2020 Global Digital PR Agencies of the Year | PRovoke Media
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2020 Global Digital 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: W2O Group (US/Independent)

The narrative is well-known at this point: W2O Group continues to astound the industry with its extraordinary growth, relentless ambition and uncanny foresight that has kept the agency several steps ahead of the industry when it comes to digital and analytics. W2O, which recently became the first agency to break into the large agency category in more than a decade, ended 2019 with $220m in revenue and 12.5% organic growth. W2O got here with 18 consecutive years of double-digit growth.

What’s particularly interesting is how W2O doesn’t operate like most of the others in the category. For one, the firm operates under one P&L across its 16 global offices. And because founder/CEO Jim Weiss made the strategic decision, more than a decade ago, to place data and analytics at the center of its offering, the firm’s expertise in this area remains unparalleled across the industry.

In 2019, the agency marked another financial milestone. The agency sold a piece of the company to New York investment firm New Mountain Capital, marking the second round of funding the company has received to further its expansion. This spurred another buying spree that include the New Jersey-based agency Radius Digital Science, the Philadelphia science communications firm Arcus Medica and 21Grams — a New York-based agency focused on healthcare.

“We’re not growing to grow,” Weiss says. “We’re adding what clients are asking for.”So far, that seems to be the case. The agency continues to retain its core pharmaceutical clients, such as Takeda and UCB, among many others — in addition to biotech like Genentech. New clients in 2019 included: AIDS 2020, the 23rd International AIDS Conference, Aimmune Therapeutics, Mycovia Pharmaceuticals, Oscar Health and  Signify Health. Notable work includes the “With Love, Me” with Merck and an augmented reality booth designed for StallergenesGreer, while the firm scored an impressive seven nominations at the 2020 North American SABRE Awards.

In this pandemic era, it’s worth noting how active W2O has been around this crisis — the agency works with 23 of the top 25 pharma companies in the world, Oscar Health and also counsels healthcare companies within New Mountain Capital portfolio. The agency also launched COVIDcheck, a free public digital health service aimed at helping mitigate the impact of COVID-19 around the world, as well as a real-time dashboard tracking all COVID-19 conversations on Twitter. — AaS


Finalists

Archetype
 (Asia-Pacific/Next 15)

A lesser firm might have struggled with the challenges facing Archetype over the past 18 months, which included a globally-mandated rebranding and the loss of key global clients IBM and Lenovo. Luckily, the enduring strength of Text100’s leadership team and culture in Asia-Pacific helped the agency navigate the turbulence in impressive fashion, underpinning its selection as Best Large Agency to Work For in 2020 and providing a signal example of how an agency can not only manage change, but actually capitalise from it. Archetype’s revenues grew 5% to £14m in 2019, with operating profits also up — all while replacing £1.5m in IBM/Lenovo revenue. 

Text100’s heritage in the region continues to underpin its resilience. It was one of the first firms to succeed in India, where it employs 115 fee earners under market lead Sunayna Malik. There are also 68 people in Southeast Asia, where Southeast Asia MD Yeow Mei Ling in Kuala Lumpur oversaw 17% revenue growth to $5.6m across Singapore and Malaysia. A 24-person Australian team, meanwhile, grew revenue by 18% to US$3.4m, thanks to a stronger focus on strategy and creative, supported by the hires of director Nigel Malone and strategist Bec Madden. And, in Greater China, Archetype counts 61 people across Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, with revenues up 6% to £3.9m. 

There was a strong new business haul, particularly across Australia and Southeast Asia, which included Vodafone, Oppo, Amazon Web Services, Ericsson, GitHub, Aconex, Upright and HTC, joining a client roster that features Zebra Technologies, NetApp, Amazon, Rolls-Royce, Adobe, Qlik, Solarwinds, Red Hat, Stripe, VMware, Acer and Clipsal Solar. 

Singapore serves as the firm’s key regional hub, responsible for driving much of Archetype’s transformation, and housing APAC lead Lee Nugent, client strategy head Marc Ha and ECD Lee Devine. Indeed, the stability of Archetype’s leadership across multiple markets has helped the firm evolve beyond its roots in B2B technology into consumer, creative content and digital marketing. That is evidenced by the breadth of Archetype’s work across clients. including Clipsal Solar (brand development) Subway (brand communication), Rolls Royce (web development and content marketing), Zebra (PR and digital), the German National Tourism Board (social media and web development) and Xero (content development and thought leadership). — AS


Kivvit (US/Independent)

Kivvit was created in October of 2014 through the merger of ASGK Public Strategies and M Public Affairs, two firms with a common ownership that traced their heritage back to Chicago in 2002, when Eric Sedler (former AT&T PR director) and David Axelrod (a high-profile figure in Windy City public affairs who would go on to hold senior roles in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and administration). Sedler remains in place, as co-managing director alongside Maggie Moran, presiding over a firm that has grown to close to 90 people in six US offices, generating fee income of $33 million (up by 36% for the year).

Kivvit is best known for public affairs and issues management work with a variety of clients in the non-profit sector, labor organizations, and higher education, as well as a growing number of corporations including Anheuser-Busch, Delta Airlines, Exelon, Lyft, the Obama Foundation, Princeton University, the State University of New York, Tesla, the University of Chicago, and the US Olympic Committee. High-profile assignments include support for Legalize Illinois as it advanced the “most equity-centric” approach to cannabis legalization in the nation; helping Pace University’s law school climb the college rankings and strengthen its reputation in environmental law; defending civil rights on behalf of the National Fair Housing Alliance in the face of a Trump administration proposal; and empowering patients and physicians to make personal medical decisions around end of life for Compassion & Choices.

But what truly differentiates Kivvit is a commitment to building a future-facing operation driven by the most comprehensive suite of data and analytics tools and the best proprietary technology in the category. The firm named veteran of the firm Zach Silber as its chief innovation officer in early 2018, and last year added Dave Beattie, formerly of EMC Research, as chief of data and analytics last year. 

Under their leadership, Kivvit has partnered with and developed a host of technology solutions covering news analytics, influencer identification, audience analysis and segmentation, custom audience development, social listening, competitive analysis and more—proprietary products include automated, AI-powered impact dashboards, and purpose and ESG tool mESG and more—all of which can help it to either simplify or mitigate issues on behalf of its clients in real-time and with a thorough understanding of the media, political, and audience landscape.—PH

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, Stora Enso, PwC, YIT and Iittala.

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

Ogilvy (Asia-Pacific/WPP)

Despite the agency’s high-profile restructuring, Ogilvy’s ability to blend PR and digital continues to impress in Asia-Pacific, where Andreanne Leclerc oversees a social team that numbers 400 executives across the region. Leclerc is supported by a 22-strong leadership team in Ogilvy’s key PR markets, which include China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Shanghai, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Sydney — bringing expertise across social media, influencer management, research, AI, chatbots, digital content and paid media. 

All told, the social practice grew by 12.5% in 2019, making it the best-performing of Ogilvy’s units. And that continues in thanks to continued innovation in such areas as IRM, social commerce and dynamic content. That much was further reflected by a stellar new business haul, including AIA (regional), the Macallan, Lexus and Mikimoto (Japan), Huawei, Intel and Ubras (China) HSBC and Huami (HK), Pokemon (Taiwan), Amazon Global Selling and Sensodyne (Vietnam), and Mondelez, Nivea, Comfort, OCBC Bank, Max’s and Microsoft (the Philippines). They join a roster that already features such names as H&M, KFC, Pizza Hut, Nestle, Ford, Indomie, the NBA, Shiseido, SC Johnson and Thai Life. 

The best evidence of Ogilvy digital innovation, though, comes from the diversity of its client work, beyond community management and content into such areas as influencer, social commerce and dynamic content. AIA, for example, involves a regional influencer remit, while Mondolez, Korean Air and Huami, and Nestle showcases a focus on always-on content. The firm’s Klear influencer management system powers its work for such clients as Huawei and Shiseido, while the Voice Doodler campaign for Wyeth Illuma and IQ Drive effort for Volkswagen demonstrate Ogilvy’s ability to deploy new technologies for engagement and business outcomes. — AS