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PRovoke Media’s 2021 Consumer PR Agency of the Year, 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
Founded 17 years ago by Julie Colehour and Bryan Cohen, C+C’s focus on social issues communications has delivered rapid growth in recent years, thanks to expanded capabilities in creative, content, multicultural marketing and market intelligence, including a proprietary research platform that has helped deliver game changing work for private and public sector clients.
The firm’s 86 staffers work from offices in Seattle, Boston and Portland, or remotely across the nation.
C+C grew by 27% in 2021 to $16.2m, solidifying eye-catching Agency of the Year honours for Creative and Boutique in previous years. There was new business from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Sound Credit Union, Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition, Sound Transit, Xplora Technologies, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, Washington State Healthcare Authority, and Pipl. They join an existing client roster that features the Washington State Department of Health (Covid), Puget Sound Energy, REI, Google, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Kwik Lok, Energy Star, Energy Trust of Oregon and Slalom Consulting.
Colehour and Cohen oversee a culture that aims to make the world a healthier, happier, more sustainable place to live, helping deliver a low staff turnover rate thanks to a fulfilling focus on purpose-driven work. The firm formalized its flexible work policy and expanded mental health support, while increasing bonuses and re-evaluating salary bands. The firm retained its entire leadership team, including office heads Mark McClennan and Suzette Riley, while adding Megan Blacksher as chief talent officer. C+C’s diversity commitments began in 2016 and aim to dismantle bias, create an environment that attracts and retains diverse talent and embrace intersectionality. In 2021, that included the hire of a new consultant to update its efforts, expanded support for the firm’s 11-member DEI team, and more education and engagement activities.
C+C’s thought leadership activities include McClennan’s Ethical Voices podcast, and Colehour and Nancy Lee’s co-authorship of several social marketing textbooks. The firm’s creative work gives it a highly distinctive edge, including a Global SABRE in 2021 for its Washington State Covid-19 work. That campaign resulted in three further SABRE nominations this year, while C+C ranked third among North American firms in the 2021 Global Creative Index.
— Arun Sudhaman
Launched 25 years ago as a luxury, fashion and lifestyle PR firm by Elizabeth Harrison and Lara Shriftman, H&S had evolved into something quite different by 2021. At least part of that is down to ownership. After selling to Omnicom in 2003, the firm completed an MBO in 2020, buying back its independence but continuing to maintain key relationships with Omnicom agencies, notably Ketchum and BBDO.
H&S is based in New York.
H&S has partnered with SaaS player Reframe to improve corporate America’s urgently required ability to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture. That effort reflects H&S’s elevated thinking around diversity & inclusion, which permeates its culture as well as its work. After a tough 2020 due to the pandemic, H&S landed enough new business that it hired 10 employees to handle new clients including Champagne Telmont, Kering Americas and KITS eyewear. Over the years, CEO Elizabeth Harrison has worked closely with world-name brands including Booking.com, American Express, Bacardi, OMEGA, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Belvedere and Steinway & Sons.
H&S’ culture has seen a vast overhaul in recent years as Harrison has become increasingly cognizant of the work-life imbalance seen in the industry. Harrison implemented a slew of employee benefits and team activities, including the option to work remotely or in the office, staff meetings that encourage team members to complement their co-workers with decked-out “Kudos cards,” plus bonuses for employees that had been with the company for over a year, half-day Fridays, a mental health day in May, and a rule banning emails after 7 p.m. and on weekends. H&S has long strived for diversity, resulting in an overall staff diversity of 71% and a senior leadership team with 72% diversity. New hires include VP of brand engagement Jessica Chong and VP of travel & lifestyle Stefanie Samarripa, as well as experiential producer Amaany Clarke and art director Grailen “Kato” Caeser.
H&S’s recent hallmark work includes supporting The Pedestal Project, an AR experience created by The Color of Change that enabled users to replace Confederate monuments being dismantled around the country with new statues. As a pro-bono project in partnership with BBDO, H&S drove awareness, created buzz and secured quality media coverage, all of which helped reignite the conversation around a petition to remove all Confederate statues from public places. The agency also helped rally consumer interest in a Bacardi limited-edition spirit with the rum brand’s first NFT.
— Diana Marszalek
MWW was founded in 1986 and for much of its first decade was noted primarily for its public affairs work (in its home state of New Jersey and in the nation’s capital) and for its corporate and financial expertise. It soon evolved into a full-service firm, and in 2000 it was acquired by Interpublic, which was its parent company until a management buyout, led by founder Michael Kempner, in 2010. In the decade since then, the firm has grown steadily, expanding its consumer capabilities—its “corpsumer” approach proving a good fit for clients equally concerned by brand purpose and reputation—and digital expertise. In April of last year, the firm rebranded as Mike WorldWide.
MWW has historically been a potent force in its headquarters state of New Jersey, where it has two offices: East Rutherford and Trenton. But much of the recent growth has come in New York, in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles—as well as in London, where the firm has made a couple of boutique acquisitions since regaining its independence.
After experiencing a 5% decline in pandemic-stricken 2020, Mike WorldWide saw a healthy rebound in 2021, with fees up 17%, significant (40%) headcount growth, and a very impressive 80% closure rate that saw new clients like Heineken, CVS Pharmacy, Spotify, Pinterest, Prime Video, Marco’s Pizza and Abnormal Security joining the firm’s client roster, mostly in the consumer and consumer tech practices. There was plenty of organic growth too, from long-term clients such as Nikon (19 years with the firm), Deloitte (17 years), Subaru (11 years), Whole Foods, Rite-Aid, Bic, Shutterstock, Omron, DairyQueen, and Tidal.
It wasn’t always this way, but Kempner and president Bret Werner have been building a feedback-driven culture, and made a point of listening to staff as people began to return to the office, resulting in new policies such as 12 weeks of leave for all parents, seven mental health days, and free access to Talkspace therapy for employees and families. Like most firms, MWW has a hybrid approach to work-from-home, and it continues to track team satisfaction through the LIFT platform. On the DE&I front, meanwhile, Mike increased BIPOC representation at the VP level by 11% and overall by 7% to 28%. For the second year, MWW provided $250,000 in pro bono work to two, small, Black-women owned businesses.
When MWW coined the term “corpsumer” a decade or more ago, it was ahead of its time, but the approach of blending corporate reputation counsel with brand purpose, basically emphasizing those consumers who care about social and political issues has become mainstream. MWW continues to produce original research around the idea, and has been focusing recently on Gen Z consumers, arguably the most activist generation. The firm’s best work reflects the philosophy, from its work creating a new culture and reputation for the Washington Football Team to BIC’s support for Olympic Gold Medalists to addressing vaccine confidence for NFL Alumni Health to reaching out to millennials and GenZ for Deloitte.
— Paul Holmes
From its origins as a fashion and beauty specialist, Marina Maher Communications has grown to be one of the nation’s largest brand-building agencies, with strength in consumer and healthcare. It has remained a standalone agency within Omnicom since its acquisition a decade ago. Historically best known for its consumer brand-building capabilities, MMC has expanded into health and wellness, now a substantial part of its overall revenues (with a significant contribution from its Rx Mosaic healthcare subsidiary), and into digital and social media—especially influencer marketing—enabling it to offer a modern, fully integrated next-generation capability.
From its headquarters in New York, MMC handles national work, and through its MMK partnership with sister agency Ketchum it can provide international support.
Omnicom saw its global PR business grow by 6.3% in 2021, and Marina Maher Communications appears to have performed in line with its parent company for the year. There was new business from Pfizer (the pharmaceutical giant’s corporate work) and Coty, while MMC continues to work for its longstanding blue-chip client roster including Procter & Gamble—a broad portfolio of brands for the consumer products company—Novartis, EISAI, Teva, Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, and Wella/Clairol.
MMC strengthened its healthcare capabilities significantly in August with the appointment of Goodfuse CEO Olga Fleming and managing director Courtney Walker to lead its healthcare and corporate business. Other significant moves included adding Diana Farina, a nine-year veteran of WPP, to the newly-created role of group senior vice president of client excellence and the promotion of James Farber to executive creative director and Amy Inzanti to chief strategy officer. There was a renewed focus on employee wellness (across six dimensions: emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and environmental), and improvement on the diversity front, with 44 diverse new hires and eight promotions to senior leadership roles. The firm’s commitment to DE&I also extended beyond its own employees to the influencers it works with, 37% of whom are non-white (marking a 25% increase over the past 12 months).
The firm won two Innovation SABRE Awards for its work with P&G’s Tide, “Tide Designs First Laundry Detergent for Space,” in partnership with sister agency Ketchum, and is a finalist in the North American SABRE competition for its work on behalf of Merck for Mothers, as well as for P&G work for Head & Shoulders (enlisting “science guy” Bill Nye for a series of videos explaining the science behind the brand’s anti-dandruff efficacy) and Herbal Essences (celebrating its 50th anniversary by demonstrating via TikTok and Instagram the way scent and memory are intertwined). Meanwhile, the firm continues to solidify its positioning as one of a handful of firms impacting the cultural zeitgeist, drawing consumer insights from its parent company’s OmniearnedID data source and its own finger on the pulse of popular culture—a combination that paid off when the firm took P&G and its BeautySphere into the metaverse earlier this year.
— Paul Holmes
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