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Since launching Seven Hills in 2009, Michael Hayman and Nick Giles have been avid creators of thought leadership content—from research to events—around their primary focus on the entrepreneurial economy and the “change makers” who are driving it. Over the years they have honed Seven Hills’ positioning to focus on two practice areas: purpose and impact, and innovation and investment. To demonstrate the strength of their credentials, they have written a book (‘Mission’) about how businesses can tap into their core purpose to break through, and started two TV shows — Change Makers and the Capital Conversation—to celebrate entrepreneurship and innovation.
Seven Hills is headquartered in London
A strong year in 2021 saw revenues increase by 17% (from £3.9 million to slightly more than £4.5 million) and headcount go from 28 to 44. The firm’s largest clients include BGF, the UK and Ireland’s most active investor; Here East, an innovation campus based in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; The Valuable 500,focused on disability inclusion; One Young World, Tech London Advocates, WANdisco, robotics pioneer Tharsus, and Innovate Finance. New business camne from Unilever, biodiversity experts Ground Control, Beamery, Hexagon Group, Net Purpose, MMC Ventures, and disposable diaper brand Bambino Mio.
Post-lockdown, Seven Hills has implemented flexible work as a permanent part of its business model, keeping office space open for those who would like to use it Tuesday to Thursday. It has also maintained a focus on its mental health and wellbeing initiatives, and continued to work in the social justice realm with philanthropist James Chen (whose Clearly campaign secured a UN resolution committing to universal affordable eyecare), to the disability inclusion campaign Valuable 500, to supporting Cephas Williams’ launch of Portrait of Black Britain. The firm has also created an internal task force focusing on diversity and inclusion with the aim of driving a diverse recruitment policy, and it partners with the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Kings College London to diversify its talent pipeline. In addition to Hayman and Giles, the leadership team includes CEO Emma Johnson, and Susuannah Jackson, director and head of creative services. New additions included Lauren Beadle, an associate director who previously led communications for senior figures in Whitehall.
The firm’s focus on driving change has been integrated into the business through Seven Hills’ MissionLab offering, which helps companies define, distil and campaign around their mission, and promoted through Change Makers, a media and events platform that evolved into a podcast during the pandemic. Highlights of the firm’s client work include providing media support to Leena Nair, chief HR officer of Unilever (now CEO of Chanel) on topics related to the future of work; rapid turnaround support for the Good Business Festival, part of the government’s pilot events testing programme in April; and launching The Valuable 500, a CEO community committed to disability issues, at the World Economic Forum.
— Paul Holmes
Blurred was set up in 2018 by former Unity co-founder Nik Govier, the firm’s CEO, along with founding partners Stuart Lambert, Katy Stolliday and Emma Weisgard, with a vision of building a strategic and creative advisory firm in a world where the lines between disciplines, audiences and sectors are more blurred than ever: corporate is consumer, internal is external, brand is purpose, and management consultancy is communications consultancy. With the added skills of specialists in its corporate and creative cohorts, the fast-growing B Corp firm has evolved its offer to focus on what it calls ESGP – environmental, societal, governance and purpose – doing work that helps creatively solve problems where business, societal and planetary interest overlap, for some of the world’s biggest brands.
Blurred is headquartered in London and operates its Blurred.global model to enable it to work with talent all over the world.
The Blurred leadership team had an extraordinarily tough year in personal terms, but they leaned into their values – including ‘life’s too short to do mediocre work’ – and challenged their clients to move even further and faster on ESGP. The agency grew by 73% last year to fee income of more than £2.8 million, with new clients Kellogg’s, Associated British Foods (capital market advisory work and ESG consulting) and the FTSE 100 home builder Taylor Wimpey (ESG advisory) joining a bench that includes The Coca-Cola Company and BT Group. The permanent team almost doubled in size to 18 people, and the firm appointed its first managing director, Rachel Minty, who had joined as a consultant from Golin in 2020, and recruited National Grid group head of responsible business and former SalterBaxter MD Jeremy Cohen as a partner. Jenny Pape came on board as head of talent and also leads Blurred’s new R3cruit offer, where it hires ESG experts for clients.
Blurred was one of the first agencies to achieve Blueprint Ally status and is committed to DE&I in all its facets, from supporting those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and internships for people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, to ensuring diverse representation on client teams. Of the core team, 31% are from ethnic minority backgrounds, with 16% in senior roles. The agency is 67% female with 68% in senior roles. In its latest six-monthly employee survey, 100% agreed that discrimination is not tolerated at Blurred, that the agency respects individuals’ differences and people can be their true selves, and that Blurred lives by its values. Everyone in the firm has a fortnightly coaching session and DE&I training, and every person of colour is offered mentoring with someone from a similar ethnic background. Blurred was recently named as PRovoke Media’s Best UK Consultancy To Work For.
Much of Blurred’s work is confidential, but outstanding projects over the year included helping BT Group engage its 100,000-strong workforce in its purpose-driven work, telling authentic stories shot by an award-winning director and production company. The video series is one of the most-watched pieces of internal comms BT has ever produced, with record engagement. The agency also helped Coca-Cola move into the metaverse by launching its first NFTs for charity, ran ESG capital market days for Associated British Foods, the FTSE 30-listed owners of Primark and 70 other businesses, and conducted a full ESG materiality assessment for Kellogg’s, first for Pringles and then for the entire European cereals division.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Hanover was founded 22 years ago by Charles Lewington, formerly the press secretary to UK prime minister John Major, who remains as CEO after selling the agency to Canadian group Avenir in 2019. The consultancy has grown to a heavyweight with true trusted advisor status, whose focus on providing strategic counsel to corporate clients, working with senior leaders to enhance recognition, reputation and resilience, working with some of the world’s biggest businesses on the most complex global communications challenges. The agency is a market leader in advocacy, healthcare and corporate communications, with a growing consumer marketing business and sector specialisms in food and drink, tech, media and financial service, and with strategy and insights, creative consultancy and digital at the heart of its offer. It has also introduced a Sustainability 360° offering which helps clients meet the increasing demands of investors, regulators and customers on ESG topics.
Hanover is headquartered in London, with offices in Brussels and Dublin, and has a Middle East operation based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Hanover group revenues grew 16.5% to £25.5 million, and the team now numbers more than 180 people across EMEA. An increasing number of the firm’s client relationships are multi-discipline, bringing together its expertise across media, policy, stakeholders and KOLs, digital and social, consumers, employees and investors. Its client base, including businesses who have been with Hanover for many years, includes Novartis, Goldman Sachs, Airbus, Facebook, Sky, Pernod Ricard, Uber and Airbnb. Notable new business wins in the last 12 months have included a global brewing company, a leading mobile operator, and pharmaceutical firms; healthcare now contributes well over a third of the firm’s revenue.
Hanover introduced a new hybrid working policy for all during the pandemic. The firm increased investment in wellbeing workshops and support for team members and created a Healthy Minds working group, supported by 11 mental health first aiders. Hanover also invested in an enhanced LiveSmart programme of workshops covering areas such as resilience, adaptability, managing stress and tech life balance, and an Employee Assistance Programme. The consultancy provides a support network for working parents and has progressive policies for LGBTQ+ employees and women, including new policies around pregnancy, fertility and menopause. Hanover is on track for 20% diverse representation in London by the end of 2022, and has 55% female leaders across the group. Significant hires included group digital director Adam Naylor, strategy and insights director Teodora Coste, managing director of creative Ceri Reed, Janez Potocnik, former EU commissioner for the environment, joining as a senior advisor, and Sabrine Skiker and Keith Hoare joining as associate directors in Brussels and Dublin respectively.
Hanover’s Rewire programme includes a proprietary diagnostic tool which helps clients understand and take action to address gaps in their reputational resilience. At scale, this tool will become a data engine that tracks confidence in resilience among corporate affairs leaders. The agency also carried out sustainability research to explore outcomes from COP26 across consumer and business audiences and their expectations for the next phase of climate action. The firm was shortlisted for five SABRE awards: launching a collaboration between Novartis and the NHS, developing the Why #NursesMatter campaign for MSD, delivering a flagship event for the Entrepreneurs' Organization, sustainability work for Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, and a global campaign for Merck KGaA.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Initially set up in 2005 by Chris Salt and Howard Lee, both ex-Gavin Anderson, Headland Consultancy started a completely new life in 2012 when former Fishburn Hedges CEO Neil Hedges and COO Dan Mines came on board: the all-new Headland was built around the idea that financial, corporate, and public affairs clients needed a one-stop-shop that offered senior strategic and commercial counsel and creative campaign delivery, not one or the other. As the refreshed firm celebrates its 10th anniversary –with new investment from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, under its belt – it has proved that integrated offer is chiming with the market. There’s also still a real dynamism to the agency: it recently launched a brand campaigning offer, Citizen & Communities, hiring former Freuds director Jo White to help brands build impactful campaigns which engage the public alongside corporate, financial, political, regulatory and employee audiences. It has also built specialist capabilities in sustainability, research and insight (led by Headland’s first head of research, Matt Horrocks), digital and leadership coaching.
Headland is based in London.
Headland grew fee income by 26% to £20.5 million in 2021, after 20% growth in 2020 and the team also grew rapidly as 34 new people came into the business, taking headcount over 130. In the past year, Headland has won business with 42 new clients – including Apax, National Australia Bank, Randstad and Tata Steel, many of which wanted to combine different elements of their communications work under one roof, as well as diversifying work with existing clients such as Accenture, ASOS, Britvic, Danone, eBay, Just Eat, PepsiCo, TikTok, Versus Arthritis and UBS.
Headland continued with its hybrid approach to work, respecting peoples wishes and concerns while continuing to believe in the power of being together in the office. It upgraded office and home-based technology, continued to offer a range of mental and physical health programmes and organised two Covid-safe all-company events across 2021 to bring people back together. The agency launched a series of working groups looking at equality, diversity and openness in the business, overhauled its recruitment process and rolled out unconscious bias training. Through charity partner Amos Bursary, Headland is sponsoring a young person over a five-year period as they progress through further education and into the working world, and has reached more than 160 students through online workshops on careers in comms. It will also be offering two internships for students from underprivileged backgrounds. Significant hires included Yani Giazizoglou and Matt Denham from Teneo, Will Smith from Tulchan and non-exec chair Jill Easterbrook, former senior Tesco executive and ex-CEO of fashion retailer Boden. The firm also continued its trainee scheme (formerly its graduate scheme, opened up to encourage more diverse talent) for the ninth year.
Notable work over the year included repositioning Premier Foods as a champion of sustainable consumer cooking trends, helping the company’s share price more than quintuple since its pandemic low and vaulting the company into the FTSE 250 with a market cap approaching £1 billion. The team supported Mulberry’s 50th anniversary with the launch of their ambitious Made to Last manifesto to transform the business into a regenerative and circular model, encompassing the entire supply chain, by 2030. Headland also developed a pandemic transformation strategy for Pret, and placed Just Eat at the heart of the Levelling Up agenda and on the right side of the gig economy debate.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Corporate heavyweight MHP and consumer comms darling Mischief came together in 2019, and promptly entered a considerable period of upheaval and uncertainty as owner Engine Group restructured operations and then put its UK marketing businesses up for sale, during which time CEO Alex Bigg and deputy CEO Nick Barron fought hard to keep the distinctive legacy brands from being swallowed up under the Engine name. This proved to be a savvy move: MHP Mischief’s recent acquisition by Next Fifteen Communications group has finally given the leadership team, including head of brand and reputation Rachel Bower and Mischief MD Greg Jones, the financial backing and freedom to accelerate growth plans, creating a corporate and creative powerhouse that has its eyes on international expansion for the first time. The firm, which was named as PRovoke Media's UK agency of the year in 2021, has seven specialist practices: corporate (brand and reputation), capital markets, financial services, health, consumer (Mischief) and public affairs, plus a new studio, merging the design team with digital, creative, content and production experts.
MHP Mischief is based in London.
MHP Mischief’s fee income rose 13% to £38.2 million, and it ended the year with 195 staff. The agency has won 70 new clients in the past 12 months including AO.com, Avanti Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Impossible Foods, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, LV and Purple Bricks. Major briefs included national climate change campaign Big Green Week, a documentary series for AstraZeneca about the Oxford vaccine, and a three-year education campaign for the Financial Conduct Authority turbocharged growth.
In 2021 MHP Mischief set new targets for diverse representation, and expanded its outreach and inclusion work. In the past 18 months the number of colleagues from minority ethnic groups has risen by 50% (to 11%), leading the agency to set a new target of 14% by the end of 2022. All employees went through Creative Equals inclusion training, and there were partnerships with Crankstart, Ok Mentor, Speakers for Schools and the Taylor Bennett Foundation. The agency launched i-Networks to bring together colleagues with similar shared experience, including working parents, LGBTQ+, neurodiverse team members, and people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds. The London office became a landmark for future Black talent as MHP Mischief worked with Brixton Finishing School graduates to create a stunning wrap-around statement: “The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Black”. The agency’s Better With Balance initiative aims to reach 50:50 male and female at every level; currently 65% of the workforce and 41% of the leadership are women. New senior hires included heads of creative (Luke Walker from Weber Shandwick) and strategy (Kate Gomes from H+K Strategies), as well as ITN broadcaster Charlotte Grant, Grayling director Craig Ling, senior National Infrastructure Commission advisor Max Wind-Cowie, and Telegraph industry editor Alan Tovey.
The agency’s work, as ever, underpinned by a great deal of intellectual firepower and behavioural science. Building on its Networked Age model, MHP Mischief developed The Purpose Pathfinder to help clients design brand purpose narratives that resonate with their audiences in the strongest possible way, while also balancing the polarised views of different audiences. Other IP included a capital markets daily business briefing, a paper on sustainability in the investment industry, and Mischief’s Attention Trends Forecast on the drivers of consumer conversation, attitudes and behaviour. The agency was shortlisted for four SABRE awards, including the #LongLiveThePrince knife crime campaign for the Kiyan Prince Foundation, defining hybrid working for workspace giant IWG, and creating the ‘marriage carriage’ for train operator Avanti West Coast.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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