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Many public relations firms have been scrambling—in the wake of seismic events such as Brexit and the pandemic, and the accompanying tidal wave of disinformation—to incorporate behavioral science into their capabilities. Shayoni Lynn’s firm was launched three years ago with behavioral science at its core, pledging to put data, science and experimentation at the heart of creative communications and to design and deliver campaigns that tangibly improve and save lives. Lynn herself brought strong credentials to the new business. In addition to serving as chair of PRCA Wales, she served as communications manager for Cardiff University and associate lecturer at its School of Journalism, Media and Culture.
Lynn is based in Cardiff, but was founded as a remote workplace even before the pandemic and has people based in England, Scotland and Wales..
In just two years, Lynn has firmly positioned itself as a leader in behavioural science communications, being named PRCA New Consultancy of the Year 2020 and receiving the CIPR New Consultancy of the Year Mark of Excellence in 2021. In 2021, the firm enjoyed a breakthrough year: even on a relatively modest base of £365,000, an 800% increase in revenues is quite an achievement and Lynn ended the year at £2.6 million. Key clients include NHS South East London/Our Healthier South East London ICS; Thrive LDN; the Office of the Public Guardian; and the The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, while new business came from NHS England & Improvement, the Welsh Government, Public Health Dorset, Hertfordshire Local Resilience Forum, Royal Borough of Greenwich Council, Public Health Wales, Wystle, the Jockey Club, Cavendish Square Group and Swindon Borough Council.
Founder and CEO Shayoni Lynn is one of just 12% of senior PR and communications leaders from ethnically diverse backgrounds and serves as chair of PRCA Cymru and a PRCA Council member, as well as vice-chair for CIPR’s #BIinPR panel. To focus on managing growth and building the business the right way, she has turned to big agency veterans including David Gallagher (ex-Omnicom) , Stephen Waddington (ex-Ketchum), and Andy West (ex-Hotwire) to serve on an advisory board. Established as a virtual agency with people were based in England, Scotland and Wales, lynn has always had diversity in talent and experience and was not hindered by the move to remote work.
In September 2021, Lynn launched The Misinformation Cell, the UK’s first dedicated anti-disinformation service for PR and communications, which now works with a number of clients including public health agencies, local authorities and sporting organisations to combat mis and disinformation. The Cell is working pro-bono to support colleagues in Ukraine (via the Ukraine Communications Support Network) and has provided cutting-edge intelligence and recommendations to fight Kremlin disinformation. The firm’s approach also means that every campaign is rooted in real outcomes (not volume of coverage), so results focus on behavior: an 805% increase in response rates towards a tenant survey for a housing association, securing 362 responses (baseline 40) in four weeks; a 131% increase in self-referrals from residents accessing Improving Access to Psychological Therapies services for a Clinical Commissioning Group; a 78% improvement in COVID-19 vaccination rates for key audiences for an Integrated Care System.
— Paul Holmes
Fiercely independent Brands2Life is still led by the formidable duo of founders Giles Fraser and Sarah Scales, who both left H+K to start their own firm 22 years ago, but the agency has moved well beyond its B2B technology roots to telling the stories of some of the world’s most ambitious, high-growth, disruptive and innovative brands. PR remains at its core, but the agency now provides a full range of digitally-led brand, marketing and communications services to clients. Brands2Life has evolved into a full-service agency with clients in health and wellbeing, business services, energy, financial services and retail and leisure. During the year, the agency put a new full-funnel marketing team in place, and merged its marketing and creative services teams to create a new brand identity offer. The agency also invested heavily in digital and social transformation capabilities, and upskilled everyone in the business in new social platforms and analytics. Brands2Life is the UK PR sector’s largest majority employee-owned trust (EOT), with all staff having a stake in the business.
The agency is based in London, with offices in San Francisco and New York. It also runs a network of like-minded independent agencies in 17 countries around the world to support global clients.
Brands2Life’s fee income grew by 27% to £19.6 million, including £2 million contribution from its US operations, making 2021 its best year ever. The agency’s social team doubled in size to 35 people, the film and content team increased revenues by 50%, and the team won multiple awards for purpose-driven work. The agency recruited 65 new staffers to bring its total team to 174 by year-end, including 18 entry level staff (a 22% increase on 2020). New accounts including Champion Pet Foods, Checkmarx, Michelin, Moonpig, Pearson, Sodexo, Veeva and Xero joined a client roster that includes 23andMe, Cognizant, Galderma, Groupon, Hologic, LinkedIn, Qlik, Sitecore, Tetra Pak and VMware.
The agency evolved its approach to employee wellbeing and happiness throughout the year in response to lockdowns and workload. To manage growth as hiring became a challenge across the industry, the agency declined more than £1 million in new business opportunities and resigned accounts where the client team were unappreciative of staff efforts. The agency’s board is 56% female, with 11% from Black, Asian, mixed race and ethnic minority backgrounds, rising to 15% across the business. The agency has a 0.01% gender pay gap. Brands2Life is striving to be an anti-racist, anti-discrimination organisation, and after introducing a DE&I taskforce in 2020 to review working practices and employee policies, the agency now holds monthly conversations to discuss issues relating to race, discrimination, diversity and inclusion. In 2021, everyone in the business went through Allyship training. Brands2Life also signed up to a partnership with HeadStart/Family Action, supporting 80 young people into employment through work experience and interview training. New senior talent included consumer MD Laura Sibley, who joined from Hope&Glory; Tim Corcoran, MD of marketing and creative services; and strategy and client growth MD Chris Buckley, who joined from Omnicom. Armand David, the agency’s applied innovation MD, left after 17 years to take a corporate affairs role at BT.
During 2021 Brands2Life produced five data-driven thought leadership reports and ran two pan-agency webinars, including its annual Tech Trends event, which attracted more than 500 delegates. The team worked with research company Media Measurement to look at how UK media reporting on brands is changing, while The Fortune Favours the Bold study outlined what it takes to deliver standout comms. The Reshaping Healthcare Survey benchmarked the nation’s attitudes and behaviours around health, and the agency also produced a Recharging Life Science Tech Comms report. Standout work over the year included the second iteration of the LinkedIn Changemakers campaign, extended from the UK to Australia, France and Germany; leading media relations, social media strategy and project management for Tetra Pak’s presence at COP26; EMEA campaigns for Hologic; and the hugely successful, SABRE-shortlisted launch of Hana, HRA Pharma’s OTC contraceptive pill, which led to 95% market share.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Adam Clyne, former EMEA digital chief at Weber Shandwick and LADbible COO, founded Coolr in 2017 as a new breed of digital agency, bringing together big agency thinking with the speed and agility of a social publishing platform. Clyne’s mission is to transform brands through social, inside and out, by helping brands find new ways to engage audiences. Completely plugged into popular culture, the agency is often behind the most talked-about campaigns and creating work that trends regularly on social and generates worldwide editorial cut through. The agency recently launched content agency Coolr Studios in beta mode to serve existing clients with social-first content.
Coolr is based in London but delivers digital campaigns worldwide.
In its fifth year, Coolr has grown into a team of more than 40 strategists, developers, and content creators, who were able to grow revenue by an impressive 40% in 2021. Key clients include global brands such as Samsung, Burger King, Pepsi, Deliveroo, Walkers Crisps and Captain Morgan, while new assignments included being name social agency of record for the prestigious Platinum Jubilee Pageant, a key part of Her Majesty The Queen’s 70th anniversary celebrations, and work for Trainline.
Coolr people come from diverse backgrounds spanning publishing, comms, content and tech (some of them social media influencers in their own right), united by the fact that they all live and breathe digital, and by the firm’s five core value: one team; think big/act small; wrestle and hug (it’s okay to disagree to get to the solution, but always come back together as one team); celebrate the wins, big and small; and don’t be a dick. Despite a move to new offices in Soho, the firm has fully embraced the hybrid working model, and introduced new initiatives supporting physical and mental wellbeing. New additions to the team in 2021 included Ben Jones, from LadBible, as head of Coolr Studios, social media influencer Jay Beech as creative producer, and Joe Goulcher as a senior creative, joining after stints at Rise at Seven, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Moonpig.com.
Constantly looking to upgrade its digital and social capabilities, Coolr sought to build on its experience in video with the launch last year of Coolr Studios, delivering a social-first, mobile-first approach designed to reach Gen Z news consumers. The firm has also enjoyed a partnership with TikTok which has seen it create more than 100 ads on the platform for a variety of big brands. Other examples of the firm’s work include the “Hero Fizz” campaign for Pepsi, creating a series of social films to bring the sounds of Pepsi to life; Heineken’s #ShearGenius, which persuaded consumers to combine a post-lockdown pint with a much-needed trim; ; and the Magic Breakfast #FillABowl for Quaker Oats, , teaming up with with rapper-turned-activist Professor Green, to focus on food poverty.
— Paul Holmes
PRovoke Media’s 2020 France Consultancy of the Year, Hopscotch since its 2000 launch has
has expanded to become one of France's largest communications groups, with the 2010 merger with Le Public Système helping to create a leader in the industry. Hopscotch also has its sights set on creating a viable French alternative to the Anglo-Saxon independent PR networks, which started with its acquisition of 33% of food and beverage specialist Sopexa roughly four years ago. The firm showcases a fully rounded offering across multiple sectors and practice areas, with particular strength in digital, events, technology and content production.
Paris-based Hopscotch’s alliance with Sopexa has resulted in 34 offices across Europe (France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, Italy and Spain), Africa (Morocco and Algeria), North America (Canada, US and Mexico), Asia (Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India), Australia and the Middle East (Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Qatar).
Realizing that working and meeting remotely was no longer short-term, Hopscotch in 2021 created three studios in its Paris offices to support clients’ digital needs. Adaptable to brands and organizations, the studios are used for international digital events, press conferences and webinars, as well as content creation. The agency also launched a website, ShopHopscotch, that enables users to price and purchase PR services. We have produced over 500 digital or hybrid experiences since 2020. All of which reflect Hopscotch’s focus on making digital the center of its operation. At the same time, Hopscotch continued its decade-long relationship with players in the auto industry, including Renault-Nissan, and has created an offer dedicated to clients in the mobility space. In 2021, Hopscotch grew an impressive 21%, capping the year as a 750-person, €67 million firm, thanks in part to new business from Danone, PFEU (French Presidency of European Union), Vorwerk, Generalli and Dacia, which joined existing clients Microsoft, Uber, Deliveroo, Renault-Nissan, Engie, TikTok and Avocados from Mexico.
Hopscotch keeps on top of fostering DEI internally with regular informational campaigns on the subject. The firm marks International Week for the Employment of People with Disabilities annually with workshops, speakers, and competitions to raise awareness of visible and invisible disabilities. In 2020, team members participated in an online recruitment forum (Hello Handicap) for people with disabilities. 64% of managers are female. In 2020 and 2021, 280 employees benefited from training, representing 8781 hours of training. Hopscotch is experimenting with flexible work models. The firm offers internal mobility, teleworking, a policy for managing isolation and internal communications to appeal to talent.
Though global, Hopscotch pays close attention to local business and consumers trends, studying and analyzing different markets to better help clients reach target groups. For instance, Hopscotch created a webinar series spotlighting trends in different wine-producing markets as well as marketing and communications. Born Social, a study from Hopscotch digital agency Heaven and Génération Numérique, explored the digital behaviour of 200 kids aged 13 and under. The firm also created an international digital sobriety awareness campaign focused on digital usage habits and how to be less energy consuming. The campaign won four awards: Grand Prix du Brand Content, Les cas d’or du Digital Responsable, Grand Prix Stratégies des médias, and Les cas d’or du Social Media.
— Diana Marszalek
PRovoke Media’s 2021 France/Benelux consultancy of the year, Jin was founded in 2012 by Edouard Fillias, Alexandre Villeneuve and Romain Boudre, who recognised an opportunity to launch a new kind of PR agency that combined digital marketing, technology and influence. One of the very few homegrown French agencies to break beyond its borders, Jin has developed into an international, multilingual boutique with a European core and a digital-first mindset. The agency has also broken the communications agency mold by developing in-house technologies via its Startup-Studio, including Pitchboy, the first VR pitch training tool for sales and customer relationship management. Its corporate practice focuses on supporting C-suite digital and social media leadership in the pharma, banking and manufacturing sectors, while the brand practice is a French leader in influencer marketing in the food and consumer technology sectors.
As well as its Paris headquarters, Jin has offices in London, Berlin and New York.
In 2021, Jin continued its pursuit of investment as part of its ambition to grow into the leading European digital group. In deference to new investors, Jin did not release its 2021 financial income, saying only that the agency (which was an €11.3 million operation in 2020) is growing at a rate of 30%. Headcount has grown to 80. JIN developed in 2021 a new social commerce offering to help clients turning their social media into a commercial channel. New business came from Ferrero, Grand Optical, Plastic Omnium, Sarenza, RNT Rausch, Pantone and Duolingo, which joined existing clients Tinder, Technicolor, Groupe Saur, Groupe Bouygues and Jollibee.
Committed to a supportive workplace, Jin was spared the negative attention that many players in the French PR and ad industries got in 2021 due to toxic work cultures. In fact, the firm is seeing top talent return to the agency after working elsewhere. Jin has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of discrimination, sexism, bullying and harassment, and doesn’t hesitate to file complaints when warranted. The agency’s ethos has kept it out of the fray involving other French agencies under fire since #BalanceTonAgency started sharing testimonials of harassment victims in the advertising and PR agency world on Instagram. Jin offers new fathers in its Europe office 28 days of leave — three days more than French law requires. Mothers and fathers returning from parental leave are granted a €2,000 bonus.
The agency’s thought leadership over the year includes The Positive Influence index: a sectorial ranking of 175 European leaders taking stands online; Planet JINz: a book translating Gen Z’s codewords into simplified and intelligible language to better connect with its members. Jin’s 2021 work included helping Plastic Omnium communicate about the hydrogen revolution and be seen as a major leader for sustainable mobility. The firm’s campaign to raise Duolingo’s visibility in France included smashing the stereotype that French people can’t learn languages.
— Diana Marszalek
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