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H+K’s London office is not only one of the market’s largest, but the firm’s biggest operation too, playing an outsize role in terms of leading the firm’s creative and digital strategy and many of its global practices and sectors. There is considerable depth across consumer, energy/industrials, technology and healthcare, along with burgeoning capabilities in mobility and entertainment — underpinned by market-leading expertise in crisis, employee engagement, social impact, digital, creativity and behavioural science. Simon Whitehead is CEO after succeeding global president and Americas CEO Richard Millar in 2018.
H+K numbers 320 people in London, part of an extensive network of offices across EMEA and around the globe.
Significantly more than 50% of Hill+Knowlton’s global revenue derives from the EMEA region, and while the firm has a good balance in major markets, the UK remains the largest contributor—even more so after last year’s 21% revenue increase. Growth came across multiple sectors, including healthcare, energy and financial services, and across practices from public affairs to purpose. Sizeable new business wins include Qualcomm, Rio Tinto, Vodafone, Standard Bank, NICE, Equifax, FIFA, IKEA, Stock, Standard Bank and Chiesi.
As H+K has welcomed employees back to the office, it has maintained a flexible approach, while enhancing learning and development and other people-focused efforts such as Thrive (an umbrella program focused on well-being and mental health) and DE&I initiatives including partnerships with schools and non-profits. Learning and development has been overhauled too, delivering close to 500 hours to more than 250 employees. The firm has also expanded its senior counseling ranks, particularly in the corporate advisory business, which added three managing directors: Lisa Kilmartin from freuds; Danielle Leach, formerly of Google and Ericsson; and James Drewer from Sir Lynton Crosby’s C|T Group. Sophie Taylor-Roberts, formerly of Good Relations and The Red Consultancy, joined as MD of health and wellness in London.
Among highlights of the firm’s work were several corporate and issues management assignments, like managing stakeholder communications for Shell during the relocation of its headquarters from the Netherlands to London, or helping adidas teach young female athletes to “Stay in Play” during menstruation. But H+K was also able to showcase its more creative side, introducing a new fragrance (Mach-Eau) for Ford, and creating an online gaming community to help Soap & Glory connect with its younger audience. The firm also produced thought leadership on topics ranging from global climate diplomacy to big data.
— Paul Holmes
BCW’s London team is living proof that being part of a large networked agency doesn’t have to mean compromising on creativity or innovation. Under the leadership of UK CEO Rebecca Grant, the second largest office in BCW’s global network came through the first year of the pandemic with a vision for 2021 of building a creative, data-driven, strategic agency made up of a diverse team of communication specialists who “move people” – BCW’s mantra – to solve complex problems and create value for clients and communities across sectors, via a full range of capabilities from brand marketing, to business transformation, to purpose and ESG. The London team, whose strengths include consumer PR, healthcare and digital, last year merged its corporate, public affairs, crisis, leadership counsel experts to create a serious strategic comms player, introduced behavioural change science and technology offer BCW Why? to support healthcare clients, and opened a Covid Enquiry Unit to support clients through the forthcoming UK public enquiry.
BCW UK is based in London.
After keeping its head above water in 2020 with growth of less than 2%, 2021 was a much more buoyant year for BCW’s UK operation, with fee income growth in the low-to-mid double digits. BCW has longstanding relationships with clients including Boehringer Ingelheim, Lloyds Banking Group, Unilever (including Dove), Lavazza, Aldi and Gilead, and notable new business wins included AstraZeneca, Warner Media Cartoon Network, Kimberly-Clark and Ivy Farms, along with new projects from Pfizer and Sanofi. BCW has a long-term relationship with the Disasters Emergency Committee and supported the launch of its Ukraine Appeal on a pro bono basis. UK client satisfaction scores in 2021 show an average of 8.2 out of 10 likelihood to recommend, with 20% of clients giving BCW 10 out of 10.
BCW’s culture is underpinned by a huge focus on having a ‘growth mindset’. This approach originated in London and has been adopted worldwide, supported with training, workshops, mindfulness and meditation. Even before the pandemic, BCW launched MovE, a new approach to flexible working. In 2021 it was upgraded to MovE 2.0: employees decide where, when and how they want to work based on what they need to achieve. BCW’s IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability) approach tracks progress on DE&I. In 2021 all managers received wellbeing and mental health training and BCW launched a Mental Health Allies programme. According to the latest UK employee survey, 89% of the team would recommend BCW as a good place to work; 84% are proud to work at BCW; 84% believe that BCW is taking steps to be more diverse and inclusive; 82% feel emotionally and socially supported at work and 85% agree they have flexibility to meet personal commitments. People moves included a new head of inclusion role for Matt Foster, appointing Tom Malcolm as consumer practice group MD and head of transformation to future-proof the business, and Lee Gazey joining to lead the new behavioural science unit.
Stand-out work included helping new client AstraZeneca counter drama, disinformation and unprecedented scrutiny around its vaccine by the media and public. Led from London, BCW activated a global team of communications experts in 10 days and launched a multi-stakeholder, multi-channel PR and stakeholder engagement programme to set the record straight and to build trust in the vaccine and AZ brand. The campaign resulted in a significant reduction in negative social volume and improvement in positive brand sentiment. The team also launched Wendy’s first UK store last summer through a media strategy that delivered 29% increased awareness, an increase in predicted sales and business growth, with 160 franchise requests and a new distribution partner, Deliveroo, through earned media alone. IP included BCW’s International Workplace study, in partnership with Meta, which explored the changing attitudes and expectations of employees and what that means for business leaders.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
The start of 2021 may have been the end of one era as FleishmanHillard Fishburn dropped the 30-year-old Fishburn brand in London, but it was the start of a new one for the London leadership duo of CEO Jim Donaldson and deputy CEO Ali Gee, who delivered the agency’s most successful year yet. FleishmanHillard has always been perhaps Omnicom’s most modest agency brand, partly due to so much of its work being confidential, high-level corporate, crisis and reputation management, and has long held trusted partner status for UK clients. In 2021, however, the agency evolved in every way from culture to client work, exuding a new agility, energy, excitement and confidence that resulted in its most successful year ever in the region and set it up for a new phase in its history; Donaldson says that in more than 30 years of working in global agencies, it was the most significant year of his career. There was significant growth across every part of the business, which operates across consumer, corporate, healthcare, technology and public affairs, served by social, digital and studio teams. In 2021, the UK operation became right at the centre of FleishmanHillard as never before, with many global roles and global client leads based in London.
FleishmanHillard has one UK office in London, which operates as part of its network of nine branded offices in Europe, plus sister operations including seven OPRG-branded offices.
After six years in a row of single-digit growth, FleishmanHillard’s income in the UK exploded by more than 20% in 2021. Growth came from areas including healthcare, reputation and crisis management, and business intelligence via its True Global Intelligence model. New clients in 2020 included Bayer, Novartis, 3M, Dr Oetker and Cisco, who joined Unilever, Philips, Johnson & Johnson, Barclays, Prudential, Danone, AT&T, Fitbit, Bose, Novartis, Samsung and the UAE Government Mars mission on the roster.
FleishmanHillard’s stated aim is to be ‘the most inclusive agency in the world’ and in the UK it has a whole raft of diversity initiatives, across all 14 protected characteristics, including social mobility, disability, mental health and ethnic diversity. The agency has a number of partnerships with third party organisations, from Socially Mobile to Zebedee, a model agency that provides inclusive and diverse models for campaigns. As well as the CALM app and an employee assistance service, wellbeing is supported by initiatives such as lunch and learn sessions, mental health kits for managers so they can spot when something is amiss, annual FHeel Well stipends for anything from gym membership to a smartwatch. The London office has also hired its first permanent coach, who will be available to all staff, and is now completely hybrid with no fixed days in the office. Career mobility and exposing its people to the broader global network is an important part of FH’s offer, encompassing global and EMEA training programmes, extra support for ‘future stars’, and the opportunity for employees to visit other offices via the EMEA Connect programme and the NYLON exchange between the New York and London operations, which is restarting this year after a pandemic break. The agency’s global True Mosaic DE&I initiative is led in EMEA out of London, and Donaldson leads a global employee experience think tank which generates many of the agency’s cultural and diversity initiatives. The wider FH network has also now adopted the FHestival cultural get-together, which was started in London.
FleishmanHillard was shortlisted for three SABRE awards, including the #WeThe15 campaign for the International Paralympic Committee, in partnership with other Omnicom agencies, which set out to be sport’s biggest ever human rights movement to end discrimination against people with disabilities and saw a coalition of 20 organisations unite behind the cause to put people with disabilities at the heart of the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) agenda, including UN Human Rights, UNESCO and the International Disability Alliance. The agency was also nominated for its Christmas campaign for Electronic Arts and Internet Matters, fronted by comedian Katherine Ryan, which urged parents to set parental controls on new games consoles before wrapping them as presents.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Ketchum (Omnicom PR Group)
Ketchum UK aims to be the most diverse and inclusive consultancy in the UK, doing work that matters for leading companies across its brand, corporate and healthcare divisions. In 2021, the agency became arguably the most progressive, dynamic and influential office within the global network under the leadership of UK CEO Jo-ann Robertson, who also added responsibility for global client solutions to her remit last year. Many of the initiatives and work that comes out of London now drives the entire global agency agenda, including prioritising diversity. Last year, for the first time, two of Ketchum’s top five clients globally were based in the UK. Agency innovations in 2021 included a new programme for the senior client directors of its top 10 accounts in the UK, helping them cross-fertilise ideas, deliver broader strategic thinking to clients that is rooted in culture, and providing new products and services that are rooted in commercial success.
Ketchum’s UK office is in London, working with colleagues in 30 offices across Europe.
Ketchum UK achieved double-digit revenue growth in 2021. It won 36 new pieces of business, 14% of which represented organic growth from existing clients including Samsung, P&G, Mastercard, Velux, Novartis and Sanofi. New clients included Adobe, Philips (as part of the global Omnicom account), and the Lego Foundation. Ketchum UK’s creative department, under the leadership of ECD Indy Selvarajah, grew from eight people to 18, driven by a ‘Culture First’ philosophy: making progressive work that speaks to the public in a culturally-authentic way. It now has one of the most diverse PR agency creative departments in the UK.
In 2021, Ketchum became the first large agency to be awarded full Blueprint accreditation, marking its ongoing commitment to diversity within the agency and beyond: 24% of Ketchum UK’s workforce is non-white – double the PR industry average and 68% are women. Among the UK leadership team, 57% are women, and 28% are non-white. The agency’s recruitment net is cast wide, including Taylor Bennett, SocialFIXT, LGBT Jobs, Evenbreak and The Other Box, and it has eliminated bias by developing inclusive-language job descriptions. We’ve also made improvements across other key diverse characteristics through partnerships with BME PR Pros, 10,000 Black Interns, Ambitious about Autism, and Future Frontiers. Since January 2020, there’s been no qualifying period for maternity, paternity, adoption, surrogacy and shared parental leave, with everyone entitled to six months’ full pay from day one, and Ketchum also introduced policies and support around menopause and grief. The agency bolstered its wellness and mental health initiatives further over the year, and trusts its teams to work from wherever they want, whenever they want – although the office is frequently full as its people prefer to work together. Significant new hires included Fawnbrake Collective co-founder Sera Holland joining as deputy CEO.
Ketchum UK was shortlisted for seven SABRE awards, several of which were for Samsung campaigns, including the Samsung Galaxy Life Gym. Fronted by inclusivity ambassador and mental health champion Katie Piper, the campaign showed the benefits of an inclusive workout in an experiential pop-up in London and Manchester, driving consideration and a 20% increase in Galaxy Watch4 sales during the first week of activity. The team also creating the Cannes Lions-winning Bodyform Pain Museum for Endometriosis Awareness Month, taking visitors on an interactive digital journey exploring real women’s stories that attracted 5,000+ visitors in two weeks. Other standout work included VaxCam, helping the Mayor of London to encourage resistant young Londoners to get Covid vaccinated via the big screens of Piccadilly Circus, leading to a 14% rise in the number of 18-24 year olds who planned to have the vaccine. And for Adobe’s Love The Journey campaign, having identified that just 4.4% of ethnic minorities are employed by the creative industry and the barrier was often parents, Ketchum worked with British rapper Little Simz, who created a love letter celebrating her mother. The campaign drove 5,700 visits to Adobe for creative career guidance.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
It’s no exaggeration to say that MSL UK has gone through a complete transformation over the past three years, since former Karmarama/Kaper leader Chris McCafferty joined the underperforming business as CEO. Fast forward to the start of 2022, and the agency is now on pitch lists for some of the world’s most enviable accounts – and winning. McCafferty and his team have reinvigorated the historic agency brand in the UK by ruthlessly focusing on being a progressive, people first, values-led business. In 2020, the agency – whose work comprises PR, employee engagement, creative, content, influencer marketing, strategy and technology – introduced its ‘We Build Belief’ proposition, and built on this in 2021 with the launch of data-driven insights tool Belief Stack, which helps brands better understand the deeply-held beliefs and values of their audiences. The agency also joins the dots for clients between corporate reputation, employer brand, sustainability and ESG, rigorous communications strategy, and creativity.
MSL UK is based in London.
The agency’s UK fee income grew 13% to £15.1 million in 2021, and the team increased from 76 to 102 people in London. After the challenges of 2020, MSL also returned to healthy profits, increasing from 3.4% last year to 17.5% in 2021. It’s 2022 revenue forecast is another 10% growth to £16.3 million. Big new business wins included all Coty’s global influencer work, strategy and UK execution, Tui’s consumer PR brief, fast-growing grocery delivery servie Getir, Revolut (alongside the US team), a global drinks firm, employee engagement work for DHL, extended work for client Puma, and Nintendo’s UK PR account in a joint win with sister agency Taylor Herring, including integrated campaigns, product launches and influencer campaigns. The agency also retained 80% of its existing clients in 2021 – its highest figure to date.
In a Publicis employee engagement survey in November 2021, 96% of MSL UK’s employees ranked the agency top for leadership, strategy, vision and culture, giving it the best result in the Publicis Groupe across 24 brands. MSL UK, whose board is 60% female, aims to be the most progressive agency in the market, and a home to fresh and diverse talent of all ages. A new D&I strategy led to 50% diverse hires in 2021 and 35% of the agency now from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Last year, it launched Supa X MSL, an outreach initiative with social enterprise Supa Network, which supports creatives from diverse and low-income backgrounds. A cohort of 10 creatives joined MSL for a six-month development programme including grants, a creative coach, and access to live projects with Rimmel, Puma and Disney; the agency has already hired some of the cohort into permanent roles. It has also forged other third-party partnerships to find and support diverse talent and make the agency as accessible as possible for all. The agency launched its hybrid working model: two days a week in the office, two days at home or anywhere else, and one day in-market, with clients, or for personal development and inspiration. It also introduced ‘Work Your World’, where all employees can work up to six weeks from anywhere in the world every 12 months.
MSL relaunched Puma’s Suede Classic trainer to a new generation by introducing Suede Music, a six-month branded music platform that gave the microphone to young talent, hosting live performances and collaborations. The launch reached more than 281 million people and the agency’s creative strategy was adopted by Puma retailers for a fully-integrated launch of Suede Classic. SABRE-nominated campaigns included work with Disney+ Star and bringing social media creativity and humour to help Subway set the record straight during its ‘Tunagate’ crisis after a spurious lawsuit in the US claimed that the sandwich chain’s tuna sandwiches didn’t contain tuna.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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