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Former Verisign communications chief and serial investor Tilo Bonow founded Piabo in2006 and has built it over the past decade-and-a-half into one of the leading technology public relations firms in continental Europe, partnering with growth companies to provide impact-driven communication that attracts and engages customers, investors and employees. Its expertise spans a range of tech-related sectors including deep tech, fintech, blockchain, health tech, consumer electronics, AR/VR, artificial intelligence, security and big data.
Headquartered in Berlin, Piabo has 115 people across additional offices in Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Hannover and Stuttgart, from which it covers not only Germany but also adjacent German-speaking markets in Austria and Switzerland. Through its partnership with Millwright Holdings in the US, it has global reach.
Piabo had a spectacular 2021, with fee income doubling to $15 million—likely enough to rank just outside the top 10 in the German market. Growth came from clients in deep tech and blockchain as well as health tech, and added new practice areas including brand positioning and employer branding. The firm held on to almost all of its top clients, including Evernote, Github, GP Bullhound, Momox, Silicon Valley Bank, Sipgate, Stripe and Withings, OMIO and BMW, while adding several significant new clients such as Perfegg, Xempu, Niu, Lieferando and Qonto.
Even before the pandemic, Piabo was working digitally and remotely due to its global client portfolio, and so it handled the change in work pattens with relative ease, emphasizing employees’ mental health, digital connectivity, remote onboarding and more. Bonow continues to lead the firm in partnership with chief operating officer Daniela Harzer and VP client relations and growth Marc-Pierre Hoeft. New faces last year included Juliane Seack, head of people development & employer branding, formerly of Serviceplan, and Timotée Louise Gbaguidi, director digital communications, formerly of Story Machine.
Bonow and other key executives are extremely visible in the start-up and innovator realms across Europe, speaking at events such as the EU Startup Summit and THE GROW in Zurich, addressing issues from technophobia to personal branding for entrepreneurs and business leaders. Bonow also joined forces with Millwright Holdings’ founder Michael Young to launch a $10 million venture fund to fuel new agencies worldwide. As far as the work is concerned, Piabo provided PR and influencer relations support to Vivid Money, a one-stop financial service platform, and helped business finance company Qonto with PR and media relations support in the German market.
— Paul Holmes
Farner, now 67 years old, has been the Swiss market leader in corporate and public affairs for as long as anyone can remember. Yet Farner is not just a domestic heavyweight, but one of the best players in EMEA, as evidenced by its selection as one of PRovoke’s EMEA Consultancies of the Decade. During that period, Farner has grown to become the country’s leading integrated agency, employing 200 people across six locations, and leading both the advertising/creative and PR rankings. The firm’s revenue has tripled in less than 10 years, bolstered by some smart acquisitions, and an ambitious mindset that combines brand development, change management, PR, public affairs and data/commtech across brand communication, advertising and performance marketing. Key strengths include financial, healthcare and brand communication, with Farner also now eyeing European expansion after teaming up with an investment partner, and launching new products in the commstech space.
Farner operates six offices in Switzerland: Zürich, Bern, St. Gallen, Lausanne, Basel and Chiasso.
Fee income was up by 1.2% in 2021 to €34m, underpinned by the firm’s mandates for the Ministry of Health, along with longstanding relationships with Touring Club Suisse, Hirslanden AG, McDonald’s, Coop, Staatsekretariat für Wirtschaft SECO (State Secretariat for Economic Affairs), Ryhstadt, PostFinance, UBS and Schweizerische Bundesbahnen. There was new business, meanwhile, from CSL Behring, Honda, CABB Group, the Catholic Church, Vontobel, Zwei Wealth, Kunstmuseum Basel, CSS and Campari/Aperol. 30% of Farner’s mandates utilize at least two of the firm’s practice areas, with growth favouring public affairs, corporate, change management and branding, along with Covid-19 work for the the Federal Office of Public Health and the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Roman Geiser has led Farner since 2012, but, in line with new expansion plans, has reduced his shareholding and will hand over the Swiss leadership reigns this year to Pablo Koerfer and Michel Grunder. The firm has formed a working group to improve diversity in line with overall policy, focusing on female representation at leadership level. On that note, Regula Bührer, who arrived at Farner via the acquisition of ad agency Rod, has joined the firm’s board of directors, while Karin Ryser was hired as CFO and head of management service. Another management board member, Nina Krucker, has been named chief operating officer. Farner has submitted to diversity benchmarking from the University of St. Gallen and has had its payroll checked for gender discrimination, with no unexplained discrimination found.
Farner partners with the Reputation Institute to publish the Swiss RepTrak study, and is also the the exclusive Swiss provider of training for behavioral marketing that follows the ‘Coglode method’. The firm’s commstech practice has developed several new products, while Farner has also become the first Swiss agency to enter the metaverse. That kind of innovation helps to explain Farner’s haul of four Finalists at the EMEA SABRE Awards, including work for the Federal Office of Public Health, UBS, Roadcross and Kompass.
PRovoke’s 2020 DACH Consultancy of the Year retains its positioning as Germany’s biggest PR player, thanks to an offering that unites nine specialist firms under one umbrella that focuses on narratives that not only move society, but also markets. FischerAppelt works for half of all publicly-traded brands in Germany, along with numerous startups and midsized companies, with an offering that spans data, design, planning, product innovation, content and campaigns across mobility/infrastructure, healthcare, technology, financial/professional services and FMCG. Recent years have seen specific growth in such areas as marketing technology, influencer marketing and executive communication, along with ESG.
FischerAppelt’s 600 staffers operate from ten locations across Germany, Austria, the US and Qatar.
Revenues were up slightly to €72.5m, with FischerAppelt continuing to benefit from long-term relationships with such clients as Coca-Cola, Mondelez, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Deutsch Bahn, Vanguard Asset Management, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Volkswagen and Warner Bros. Several major projects enabled the firm to showcase its strengths in strategy, creative, PR and content marketing, with new business arriving from eBay, Readly, Samsung, AbbVie, Siemens Healthineers, Pronova, H&M, RaboDirect and HUK Coburg.
Founder Andreas and Bernhard Fischer-Appelt are joined on the managing board by Eugenia Lagemann, Matthias Wesselmann and Ralf Holterhof, while the C-suite saw the addition of strategy and creative leaders in the shape of CCO Diether Kerner and CSO Torben Bo Hansen. In addition, Birand Bingül joined to lead the firm’s strategic consulting business. FischerAppelt has implemented anti-discrimination directives in line with EU law, requiring specific and mandatory training, clear processes, and a manifesto to regulate the framework.
Campaign highlights included #UNHATEWOMEN, ‘Pigeons Against the Far-Right’, and TKKG and the 12,000 Detectives.
— Arun Sudhaman
What started as a one-man-show founded by Christoph Schwartz in his home office in 1994 has become a regular on our agencies of the year DACH list. Schwartz’s familial culture has been the foundation of the agency since its inception and continues to be at the core even as the firm grows. After 27 years in the German market today Schwartz PR is one of the top tech-focused PR agencies in the DACH region, supporting more than 70 international clients.
Schwartz does business in Austria and Switzerland in addition to its home base, Germany.
Schwartz has come a long way since its launch 27 years ago, with 37 employees, 70-plus clients and €5.8 million in fees — up 25% from the previous year, making 2021 the firm’s best year ever. Schwartz’s team focuses on the large technology and digitalization market in Germany with international clients like Alibaba, ABB, Fujitsu or Sharp. New clients Roku, Infineon, GfK Browers & Wilkins, Libratone and Tile are just some of the most famous new clients.2021 also saw Schwartz launch a sister agency, CMCS, which specialize in content marketing. Schwartz’s prowess in serving the tech industry is well-known in the region, as evident by the 260 RFPs that came in last year.
Over the last year, Schwartz’s team held steady, with its very low attrition rate a credit to the firm’s culture — and value it places on employees. Christoph Schwartz runs a shop around values like fairness, responsibility and reliability while driving excellence. During Covid, Schwartz added 10 people to its staff, now at 37, and at no point instituted furloughs or cut hours. In addition to Schwartz, leadership includes deputy MD Jörg Stelzer and team lead/account director Susanne Pawlik.
Schwartz has emerged as a top player for PR in tech/digitalization in the DACH region, with focusses: IT, consumer electronics, e-commerce, telecommunications/mobile, renewable energy, e-logistics, industrial tech and med-tech. In 2021, the firm’s biggest campaigns included driving awareness of e.CO electric vehicles in Germany, boosting Covid vaccinations through use of digital health platform Samedi and support the 40th anniversary of the Menschen für Menschen
— Diana Marszalek
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