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In its 10th year in business, Hope&Glory continues to defy convention: the highly-regarded founders Jo Carr (chief client officer) and James Gordon-MacIntosh (chief creative officer) have proved that it’s possible to run a large pure-play brand agency that balances stand-out, multi-award-winning creative ideas with long-standing client relationships, and makes a good profit without compromising on being a great place to work. Hope&Glory’s stated purpose is “to create work that earns attention” and it shows no sign of losing its creative edge, with an impressive 11 SABRE nominations this year. The agency continues to innovate rather than taking its reputation for outstanding brand campaigns for granted, and in 2021 focused on developing its work across brand experience, social, content and consumer-focused brand purpose campaigns.
Hope&Glory is based in London.
After slowing on growth for the first time in 2020, in 2021 Hope&Glory’s business exceeded pre-pandemic profitability, with fees up 28% to £10.1 million. The agency won Virgin Media’s work as the brand merged with O2, and won the coveted Greggs account. Other New work came from brands including Virgin Media, Greggs, Etsy, Hyundai, Guiness, Netflix, Bumble and Samsung, and the agency extended its work for Sky. Hope&Glory retained all existing clients over the year, maintaining long-term relationships with O2, Barclays, IKEA, The Royal Mint, Airbnb, Sony, Uber, Uber Eats and Edrington-Beam Suntory. The roster also includes Meta, American Express, Sainsbury’s, Argos, Adidas and Guinness, as well as pro bono work for several charities. The team grew to 87 and churn was 5%, with departing people either moving in-house or for lifestyle reasons.
In 2021 Hope&Glory was awarded full Blueprint status for its commitment to diversity, after a comprehensive overhaul of practices and policies, and 15% of the team and 10% of the board now come from BAME backgrounds. The board is 50% female, and the agency has a number of neurodiverse team members. The agency’s work reflects its approach: it ensures influencers are from diverse backgrounds, that imagery and videography reflects society, and pushes clients to be more inclusive. Hope&Glory expanded its already-generous parental policies to cover adoption leave, miscarriage, fertility (including financial support) and a package of menopause support. Training covered areas from resilience to micro-aggressions, and the agency introduced flexible hours, and Above&Beyond Scholarships so the deal could deepen their skills in specific areas. The intern programme continues – over half the team started as interns – and 100% of Hope&Glory’s people say they would recommend it as an employer. Significant hires over the year included Adam Mack, former at W Communications, Weber Shandwick and Freuds, as head of insight and strategy.
Stand-out creative work included giving IKEA’s buy-back scheme – part of its sustainability and circular economy commitments – a human and emotional boost, adding ‘pre-loved labels’ to select pieces of furniture with stories about written by the previous owners about their place in their homes. The campaign had huge media and social impact and significantly increased perceptions of IKEA’s brand, environmental credentials and quality. To bring the O2 to Gen Z when live music was off the cards, the agency recreated the venue as a new map in Fortnite, the world’s biggest gaming environment. As well as millions of livestreams and high levels of engagement, the campaign led to a 23-point increased in positive sentiment towards the O2.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
PRovoke’s 2021 Creative Agency of the Year, Era was born through the March 2019 merger of leading Myanmar PR firm Echo and digital agency RevoTech, ushering in the concept of integrated communications in Myanmar. The goal: combining traditional PR and technology to develop integrated campaigns that enable clients to better, and more creatively, reach today’s complex and connected consumers. The idea is working. Less than four years since launch, Era in 2021 expanded across the region opening new offices in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam — despite the negative impact of living under military rule on business — creating opportunities for staff beyond Myanmar.
Era's 72 staff work across offices in Yangon, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Despite business being hurt after the coup, Era in 2021 expanded its presence across Southeast Asia, opening new offices in Thailand, which handles regional communications and brand reputation for major companies; Cambodia, an integrated communications shop offering local experts; Laos, which provides comms and brand marketing support for primarily local businesses; and Vietnam, which offers advisory and strategic comms. Newly hired managing directors run each of those offices, which agency leaders see as growth opportunities for the firm as well as team members. Even as businesses waned post-coup, Era added Manulife, FoodPanda, Yeo's, Abbott, Mastercard (Cambodia), Mambu, Singha Beer, Wildcats, KFC, Roche, Osotspa and Samsung to its client roster.
Era’s commitment to people is demonstrated internally through its commitment to employees and externally through its activist bent that has included everything from supporting next-gen talent and funding the release of detained journalists to calling on the international community to continue to do business in Myanmar despite the military regimes’ abuses. Leadership has been tried over the last year. Era stepped up when creative Ko Min Gaung was arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned for four months, covering Gaung’s workload as well as his salary and mental health benefits. When COO Saw Thura left in April to join a militia, he was replaced by Ei Ei Khin who focused on rebuilding company culture and morale through mental health initiatives and restructuring internal processes. Managing director Anthony Larmon, who was Echo’s longtime leader, now focuses on client service. Members of Myanmar's ethnic minorities or marginalized communities are members of Era’s workforce. Era was the first agency in the market to actively take a stance against supporting military-owned businesses.
A 2021 SABRE Award winner, Era followed up on its powerful 2020 Save Our Seafarers campaign for Uniteam with an array of other significant work. Highlights include its Yeo’s A Million Cans to Build a Dream campaign, which included partnering with the Cambodian Children’s Defense Fund on building a kindergarten for children who otherwise would not be able to go to school. Era’s European Union Weaving Garment Workers Together program aimed to educate female garment factory workers on their labor rights through Facebook and an app developed in-house. FoodPanda’s A Meal That Goes a Long Way initiative highlighted the food delivery platform’s role in the pandemic and coup.
— Diana Marszalek
H+K'a creative reputation owes much to a London office that 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. The agency's Middle East operation, meanwhile, is one of the biggest in that region, with strength energy, finance and economic/cultural development — bolstered by the expansion of the firm’s Studio creative offering. And H+K's North Asian presence, in particular Korea and China, are also responsible for driving highly innovative work for global clients.
There are more than 20 offices across the EMEA region, giving Hill+Knowlton one of the largest footprints of any of the large multinationals. Meanwhile, the firm's Americas presence (which includes 12 US offices) has been bolstered by the recent acquisition of LatAm powerhouse Jeffrey Group. In Asia-Pacific, H+K operates in nine markets.
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. The Middle East also grew by 17%, while — in Asia — Korea and China submitted eye-catching performances.
One significant impact of the pandemic has been that firms like Hill+Knowlton have become more borderless, with virtual connectivity facilitating cross-market teams. As the firm 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.
Among highlights of the firm’s work were several corporate and issues management assignments, like drawing attention to the black market in hydrofluorocarbons for the European chemical industry’s trade association Cefic, or helping family-owned Italian retailer Conad restructure its communications and revitalize its reputation, or helping B Corp Chiesi introduce “sustainable pharma” during the latest climate talks, or managing stakeholder communications for Shell during the relocation of its headquarters from the Netherlands to London. But H+K was also able to showcase its more creative side, landing five EMEA SABRE Awards for such clients as Volvo and Adidas. Some of H+K’s most extravagant creative work, furthermore, came out of the Middle East. For Soundstorm and XP, the firm handled the return of Saudi dance music festival MDLBEAST, managing everything from driving attendance to crisis messaging; it worked with Twitter to launch its Arabic (Feminine) language setting, reshaping how the platform engages with Arabic-speaking women, and making Twitter the first social media platform to offer such a language setting; and for the Royal Commission of AlUla, the firm created a “Journey Through Time” celebrating the region’s culture, history and landscape.
— Arun Sudhaman
One of the leading independents on the New York marketplace for many years, M Booth was acquired by Next Fifteen (best known for its technology and digital capabilities) in 2009 and has been growing rapidly ever since. While it is known primarily for its consumer work—largely due to strong creative work in sectors ranging from food to travel to financial services—M Booth has long had a formidable corporate capability, and in 2019 added a robust healthcare capability with the acquisition of the US operations of Health Unlimited. The firm has also been expanding digital and social, data and analytics and other content creation capabilities.
M Booth offers national coverage from its headquarters office in New York and smaller satellite office in San Francisco, supported by parent company Next Fifteen’s global network.
It’s fair to say that while 2020 was a difficult year it was also M Booth’s bounce-back year—it ended down just a few hundred thousand dollars from a record-setting 2019—which means that 2021 was “pure” growth, up a very healthy 33% to around $58 million for M Booth and $75 million including the M Booth Health brand. It achieved that impressive level of growth while acting with some restraint—turning down more opportunities than it chased—so that 80% of that revenue growth came from existing clients such as P&G, The Macallan, Bacardi, Pepsi and Hood, several of which added corporate work to their existing consumer remits. New clients included Nature Made, Pfizer, Behr Paint, Grand Marnier and Duolingo. In addition to growing the healthcare business, there was strong activity in social impact, influencer, and multicultural marketing.
The firm increased its BIPOC representation to 31% across M Booth and M Booth Health—that’s more than 100 individuals. And not content with hitting that topline goal, the firm examined its pay equity in partnership with third-party consultancy (AON, which found close to 100% equity across both race and gender. As professionals began to return to their offices, M Booth rejected the false binary of home vs office, and embraced a model rooted in norms rather than rules. Inviting employees to live IRL, the firm defined this as Inspired Relevant Leadership—values it emphasizes. The approach helped minimize any fallout from the “great resignation” and to attract new talent, with new hires strengthening key practice areas: Stacey Bernstein, most recently Weber Shandwick's digital health lead, as CEO of M Booth Health; Adam Selwyn as EVP, creative & strategy director; and senior VP Christian Chamberlin (social impact and climate), Lindsay Munson (luxury and partnerships), and Kaitlyn Kotlowski (corporate).
The pandemic and the biopharma sector’s rapid response, developing vaccines in record time and then struggling to convince some Americans of their safety, M Booth undertook a vital survey of attitudes towards the sector. The “Brandemic” report identified the seismic shifts that were changing healthcare marketing forever. That effort earned a SABRE nomination, one of 10 for M Booth overall (beaten only by two larger global agencies). Outstanding creative included an employee recognition campaign for Pfizer; the 7-Eleven “Gamers’ Paradise” work; gaining attention for Ernst & Young’s research into empathy in leadership; a partnership between P&G’s Cascade brand and actor Sterling K. Brown; and—also for P&G—a campaign to “Close the Chore Gap.”
— Paul Holmes
Trigger was launched in 2010 by founder and managing director Preben Carlsen, a thirtysomething former IKEA communication manager, and made quite an impact over its first decade, becoming the biggest SABRE Awards winner in Norway and being named both Nordic Consultancy of the Year and Creative Consultancy of the Year by this publication. Remarkably, Trigger Has been named Norway's PR-agency of the Year six out of eight years since the award was firm presented (by the publication Byråprofil) in 2014.
Trigger is headquartered in the Norwegian capital of Oslo.
Trigger has a team of 40 advisors after revenue grew by about 40% over 2020 levels, after expanding its portfolio to take on new work in the technology, retail and cultural realms. New business successes included Polestar, The National Museum Art, and grocery chain KIWI (largest advertiser in Norway), and Hello Fresh, which joined an impressive roster that already includes the likes of Samsung, Visit Norway / Innovation Norway and The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs.
From its inception, and now under the leadership of CEO, Bente Kvam Kristoffersen, Trigger has been a values-driven business, whicg means the firm is selective about the clients it represents and often turns away businesses that don’t fit its underlying vision and philosophy. Last year saw the addition of several new creative and strategic talents from different sectors: the firm doesn’t recruit extensively from other agencies, preferring to source talent from related fields such as journalism, design, strategic consulting—and from the client side of the business. The firm enjoys close relationships with Norwegian schools and universities and a robust internship and training program.
Trigger has always taken a unique approach to PR planning, inviting the target audicnec to participate in the communication—helping to spread the messaging virally and creating a stronger and longer-lasting bond between organization and audience. This year, the firm was once again nominated for eight EMEA SABRE Awards, more than any other agency of comparable size—indeed, more than many global agencies. The nominations recognized the firm’s stellar creative work in the travel and tourism sector (“Chiefs of fun” for Destination Trysil; “The drawer proof strategy,” “Norway wins the Space race,” and “13000 reasons to visit Northern Norway” for Visit Norway); in the cultural realm (“Art is coming home” for The National museum of art, design & architecture); as well as its purpose driven and not-for-profit work (“No more secrets” for sportswear brand Kari Traa, and “The hate with no name” for the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth & Family Affairs); and in the issues management arena (“The vaccine campaign: Do it for yourself” for Oslo Municipality.”
— Paul Holmes
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