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Analysis of all of the Winners and Finalists across specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are announced at the 2022 Global SABRE Awards, taking place in-person at the 2022 PRovokeGlobal Summit on 26 October.
The international consulting business of FGS was formed at the beginning of 2021 by the merger of Finsbury (a UK-based financial consultancy that had absorbed the US business of Robinson Lerer), Washington public affairs consultancy Glover Park, and German corporate and financial powerhouse Hering Schuppener. In October, the firm acquired New York-based corporate and financial communications specialist Sard Verbinnen, deepening its credentials in the M&A arena and in crisis communications.
With the addition of Sard Verbinnen to Finsbury’s existing New York office, FGS is now a major player in the world’s financial capital, while the Glover Park business gives it an equally formidable presence in the most critical political center of Washington DCInternational operations include market leading capabilities in the UK (the former Finsbury) and Germany (Hering Schuppener) in particular, and a growing Asia-Pacific and Middle East presence.
The merger and subsequent acquisition make year-on-year growth difficult to track, but FGS reported fee income of $220 million to our global rankings last year and will be at $394 million on this year’s list—likely enough to rank among the top 10 public relations agencies of the world. The Sard Verbinnen deal accounts for some but by no means all of that growth—about $60 million of the growth is organic—as existing clients have taken advantage of the firm’s expanded capabilities and new clients have flocked to a genuinely global corporate and public affairs offer. Among the firm’s major retainer clients are names like Adobe, Audi, Covid vaccine developer BioNTech, CVS Health, Softbank, Tegna, Visa, and Zoom Video Communications.
One of FGH/SVC's greatest strengths is an ownership structure that provides all of the firm’s employees with a path to ownership: currently more than 400 of the firm’s more than 1,000 employees around the world are owners—almost certainly the largest number of employee owners in the business. That means FGH has a more collaborative culture than many of its direct competitors, where an eat-what-you-kill mentality often lingers. The US leadership team includes Finsbury vets like Paul Holmes and Winnie Lerner; Glover Park leaders Carter Eskew and Michael Feldman and new additions from the SVC business Andrew Cole and Paul Kranhold. The EMEA leadership team includes CEO Alex Geiser, who previously led Hering Schuppener; global co-chairman Roland Rudd; Faeth Birch, CEO for the UK and international; Brigitte von Haacke, CEO Europe, while Ben Richardson has led Asia since 2016.
FGS is predictably involved in some of the big global issues of the day, working with Germany’s BioNTech on the Covid vaccine; representing the Office of Minnesota Attorney General in the state’s case against Derek Chauvin; and helping a number of clients decide whether and how to withdraw from Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. But it has also been busy in the M&A arena, ranking number one globally and in North America on mergermarket’s database of financial transaction advisors, handling 321 transactions with a combined value of approximately $560 billion. Highlights included Axel Springer’s acquisition of Politico; Just Eat’s acquisition of Grubhub; and IPOs for Bumble, Didi Chuxing, and Dr Martens. And in Asia, the firm worked to protect the reputation of a global clothing retailer when it was targeted by China’s state media and social media activists and removed from e-commerce platforms, over past statements on forced labor in Xinjiang.
— Paul Holmes
Long regarded as the best corporate and financial specialist in the market, Adfactors has diversified its offering in recent years, establishing itself as one of the premier creative agencies in the region as well as a strategic powerhouse. The 25-year-old firm is a leader in high-stakes, high-value communications, primarily in the financial realm but now also more broadly, with thriving consumer and digital practices too, and newer offerings focused on mobility and social impact.
Headquartered in Mumbai, Adfactors has offices throughout India, giving it a genuinely national footprint, as well as a smaller presence in Sri Lanka and Singapore. But it can boast global reach through its membership of the PROI partnership, and the specialist financial services network GFC/net.
Adfactors fared better than most during 2020, when revenues held steady during a difficult year for India. But the firm roared back to growth in 2021, registering record expansion of 45% to $50m. The firm created voluntary Rainmakers’ Clubs to reimagine client value propositions resulting in a stellar new business haul that included Netflix, Byju’s, Ola Electric, Pepperfry.com, Monster.com, Fab India, Zydus Cadila, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi India and Tata AIA Life Insurance. Just as important to the firm’s success is the relationships it has developed with existing clients such as Tata Group, Mahindra Group, Godrej Group, Apollo Hospitals, State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, Citibank, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, and Larsen & Toubro.
The Adfactors story is not just one of exceptional growth and surprising creativity — the firm is one of the best managed in Asia, with a particular focus on a formal professional development process that has been a key factor in helping it stay ahead of a whole host of trends, from digital and social media growth to the importance of purpose. During the pandemic, not a single job was lost, and headcount grew by 160 to almost 1,000 in 2021. The firm also acted early to address the Great Resignation, deploying stay interviews, facilitating internal transfers, launching a new referral program, and rolling out a ‘millennial board’ to guide its policies. And all of this has been accomplished amid a leadership transition that saw Nijay Nair promoted to CEO while Madan Bahal became chairman.
A great deal of energy over the past few years has been devoted to establishing Adfactors beyond its corporate and financial heartland, and 30% of the firm’s work now comes from the Internet economy. The work, meanwhile, continued to gain international recognition, for such campaigns as #ChangeTheStory for ACC Limited and Ambuja Cements; LEADing the School Edtech sector for LEAD; and, Originals Keep Moving for Skechers.
— Arun Sudhaman
Advertising group M&C Saatchi launched Razor as its South African PR firm in January 2020, bringing in respected industry veterans Dustin Chick and Kalay Maistry to build a new business in the midst of a recession and just as the pandemic was starting to take hold. Despite (or perhaps because of) the market conditions, Razor is the fastest growing startup in M&C Saatchi’s venerable history, with its senior-level focus and expertise in financial services, technology, public advocacy and measurement helping to underpin a very 21st century reputation management firm, bolstered by expanded investment in creative strategy and corporate storytelling.
Razor is headquartered in Johannesburg and also operates in Cape Town but, like most South African firms, is capable of continental coverage.
2021 must rank as a landmark year in Razor’s short history, with the firm surging by 230% to post ZAR$25.4m in fee income and headcount more than doubling to 26. The quality of the firm’s client roster continues to shine with new additions, Anglo American, The Beverage Company, Investec and Innovation African joining existing accounts such as Tiger Brands, Audi, Dimension Data, BDO and Discovery Life. Notably, much of Razor’s work involves strategic counsel, corporate positioning and ESG storytelling.
Chick and Maistry are joined by partner/ECD Chris Lazley on the leadership team, with the firm continuing to focus on senior-level talent, bolstered by a ZAR$1m culture budget. The latter includes specific training in such areas as stress and conflict management, while Razor’s prioritisation of culture above all else has seen the firm resign one of its biggest clients as it emphasises opportunity and quality, rather than growth and busyness. Razor is currently undergoing its first BEE certification, in which the firm will achieve the level 1 rating. It has invested in bursaries for high school students, hired graduate talent (with bursaries which allow them to graduate) and invested in additional tertiary level training for all black/female talent. In addition, the firm sponsored communities post a series of riots in the country.
Razor’s investment in creative has paid off to stunning effect in recent months, including five SABRE Africa awards, and six finalists at the EMEA SABRE Awards. Particularly acclaimed was reputation and public education work for Tiger Brands, along with consumer communication for Virgin Active and Audi, and some classy campaigning for the NSPCA.
— Arun Sudhaman
Former New Consultancy of the Year, Redhill was founded in 2014 by Jacob Puthenparambil, with the ambitious goal of becoming the PR world’s answer to Singapore Airlines or DBS — a Singapore communications agency that could become a successful global operation. Fast-forward eight years, and those dreams no longer look quite so aspirational, with the firm counting more than 100 staffers across a footprint that includes a significant Southeast Asian presence, along with operations in North Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America. Much of Redhill’s rapid growth has been powered by corporate, technology (startups and enterprise) and finance (VC), but this is supplemented by growing capabilities in creative/production, sustainability, litigation and publishing.
The bulk of Redhill’s 109 staffers are in Singapore, but its Southeast Asian presence also includes operations in Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Beyond Southeast Asia, Redhill has a presence in Australia, Japan, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, UAE, Germany, the UK and USA.
Rapid growth has become a fact of life at Redhill, helping underpin a culture that rewards entrepreneurialism and risk taking. In 2021, the firm surged by 77% to reach US$6m in fee income, with a new Studio arm helping to handle significant demand for design, web development and video services. The firm’s new ESG practice was bolstered by the acquisition of sustainability content shop VS Story, and Redhill also acquired Hong Kong’s CCG to boost its creative comms capabilities in Greater China. Growth came across the board, from such clients as Dubai Tourism, Danone, InMobi, Voco, Cushman & Wakefield, Pfizer, Singapore Business Federation, Singapore’s Ministry of Law, Ministry of Tourism Cambodia, Softbank Ventures Asia and the World Business Council. Just as important, though, is a long-term client roster that features Emirates, Nokia, Bigo Technology, Busy Bees Asia, VP Bank, Jungle Ventures and Axios International.
Puthenparambil’s leadership team includes COO Ann-Marie Eu, and MDs Pranav Rastogi, Natalie Chua, Tavy Cussinel and Marienelle Castelino. Loyalty and passion are prized by management, in a culture that places considerable trust in employees to manage their leave and flexibility. An agency-wide DEI initiative was launched in May, aimed at tackling pay disparities and bringing best practice to recruitment, appraisals and compensation. 16% of the firm’s hires since then have been returning career women, and deputy MD Charu Srivastava chairs PRCA APAC’s equality, diversity and inclusion committee.
Redhill’s ASEAN Youth Survey examines the drivers of economic, cultural and socio-political change in the region, while there are also regular thought leadership initiatives focused on communications and government affairs. Redhill scored an impressive seven SABRE Asia-Pacific nominations this year, including work for KFC, Singapore’s Ministry of Law, and Cochlear Singapore.
— Arun Sudhaman
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
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