2020 Digital Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke
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2020 Digital PR 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 winners here.

Winner: Kurio (Finland/Independent) 

Kurio may not be the biggest agency on the block, but the Finnish firm’s social-first mindset sets it apart from many of its peers in the public relations market. Now worth €3m after 25% growth in 2019, Kurio’s focus on digital creative not only helped it land three SABRE EMEA finalists this year, but also saw it rank third in last year’s Global Creative Index, as the highest-rated firm from EMEA. That provides ample evidence of the creative culture that Kurio has developed under the leadership of strategy director Elli Tuominen, creative director Jari Lahdevuori and CEO Tommi Opas. 

Growth in 2019 was led by new business from Framery, K-Citymarket, K-Supermarket, K-Market, K-Rauta (all of these parts of the leading retail brand / corporation in Finland), Varma, Lindström, Danerolles, Paulig and Apetit — joining a client roster that features Microsoft, Nokia Mobile, Neste, Elisa, Fazer, Ehrmann, Sora Enso, PwC, YIT and Littala.

But it is the firm’s creative work that truly sets it apart, including #SurfaceTheWomen for Microsoft, No Country for Canyons for Neste, and Zero Exclusion for Neste and Mantsinen. — AS


Finalists

Coolr (UK/Independent)

In 2017, Adam Clyne, previously Weber Shandwick’s EMEA head of digital and Ladbible COO, set out to create an agency that was equally comfortable in PR and creative, with a social- and mobile-first approach to every piece of client work. The idea that an agency could help brands be part of the cultural conversation through organic social content with zero paid media has gone down well: in 2019, Coolr again broke its revenue targets for the year and grew the team to 20 in the UK and its new office in Tel Aviv.

The team continued its stand-out work as Burger King UK’s social media partner in 2019: after winning its first Cannes Lions for the most-liked branded tweet ever, the team launched the burger chain onto TikTok and was behind the Brexit-related Milkshake Protests. New clients such as Unilever, Soho House, Brewdog, VO5 (including its partnership with the Love Island TV show) and Photobox joined Savills, Twinings, Fremantle and Moo.com on Coolr’s client list. Other wins included leading tech and food and drink brands and, combined, the agency reached nearly a billion people with its brand messages across social channels. Its pro bono campaign for new charity the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation – shortlisted for the SABRE awards – became a global conversation through a BT Tower and Leicester Square media takeover and global influencers including the Beckhams posting on social.

Coolr was the first agency to partner with Facebook on its Workplace platform, helping brands shake up their internal comms. It quickly expanded to offer social media and content, helping clients rethink how they engage with consumers, and combining big agency thinking with the agility of a social publishing business. It might still be scrappy as a young, fast-growing agency, but Coolr is also starting to put more grown-up policies, processes and people in place, including hiring its first commercial director, Neil Van Ginsburg, who was previously at 4Media and TVC. — MPS

Octopus Group (UK/Independent)

B2B tech specialist Octopus Group has become one of the smartest digital agencies in the region, developing campaigns that not only have serious commercial impact for clients but are also more creative and fun than B2B comms has any right to be. Its 2019 Tudder – Tinder for cows – campaign to match breeding livestock for UK farmers has picked up dozens of awards (and is shortlisted for two SABREs this year), and other work over the year included a competition for superfans of Smartsheet’s business software that led to much higher levels of engagement than anyone expected.

The agency’s digital work is a core element of a broader offer that is closer to fully-integrated marketing than many of its competitors, with all client work is geared to achieving commercial marketing and sales objectives. Around 70% of its clients now use Octopus for at least four service streams, up from 50% last year, and instead of competing on pure PR briefs, the agency has bet the business on fast-growth tech clients outsourcing their entire marketing stack. While revenue remained largely static at £5 million, profits were up by 12%.

Six years ago, Octopus completely changed its proposition, reinventing itself as the ‘Brand to Sales’ marketing agency, including huge investment in developing bespoke technology for campaign pricing, planning and evaluation. The team has invested heavily in building the Brand to Sales Academy to put everyone in its 55-strong team through bespoke training, and it’s also putting clients through the process, with the long-term goal of making Brand to Sales a globally-recognised standard for technology marketing. The academy is creating an entire agency of fully-rounded B2B digital marketers who may well end up being the CMOs of the future: a major selling point for the agency as an employer.

In March 2019, the agency hired demand generation specialist Nicola Pestell as director of marketing services, joining the board of CEO Jon Lonsdale, client strategy director Billy Hamilton-Stent and MD Pete Hendrick. Pestell’s influence started to show in the second half of the year, in terms of new business and profitability. In addition, the agency hired a new creative director, Dave Montrose, and its first strategy director, Tom Upfold. — MPS

Ready10 (UK/Independent) 

As it approaches its fourth birthday, Ready10 completed 12 months of growth, financially and creatively. Its revenue continued to rise, with an 85% increase in fee income, partly attributable to new business wins including McDonald’s, voucher giant Vouchercodes, Total Jobs, PRO2GO, AXA, Eurotunnel and the Boat Show, and partly to organic growth from existing clients, including Konami, MoneySuperMarket, the Ideal Home Show and Paddy Power. Headcount rose from 15 to 23, including Lauren Hill (ex-OnePlus PR Lead) and Dettie Freedman (formerly at Publicasity) joining the senior leadership team.

Ready10’s campaigns continue to generate great results for clients, with its “PR for SEO” model delivering on its promise to capture “hearts, minds and bottom lines”. For McDonald’s, the agency launched a Free Fries Friday promotion on its app with England rugby star Joe Marler, and ahead of the coldest UK general election in 80 years, it helped JustPark solve the issue of voter mobility by offering free parking on polling day. — MPS

Threepipe (UK/Reply) 

In what turned out to be its last as an independent agency, Threepipe had another strong year in 2019, achieving growth just short of 20%. The digital agency – the result of a merger between a consumer PR agency and a performance marketing agency, before acquiring a SEO agency and then creative agency Earnie – was bought by Italian technology group Reply in November last year. CEO Farhad Koodoruth and sales and marketing director Jim Hawker’s 80-strong-team (up from 70 last year) is comprised of PR, social, SEO, outreach, creative and analytics experts.

More and more of Threepipe’s work is now integrated: on average, clients work with the agency across three different channels. New client wins in 2019 included Nike (SEO) across eight European countries managed from London; Sweaty Betty (SEO, paid media); Panasonic (SEO, social, creative) across seven European countries managed from London; VTech (PR, social); Hotels.com (content); Oracle (social) and Tough Mudder (search, social, SEO).

The agency introduced two new offers in 2019 that go well beyond PR, to help clients see a direct link between its work and the bottom line: Emergent focuses on helping brands succeed within Amazon by optimising products for organic search and delivering supporting media strategies. It has also developed a Digital Shelf Optimisation offer to help clients maximise sales on third party retail sites, siuch as Tesco and Ocado. Both have involved Threepipe building its own technology stacks, plus the addition of three developers to the team.

Thought leadership included running retail summits with Facebook and Google to explore best practice in social creative to drive sales and how to use social to drive in-store retail visits. The agency continued to grow its expertise in the sports sector, including becoming the lead agency for the England and Wales Cricket Board, as well as a brand positioning review for British Gymnastics and other clients in the sector including NFL. — MPS