2021 Nordic PR Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke

2021 Nordic Consultancies of the Year

The 2021 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 were unveiled at the 2021 EMEA SABRE Awards on 9 June.

You can find the 2021 SABRE Awards EMEA winners here.

Winner: Nucleus (Norway/Independent)

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Norway’s Nucleus was founded in 2000 and brings a distinctly creative take to its work, helping it emerge as an impressive player in both the boardroom and the awards-show circuit. The firm employs 31 people, and works across consumer, corporate and technology, with particular expertise in employer branding, employee engagement for such clients as Academy, Aktiv, Hennig-Olsen Is, Aker Solutions, Elfag, Atkins and Norsk Gjenvinning.

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Nucleus is based in Oslo.

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With a national lockdown crippling the economy, Nucleus experienced a 30% drop in turnover, but responded by stepping up sales efforts rather than shedding staff. An impressive new business drive helped ensure that turnover rose by 28% last year, while fee income eventually dropped by less than 10% for the year, with headcount expanding. New clients included Aker Solutions (the firm’s biggest ever account win), Norec, the Norwegian Coastal Administration, Berry Alloc, Netatmo, Serit, Ruter, Kyowa Kirin, Geberit, and the Planning and Building services of Oslo, which join an existing roster that features Kesko, Element Logic, Norwegian council for road safety, Oslo municipality, Sony, Lenovo, Doctors Without Borders, Telenor, Statnett and Atkins.

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The firm is led by chairman Atle Hommersand, CEO Axel Revheim, and co-owner Kyrre Edquist-Hansen, who also oversees content marketing, media and creative. Key hires included senior advisors Mah-Rukh Ali, Tine Venaas and Gerg Huus, as Nucleus stepped up its media, sustainability and healthcare credentials, while launching new practices focused on digital media training and visual content. The firm’s focus on diversity also stands out, in terms of both age (25 to 62) and gender (50:50), and is supported by enlightened parental leave policies. And, it has set clear targets for leadership gender balance and overall ethnic minority representation, which it is committed to meeting. 

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Nucleus’ work has attracted impressive award show recognition, and demonstrates a highly creative flair for driving serious business outcomes. The SABRE-nominated #PowerTheChange campaign for Aker Solutions, for example, involved the development of a brand narrative and movie as part of a merger and brand launch, representing the biggest, most complex campaign that Nucleus has so far undertaken. There were further SABRE nominations for ‘No Limits for Hennig-Olsen and ‘My Gift’ for Medicins Sans Frontieres.

Arun Sudhaman



Finalists

BCW (WPP)

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In a region of strong independents, where networked agencies rarely thrive, BCW’s three Nordic offices are the exception, and more than live up to the Nordic reputation for creativity. Marta Karlqvist, who had been leader of Cohn & Wolfe in Stockholm since 2010, took over the leadership of BCW’s Nordic region in 2018 and has not only bolstered the success of the flourishing Swedish office, but stabilised and turned around operations and performance in Finland and Norway. As a result, BCW’s Nordic offices are working more closely than ever, sharing resources and intellectual property such as a data-driven sustainability offering and a digital public affairs product. 

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BCW has fully-owned offices in Sweden (Stockholm), Finland (Helsinki) and Norway (Oslo). 

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Despite some frozen budgets, Sweden managed to increase operating profits by 25%, without having to put people on furlough, and is on track to grow revenue by more than 8% this year. The Swedish business quickly transformed to meet client demand for public affairs, corporate and crisis communications, healthcare and technology and the creative studio and content offer was rolled out to more existing clients. The Swedish team expanded work with existing clients, who include BMW, Carlsberg, Trygg Hansa and Tradera (Swedish e-Bay), to cover advertising, content and crisis work, and won some of the region’s biggest pitches, including Amazon, Eli Lilly, TikTok and a global telco. Norway went through a ‘reset’ and moved into new offices, and after turning around the Finland office in 2019, the team re-pitched and won its biggest client. Other clients in the Nordic region include Microsoft, The Norwegian Environment Agency, Neste Corporation, Dow and Dupont.

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Karlqvist, who is a Cannes Lions judge this year, has worked hard on establishing a Nordic company culture and facilitating inter-country staff exchanges and work. The agency recruited and trained ESG experts in the region to meet demand and worked closely with colleagues in Brussels, Germany, the UK and the US. Head of corporate and public affairs Joseph Borenstein returned to the Swedish office after four years at client Trygg-Hansa, and in Finland, pharma and politics specialist Hanna Kuntsi was recruited as head of public affairs.

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The Swedish team followed its multi-award-winning Sound of Drowning campaign for insurance company Trygg-Hansa with the innovative SABRE-nominated Beach Mode campaign, creating a “digital lifebuoy” – an app that stopped parents being distracted on their phones when their children were playing in the sea by turning off all mobile functions other than emergency calls. Incidences of child drowning plummeted by 31% year on year. Also showing up in the SABRE shortlist was Carlsberg’s collaboration with GreenKayak to encourage consumers to pick up plastic waste while kayaking.

Maja Pawinska Sims

Narva (Sweden/Independent)

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Narva — named after the Swedish army victory over a Russian force three times its size — has always embraced its positioning as a challenger brand initially within the financial communications space (from investor relations to IPOs and other transactions to annual and sustainability reporting) and more recently in the broader media relations, public affairs and CSR space— and in the healthcare arena. A new mission focuses on ‘trust and transformation’, reflecting Narva’s focus on driving sustainable outcomes across financial services, healthcare and real estate. 

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The firm works throughout the Nordics from its Stockholm HQ. 

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There was modest growth in 2020, driven by new business from Moderna, Handelsbanken, Unilever, ASSA Abloy, and Schneider Electric. They join a client roster that features Securitas, SAS, Novartis, Chiesi and Janssen, with Narva pivoting to newer services focused on the ‘new normal’ including digital roundtables, webinars and stakeholder management.

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Under the leadership of managing partners Daniel Bergsten and Johan Molander, Narva’s senior team also includes Therese Lange, partner and head of impact; Staffan Bruzæus, partner and head of financial comms; and finance/HR director Cathrine Walfridsson. The firm is currently in the process of determining sustainability and inclusion metrics, and its yearly analysis did not detect any structural salary discrimination, in line with Swedish law. Even before Covid struck, Narva had implemented a work from home policy, but the firm transformed its processes in 2020, which involved working harder but ensuring that staff were not laid off.

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The firm maintained a high level of agency comms and marketing in 2020, including an extensive series of webinars. Campaign highlights included the ongoing Patients Parliament initiative, the Code Game for Embrace Group and work to raise awareness of peripheral artery disease for Bayer.

Arun Sudhaman

Spotlight PR (Sweden/Independent)

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Chairman Johan Wetterqvist and CEO Axel Lagerbielk have seen Spotlight grow year after year since launching the Stockholm firm in 2005. At that time, Spotlight offered a new take on PR, one that puts driving business results for clients at the center of its work — which remains an underpinning of its campaigns. Spotlight’s success is also a credit to the culture it’s been free to cultivate as a local, independent agency, the core values of which are respect, engagement, and humility. 

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Spotlight PR is based in Stockholm, Sweden. 

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Spotlight has been profitable every year since its 2005 launch, and 2020 was no different. Despite Covid’s toll on business, Spotlight recorded €3.1 million in fee income in 2020, an all-time high, up from €2.9 million in 2019. The addition of two employees brought headcount to 21. The firm won new business from Coca-Cola, Interxion, Ecster, Hasselfors Garden, Netatmo, Guide Gloves, Kvadrat and Toca Boca. Existing clients include Panasonic, Adobe, Qlik, Emirates, Eaton, Essity, Randstad, Jägermeister, Arla, and WW (formerly Weight Watchers). 

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Camaraderie has always been core to Spotlight’s culture, and the sense of community that comes with that was never more important than in 2020, when Covid threatened to break down ties among colleagues by shutting down the office. So, Spotlight’s leaders implemented a variety of means to keep its team unified, facilitating collaboration through the likes of Teams, Slack and Trello. Diversity & inclusion also is well-rooted in the firm’s value proposition; In a survey, employees deemed Spotlight a place that fosters equality.

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While media relations is still at the heart of Spotlight’s work, the agency has expanded into thought leadership and integrated campaigns to keep pace with client needs. PR, marketing and digital siloes are no more. All of which resulted in the year’s hallmark work, including a far-reaching recycling campaign for Coca-Cola that included galvanizing government and NGO leaders to help spread the message, and changing iconic brand labels for the first time. A photo challenge for Adobe drew thousands of submissions, the most popular of which were shown in an augmented reality exhibition in central Stockholm.

Diana Marszalek