2020 Global Creative PR Agencies of the Year | PRovoke Media

2020 Global Creative Agencies of the Year

The 2020 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 500 submissions and (virtual) 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 were announced at the 2020 Global SABRE Awards, which took place virtually at the 2020 PRovokeGlobal Summit on 21 October. 

Winner: Ketchum (Omnicom PR Group) 

Omnicom’s global full-service public relations brands—including Ketchum—have struggled to keep pace with the competition in terms of business growth over the past few years. But one thing that has not suffered, particularly in the US, is the quality of the firm’s creative work: 19 campaigns are among the finalists for the North American SABRE Awards, from the controversial “We Believe” campaign tackling toxic masculinity on behalf of Gillette to Mastercard’s #acceptancematters initiative to telling the truth about opioids for the Truth Initiative to opening the Cheetos House of Flamin’ Haute for Frito-Lay. The firm also took home Best in Show at the Innovation SABREs for its “Keeping Fortnite Fresh” work for Wendy’s.

In the UK, meanwhile, CEO Jo-ann Robertson has turned Ketchum London into what one of her senior colleagues describes as a “shining light and a cultural beacon” within the global network. With 210 people bringing in fees of around £30 million – with growth again at around 7% in 2019 and healthy margins – the UK represents 12-15% of Ketchum’s global business and is a global hub for a number of multi-market accounts. The agency has produced swathes of creative, impactful work over the past year for clients, with particular strengths in healthcare (including vaccine work for Sanofi and oncology work with Novartis), public affairs (including Whirlpool and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) and consumer brands. For the launch of Colgate’s new premium toothpaste, for example, the team partnered with designer Richard Quinn on the #PoutFree campaign for London Fashion Week, with models smiling rather than pouting on the catwalk. And for the launch of the Galaxy Z flip-phone for its biggest client, Samsung, it forged another fashion partnership with accessories designer Ashley Williams and influencer Pixie Geldof.

Talent is another priority, with Robertson frequently taking the approach of discovering exceptional people and finding a place for them, rather than just filling vacancies. She created the role of consumer brand MD for former W Communications director Sophie Raine, for instance, to “inject some more swagger” into the London operation. Other significant new roles included MD of client experience for James Coyle, who came agency-side from Ketchum client Samsung Electronics, and an all-female strategy and creative team of Jo Tatchell and Helen Chapman from Edelman, and Kristy Holland from fellow Omnicom agency OMD. Former Ogilvy, B-M and Racepoint director Victoria Winstanley also joined as a director. – MPS


Day One Agency 

In today’s noisy — and often bleak — news cycle, Day One's manifesto of creating campaigns that “stop the world in its scroll” has more value than ever. The agency’s breakthrough creative work spotlights its unique vantage into the modern consumer, technology platforms and the overall cultural zeitgeist. 

But before diving into the work, it’s worth looking at the agency’s staggering business performance in 2019. Revenues rose 45% bringing the independent agency from nearly $15m to just over $20m in 2019. This aligns with Day One’s remarkable growth trajectory that continues to amaze — 30% growth in 2018, 84% growth in 2017  — the agency has only been around for six years and its revenues are $21.4m. Combining the best of PR, digital, and social agencies, Day One has attracted world-renowned brands to the agency including American Express, Facebook, Nike, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M, Comcast, Motorola, and Ferrara Candy Co.

Now let’s look at the work. Day One worked with Chipotle to launch its TikTok presence alongside a star influencer to spotlight free delivery for digital orders for Cinco de Mayo. The campaign drove a digital sales record. For National Avocado Day, the team created a viral dance that became the highest-performing branded challenge on TikTok and set another record digital sales day. When launching its loyalty program, Day One helped Chipotle become the first brand to partner with Venmo on a campaign that drove one million rewards sign-ups with no paid advertising in the first week. For H&M, Day One built a multi-stage campaign to launch its new Hudson Yards store centered on a Love Letter to the city in New York Magazine. All of these campaigns were recognized by judges at the 2020 Gold SABRE Awards (alongside work from Motorola) and Innovation SABRE Awards, in addition to other industry accolades. 

The firm maintains long-lasting relationships by making two-way investments in clients and staff. The agency is built around three centers of excellence that prioritize a story-first mindset: shape, share and fuel. All three centers share the core belief that people don’t share content, they share stories. In 2019, Day One launched its “What Do You Want to Earn?” workshop offering that co-creates ideas with the clients, securing buy-in at the earliest stages. The firm also formalized its  DEI initiative 2019 and created “The Ones To Know,” an Instagram resource to elevate influencers from underrepresented communities. The firm remains under the leadership of founders Josh Rosenberg, Brad Laney and Rob Longert. — AaS

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

RBB Communications (US/Independent)

It is easy to forget, amid RBB’s emergence as one of the industry’s most consistently successful small players, that the Miami firm carries with it a distinguished background since it was founded Bruce Rubin Associates in 1975. After being acquired by Weber Shandwick in 1997, Christine Barney and Lisa Ross completed an MBO in 2001; 20 years later, RBB is a business that can be as proud of its impressive growth as its laudable employee culture. 

In 2019, RBB grew by 15% to $16m, reflecting its ability to deliver integrated services for a roster of national and global brands. That plan has been underpinned by a series of acquisitions — including 2019 experiential purchase Zicomm and previous buys digital firms Spiderboost and Out of the Blue Advertising. The firm’s new business performance provides ample proof of its integrated expansion, including such brands as Neste, Merz Institute of Advanced Aesthetics, Primrose Schools, Lyft, HBO Latin America, G4S, Tempo by Hilton and Kolter Homes — joining an existing roster that features Hilton, Bank of America, DHL Express, AMResorts, Florida Power & Light Company, Disney on Ice, Related Group and Cleveland Clinic Florida

There is strength across travel and leisure, consumer and healthcare — bolstered by the addition of specialist talent such as ECD Ruth Olegnowicz and digital SVP Billy Boulia, who join a leadership team that includes Barney, Ross and EVP Tina Elmowitz, alongside nine other minority partners. And while Rbb has grown noticeably, its focus on workplace culture and diversity remains a competitive advantage at an agency that is not only women-owned, but more diverse than most — 58% Hispanic, 37% white and 5% multiracial, black or Asian.

The firm’s work earned it a SABRE nomination in 2020 for Downtown Doral, and there were also excellent campaign efforts for Jackson UCC and Hilton. — AS

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 Media 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