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Taylor Herring is famous for eye-catching, creative campaigns with mass consumer appeal that generate headlines, crash social media timelines, and deliver business outcomes for clients, along with an increasing focus on purposeful work that helps brands tackle societal challenges such as climate change, mental health, diversity and education. After 20 years of being one of the most admired independent boutiques on the hugely-competitive UK consumer PR scene, 2021 was the start of a brave new era for the agency founded by husband and wife team James Herring and Cath Taylor, with Peter Mountstevens at its creative helm, as it was acquired outright by Publicis in April 2021, leading to a year of explosive growth.
Tin Man is headquartered in London.
In 2021 Taylor Herring increased revenues by 40% to £6.72 million – the biggest growth in company history – on margins of 18%, up from 15% in 2020. The team also grew exponentially from 18 to 42.
Organic revenue grew by 45% – up from 10% the previous year – and the agency also secured £1.3 million in new business wins from clients including. Quorn Foods, Mars, NatWest, McVitie’s, Purplebricks, Vision Express, YouTube, Unison and Iceland Foods. Taylor Herring retained all core existing clients, including Subway, Quorn, BrewDog, Unison and Samsung; half of the agency’s clients have been with the agency for more than five years and 55% of client revenue is now from retained accounts, up from 14% two years ago. However, the agency has taken care not to stretch its team or under service core clients, turning away over £450,000 worth of new business in 2021.
Maintaining a vibrant, inclusive, diverse company culture with a focus on personal development, mental health and fun was as much of a priority as business growth for Taylor Herring last year. Two years on from the agency’s commitment to shake-up the make-up of its talent base, and after undertaking unconscious bias training for those involved in recruitment, 24% of its employees are now from an ethnically diverse background, up from 11% last year. The leadership is 50% female and 12.5% ethnically diverse. The team was canvassed on home vs office preferences and 92% said they want to be in the office three days a week. The team is encouraged to pursue passion projects, from taking a sabbatical to direct a sitcom, to competing in a ‘battle of the bands’. Over the year, the agency reviewed employment policies, adoption leave, surrogacy leave and shared parental leave, with arrangements in place for pregnancy loss and fertility treatment, and all staff received two bonuses in 2021 in recognition of exceptional performance. The agency’s production team have completed the AdGreen sustainability course, helping them to measure, understand and reduce their waste and carbon impact, and mental health continued to be a focus, including offering mental health training to senior leaders, a 24-hour helpline and free Headspace subscriptions. The agency also happily returned to socials, introducing a weekly pub night attended by 85% of the team.
Taylor Herring undertook pro bono work for the refugee charity Choose Love, consulted for Pride and provided kit to 50 young footballers in Chesham while revamping the club’s social media. Stand-out work over the year included helping EasyJet change the statistic that only 5% of the world’s commercial pilots are women. Taylor Herring made female pilots the poster stars of its recruitment campaign, went into classrooms and supported Mums juggling home-working and home-schooling, giving them access to free online lessons in geography and flight physics taught by female captains. The campaign drove a 20% spike in new recruits. And to drive footfall in Subway outlets when lockdown lifted (and brand love from a hard-to-reach Gen-Z audience), Taylor Herring handed over the restaurant’s in-store radio network to comedy pirate radio station Kurupt FM for a week, leading to record-breaking engagement, an 11% rise in rose by 11%, and increasing brand consideration amongst Gen-Z by 25%.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
The Academy is an independent PR agency founded nearly eight years ago by Mitch Kaye and Dan Glover with a mission to bring the brightest minds together to create work that gets noticed, makes a difference and passes into popular culture. Its founding pillars are Intelligent Thinking, Applied Creativity, Quality Production and Connected to the Right People. Each pillar is treated with equal importance – delivering strategy and creativity using both the rational and emotional sides of the brain – meaning the agency is as obsessive with business impact as it is creative accolades. Its work encompasses PR and advertising, design and identity, digital and live experiences. In 2021, the agency continued the new approach it had implemented at the start of the pandemic: whatever happens, keep being a good, supportive, transparent employer, keep being a good partner to clients and suppliers, keep growing, and keep winning.
The Academy is based in London.
Fee income for 2021 was up 15% to £4.8 million (early in 2022, the agency went through the £5 million revenue barrier), and the team grew 25% to make The Academy a 60-strong agency. The Academy won work for high-profile brands including Holland & Barrett, BT, Southern Comfort, Canary Wharf Group, Pizza Express, Asahi, Grolsch and IMDbTV, which joined a client roster that includes Amazon, Disney, EE, Glenmorangie, Grolsch, Heathrow, JPMorgan Chase, Kärcher, Lucozade, Marvel, Mastercard, Morrisons, Pharmacy2U and Zurich.
The Academy enhanced its Staying Human wellbeing programme, offering everyone private healthcare, access to mental health resources, financial advice, a monthly gym subsidy, yoga sessions, advice on nutrition, and a safe space to ask, complain, suggest, offload and challenge via monthly peer groups and bi-annual anonymous surveys, with the results being published and a plan to improve shared as a result. It ensured its return to the office approach married the need to get back together with the best elements of the previous year where lockdown had enabled people to achieve more balance. The team gets together every Tuesday, starting with breakfast together, and every Thursday, ending with a drink to celebrate every win, and one other day of their choice. The agency’s ongoing commitment to building a diverse and inclusive continued not through recruitment and training covering language, micro-aggressions, and culture, together with focuses and targets ensuring diversity in use of suppliers, external speakers, training, cultural outings and client case study outreach. It also strengthened the senior leadership team, with additions including MD Chris Hides, who set up M&C Saatchi PR a decade earlier, and former Cow creative director Donald Swanepoel, who joined as ECD.
Stand-out work over the year included working with Richard Curtis to re-write and re-shoot the iconic and emotional airport arrivals scene from Love Actually, which was released ahead of the Christmas travel period to help Heathrow mark the skies reopening post-pandemic. The agency also positioned London’s Canary Wharf – usually seen as a business district – as a cultivator of culture, working with Booker Prize winner Bernadine Evaristo to curate and release black-authored stories through short story vending-machines, and helped Southern Comfort achieve double digit year-on-year growth with a series of Mardi Gras, Pride and Halloween moments featuring special edition bottles, social content, an influencer programme and live events. Other work included bringing Amazon Prime Video’s stars together to present upcoming releases, celebrating the 95th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh by creating his treehouse in the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood, and listing it as a summer rental property on Airbnb for families to stay in.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Founded in 1998 by Caroline Kinsey, Cirkle’s 21st year was its last as an independent agency: the 65-strong employee-owned agency sold to Huntsworth last month. The senior leadership team headed by CEO Ruth Kieran will remain in the agency, but Kinsey is exiting the business she built into the UK’s go-to PR agency for food and drink brands. In recent years Cirkle has, after having to turn potential clients away thanks to conflict, expanded into a more rounded consumer lifestyle agency, winning accounts on some of the UK’s best-loved brands in sectors from automotive, to retail and technology. With teams working on integrated campaigns across trade, corporate, consumer and B2B, Cirkle’s work influences the entire product journey: from product conception, ensuring retail listings and brand merchandising, to driving customers into stores, generating sales and endorsement. In 2021, Cirkle further evolved its agency model by putting purpose squarely at the heart of what it offers.
Cirkle has two UK offices: its headquarters in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, and a base in Soho, London.
Cirkle’s fee income grew by 35% in 2001 to £4.75 million. New clients including AkzoNobel, Heineken, Aldo, Dyson, Ocado, the Wine Society, motor retailer Pendragon, bed manufacturer Dreams joined an existing bench featuring Mars Petcare, Ferrero, Britvic, Nomad Foods (Birds Eye, Goodfellas, Aunt Bessie’s, Pepsico, Premier Foods, GSK and Honda. The team grew from 29 at the end of 2021 to 45 by the end of the year and now stands at 65.
A pioneer of flexible working before the pandemic, as agency working models evolved Cirkle has scrapped the traditional working day, giving its teams complete freedom on where, when and how they work, whether at home, in the office, or abroad. Cirkle is committed to providing equality of opportunity, valuing diversity and promoting a culture of inclusion, and insures its policies, processes, recruitment and training follow D&I best practice, as evidenced by the agency achieving Blueprint Ally status last year. The agency works with organisations such as Career Ready, Brilliant Creative Minds, Brixton Finishing School and as a member of the Alliance of Independent Agencies to support and drive change within the wider communications industry, as well as offering internships as part of its partnership with Creative Access, which supports people from under-represented backgrounds to thrive in the creative industries. The agency introduced Full Cirkle Wellbeing, a programme to help the team deal with new challenges, ranging from financial wellbeing, to resilience training, to gardening therapy. The agency also upweighed its Green Cirkle ESG commitments and targets and became carbon neutral. Senior hires over the years included the agency’s first strategy director Claire Haddrill, who joined from Edelman.
Cirkle was shortlisted for four SABREs, including helping Mars Petcare brand Dreamies tap into high levels of pet ownership by the LGBT community – where research showed mental health had particular suffered during lockdown – by creating new packs highlighting the brand’s support for the LGBT Foundation, which led to a huge uplift in engagement and calls to the charity’s mental health helpline. The agency also turned Wimbledon’s famous green lawns purple to launch the tennis championship sponsor Robinson’s new blackcurrant flavour drink, leading to it becoming the number one new product in the segment.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Once considered little more than an excuse for corporate hospitality, sport has emerged as an increasingly sophisticated marketing vehicle in recent years. Accordingly, it should come as little surprise to observe the evolution of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, an agency that has always appeared to be ahead of the game. The firm’s offering spans data, planning and creative, adding up to a 186-strong business that includes new services in terms of DE&I and realtime sponsorship measurement.
The firm’s EMEA presence includes its London HQ and offices in Amsterdam and Berlin while, further afield, there are operations in the US (New York and LA), and Australia (Sydney).
Revenues rose by 16% in 2021 to £20.4m, as M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment shook off the worst of the pandemic and focused on impressive integrated campaigns for Dettol, Dreams and Coca-Cola; global virtual events for Heineken; influencer marketing and PR for Whoop; and, social strategy and content creation for Kia. That all added up to $2m worth of organic growth, while there was also new business from Barclays/Barclaycard (the biggest sponsorship pitch of the year), Adidas, Amstel, Ladbrokes/Coral, and Red Bull, joining an existing roster that also features Ballantine’s, Uefa Women’s Euro England 2022 and Virgin Media O2.
Under global CEO Steve Martin and UK CEO Jamie Wynne-Morgan, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment has invested in creating a culture that features free mental health support, a proprietary digital management tool that encourages transparent discussions wellbeing, and a focus on excellence and evolution. Other key figures include co-MDs Jodie Fullagar and Rich Barker, while Laura Coller oversees the firm’s Fabric lifestyle offering. In 2021, the firm launched a comprehensive DE&I strategy across people, culture, industry and society - including participation in the UK government’s Kickstarter Scheme to encourage those on Universal Credit to return to work; amplifying partnerships with a range of NGOs; and stepping up commitment to its own Open House effort, which aims to attract for diverse talent. There are multiple employee-led networks to champion different workforce groups and generate allyship, while the parent group has invested £300k in two major diversity initiatives. 21% of employees identify as a person of colour, while 10% idenfity as LGBTQI+. Meanwhile, the firm’s ‘Step Up’ offering helps clients use their partnerships to build more inclusive cultures.
M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment combined its London and Amsterdam creative teams to create a stronger offering in 2021, helping underpin a slew of major campaigns for big brands. These included Dettol’s partnership with the FA, Dreams’ affinity with UK consumers through its work with Team GB and Paralympics GB; and a music platform to help Ballantine’s connect with millennials.
— Diana Marszalek
There are few PR agencies – and few industry leaders – as entrepreneurial and restless in spirit as W Communications and its charismatic founder Warren Johnson, who started the firm in 2009 and has grown it to a 150-strong creative boutique at scale with global reach, with help over the past two years from former Weber Shandwick London boss Rachel Friend, who joined the firm as CEO in 2020. Playing at the intersection of consumers, culture and commerce, W’s work spans big brand campaigns, corporate and crisis communications, and work with influencers, with an increasingly purposeful bent to its work. In 2021, W staked its reputation on becoming integrated through the lens of earned, with 60% of new clients asking the agency to work on projects outside traditional PR, including talent, influencers, experiential and production. It innovated by putting together The 23 Network, a collective of connected collaborators across the arts, culture, business, politics, and technology to work with on events and thought leadership, and announced W3, its agency in the metaverse.
As well as its London HQ, W has a UK office in Edinburgh (where it bought local drinks PR specialist Steely Fox in November 2020). Outside EMEA, it has a presence in Singapore and New York.
W’s fee income in 2021 rose by 30% to £14.7 million (with profits of 50%), after 2020 growth of 11%. It won £2.3 million in fees from new clients, including HelloFresh, online retailer Very, fast-growing grocery delivery start-up Gorillas, Branston, TUI, Universal Music, Royal Ascot, and British Airways, which invited the agency to launch the reopened London to New York route. Existing clients, many of which have been on W’s roster for years, include Adidas, Levi’s, Spotify, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Camden Town Brewery, William Grant & Sons, Laurent-Perrier, MoneySuperMarket, Marmite, Unilever and Papa John’s. The agency tripled the size of the creative team and doubled its strategy team, and 70% of client work now uses two or more parts of the agency.
W doubled down on its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, transforming its social enterprise WX – founded in 2019 to seek out young talent from diverse and low-income backgrounds – by moving from a series of short internships to a nine-month paid graduate programme, hiring Emily Hodgson from the Social Mobility Foundation to lead the initiative. By the end of 2022, 15% of W’s team will have been brought into the agency through WX. The agency changed its recruitment policy to ensure its hires more people from diverse backgrounds, and set up a DE&I focus group. Senior management is now 71% female, up from 66% last year, and the ethnic diversity of the agency is now 26%, up from 11% in 2020. Every member of staff received a pay rise, on average of 12%, and the leadership met the whole team individually to create bespoke 1-2-1 plans that met everyone’s mental and physical needs. The agency also trained 13 mental health first aiders. New hires included Jack Beckett as head of studio; social director Jennie Thomson; Candace Fremder as director of talent & influencer; and strategy director V Varilly.
W is shortlisted for eight SABRE awards this year, for a broad range of campaign briefs from Papa John’s pizza to the Social Mobility Foundation. Its best work included making science sexy by shifting the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s comms comfort zone through creative use of Fortnite and TikTok to reach Gen Z with STEM messages. The agency also forged an unlikely collaboration for long-time client Camden Town Brewery, with a Marmite-flavoured beer that achieved double the sales targets. It created a wedding dress made from unused face masks to drive record traffic to wedding website Hitched, and again supported Grenfell Athletic, the community football club set up in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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