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Ruder Finn’s China operations continue to account for around 85% of its US$42m in regional revenue in 2021. That strength is reflected in particularly impressive luxury, beauty, travel/retail, automotive and integrated marketing capabilities in Shanghai, supplemented by growing depth in consumer electronics and ecommerce. Ruder Finn’s Hong Kong office, meanwhile, features expertise across financial services, corporate, technology, research and digital/social expertise, along with growth in legal communications and brand-building. All of which has added up to double-digit annual expansion for much of the past decade, including a significant double-digit rebound in 2021.
The firm boasts more than 450 people across offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
China revenues grew by around 30% in 2021, with luxury, healthcare and automobile supported by significant growth from consumer electronics (Sony, Oppo and Vivo) and ecommerce. There was new business from Meiji, SAIC-Audi, Bananain, Bitmex, Edrington, HKGTA, MLB, Sony, Baume & Mercier, JNBY, AB InBev and Tencent, which join key existing clients such as Amazon, Audi, EquitiesFirst, Estée Lauder, HSBC, Ikea, Mercedes Benz, Moet Hennessy Diageo and Shanghai Disney Resort. The firm’s consulting capabilities have enabled it to land significant remits for such clients as EquitiesFirst, Edrington, CLP and Quality Healthcare, while several China clients have been exported to its New York and India operations, particularly in the technology space.
In addition to CEO Elan Shou, key leaders included luxury head Gao Ming, RFI Asia MD David Ko and global head of risk Charles Lankester. Unsurprisingly, Ruder Finn benefits from its independence; there were no layoffs nor pay cuts due to Covid-19, while the firm elevated virtual support for employees. Ruder Finn was the first to put an Asian woman in charge of its regional operations, and is a high-profile supporter of LGBTQ causes and broader diversity initiatives, both internal and external.
Ruder Finn’s willingness to invest in digital tools and research continues to reap dividends, most notably through its annual China Luxury Forecast, now in its tenth edition, and specific digital tools focusing on crisis simulation and influencer analysis. The firm also launched the Asia-Pacific Communications Index to better understand the in-house communications role, and benefits from particularly high scores in R3’s regular survey of China client satisfaction. All of which underpins a vastly improved awards performance from the agency, with SABRE-nominated campaigns for Sony and Budweiser, and high-profile initiatives for EquitiesFirst, Moet Hennessy Diageo and Clarins.
— Arun Sudhaman
Hunter was founded in 1989 with a specialization in food and beverage PR and has expanded organically into adjacent categories in the years since to become one of the country's biggest pure play consumer firms. Hunter's expertise includes health and beauty, home and lifestyle, travel and hospitality and retail. The firm's capabilities have evolved dramatically over the past decade to include a full suite of integrated consumer marketing services including brand strategy and planning; social and digital media; content creation for all mediums; and multicultural.
Hunter is headquartered in New York.
With a 35% rise in fee income, Hunter became a $42 million, 210-person business in 2021 — the second consecutive year of 30% or more growth. Services Hunter has added in recent years — brand strategy; talent and influencer engagement; social and digital media; multicultural programming and content creation for all mediums — drove roughly one third of Hunter’s overall 2021 fee revenue, the most in the agency’s history. The year saw Hunter integrate influencer and social media specialists directly into every practice area and client team. Business expanded across all of Hunter’s major practice areas in 2021. New business came from Post Consumer Brands, Danone and Jelly Belly as well as the Sub-Zero Group, The Shade Store and Abbott Diagnostics. Longtime clients include Tabasco (33 years), 3M (26 years), Diageo (17 years) and Johnson & Johnson (15 years).
Two consecutive years of at least 30% growth may be a good problem to have but, for Hunter, that sequential expansion required a new leadership structure designed to empower the next generation and enhance communications, collaboration and innovation. At the most senior level, Gigi García Russo was elevated to the newly created position of chief innovation and growth officer, joining CEO Grace Leong and COO Jon Lyon on Hunter’s executive leadership team. Hunter has a decades-long history of addressing the lack of diversity in the PR industry and continues to work within the organization, the industry, and with clients to establish new benchmarks for BIPOC representation, support organizations fighting for equality and representation and create programs that uplift marginalized voices. Hunter met its 2022 goal in 2021 by growing the ranks of employees who identify as being from diverse backgrounds to 30%. The agency’s efforts have been recognized by PRSA-NY’s Diversity & Inclusion Awards and PRSA-NY’s Inaugural President’s Diversity Data Honor Roll.
Since 2003, Hunter has commissioned a study annually to identify the top food news stories according to the opinions of Americans, reinforcing the agency’s leadership position in food and beverage and providing valuable insights to its clients. 2021’s Food News Study focused on uncovering the most significant food news stories of the year as well as the impact of that news at every step of the purchase funnel, as well as quantify shifts in the media sources Americans are turning to most for information about food, recipes, and nutrition. Client work included driving awareness of Band-Aid brand Ourtone — a line of bandages created in shades of brown for diverse skin tones, while also building trust and credibility with the Black community. For Abbott, Hunter encouraged people to use the company’s Covid self-tests by tapping influencers within the lifestyle, parenting, health/wellness and travel spaces.
— Diana Marszalek
Consumer lifestyle agency Poem was launched seven years ago by former Freuds and One Green Bean alumni Rob Lowe and Matt Holmes. Its rise is unsurprising, given its founding duo’s pedigree and the appeal of its hybrid publicity, social, media, content and creative approach in Australia’s competitive consumer market. Lowe and Holmes set out to overcome big agency fatigue by building a ‘creativity publicity’ firm that strives to be ‘deeply human’, creating paid, owned and earned media (hence the agency’s name) campaigns that move people enough that they're willing to invest time, money and attention in a brand. The agency is made up of four divisions: Poem PR, Poem Influencer, Poem Social and Poem Studio – the latter creative hub and content production division has made a huge contribution to the agency’s success by creating earned content that drives engagement for social, PR, owned media and above-the-line. The agency has also recently bolstered its skills by working with a consumer behavioural psychologist and strategy expert.
Poem has one office, in Sydney, from which its 22 employees service clients across Australia and New Zealand.
The 22-strong agency grew income by 41% to more than AUD$3.6 million in 2021. Poem won the Nespresso brand portfolio at the start of 2021 and this has already grown considerably due to the introduction of Poem Studio, with an increase in its remit across content creation and work on other Nestlé brands including KitKat and Allens. Winning Menulog bolstered Poem’s client portfolio further; the food delivery service joined Sony PlayStation, the New South Wales government, Icebreaker and Krispy Kreme on the agency’s roster.
Poem is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive culture, which for the agency means seeking out, understanding, respecting and celebrating gender, ethnicity, age, religion, physical capabilities and sexual orientation. While the past two years have been challenging, the agency’s 'deeply human' culture saw it through the second year of the pandemic.
The agency’s best work over the year included the PlayStation 2 Plate campaign, which mixed the worlds of gaming and food: in partnership with brand experience agency Amplify, it brought food featured in some of PlayStation’s top titles to life via popular restaurants (and with buy-in from media and influencers), including a burger from ‘The Last Of Us’ and pasta from ‘Unchartered’, delivered to fans by Deliveroo. Poem also refreshed the Menulog food awards, which celebrate Australia’s favourite local takeaway restaurants and meals, boosting measured brand awareness by mixing the glamour of TV and film awards with the seduction of home delivery food, to create ‘The Menulogies’, inviting fans on social to be ‘Armchair Academy’ critics with the chance to review food for free for a year.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Praytell has been on a roll since Andy Pray founded the firm with two employees in 2013, thanks to the company’s ambition of driving meaningful impact on clients and consumers — without the high-stakes hustle and pressures that often come with doing so. The agency’s “no ego, no BS” mandate, and willingness to take chances, is increasingly drawing big-name clients, as well as the creative talent to support them.
Praytell has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Austin. The agency also has offices in London and Melbourne.
Praytell started 2021 landing big RFPs with Sally Beauty Holdings, Under Armour and Norton, followed by Shopify, DoorDash and E. & J. Gallo Winery. The momentum with bigger, more integrated scopes drove 28% year-over-year growth, making Praytell a $25.5 million business. The agency launched new practice groups including alcohol, lifestyle, travel and food & beverage. The agency scaled its new tech practice particularly fast. 2021 saw Praytell expand globally, adding an Australia office to its US and UK footprint. All while maintaining robust relationships with existing clients including Anheuser-Busch, Destination Canada, Estee Lauder, Danone North America, Fender, No Kid Hungry and Zappos.
After formalizing its approach to DEI, Praytell in one year increased its BIPOC employees from 38% to 42%. The agency also increased representation at senior levels bringing BIPOC representation from 28% to 31%. Other internal efforts include building new organization structures, ways of working and evolving job descriptions under the mantra of “keeping it Praytell,” which means people-first, flexible and transparent. In addition to its employee-led training program, Praytell bolstered its curriculum to incorporate coaching, writing and personal career development. ERGs hosted speakers to share expertise on managing a successful growth path through time management, work life balance and restorative measures. With burnout at a high, the agency adopted a four-day workweek. In addition to founder & CEO Andy Pray, key people include president Beth Cleveland and chief creative officer Scott Schneider.
Praytell capped 2021 with bringing the northern lights to Grand Central Terminal, as part of its campaign to pique travelers’ interest in a winter trip north on behalf of Destination Canada. “Into the Northern Lights: An Immersive Experience,” which included an immersive northern lights instillation, drew nearly 10,000 New Yorkers over three days. The year’s other showcase work included helping Sally Beauty encourage consumers to use hair color as a means of self-expression, which included partnering with influencer Heather Chelan, creator of the TikTok video "Having Colored Hair Doesn't Make You Unprofessional," on a 360-campaign featuring and a diverse cast of influencers with varied professions, ages, and backgrounds.
— Diana Marszalek
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.
Taylor Herring 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
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