering experience in the automotive, consumer electronics, consumer health, finance, healthcare and technology sectors, with a holistic approach that takes into account internal and external stakeholders as well as regulatory audiences. Of particular note is the firm’s work for Nespresso, a business-to-business campaign focused on the issue of “new work” that showcased Weber Shandwick’s new content creation capabilities.—PH