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Blurred was set up in 2018 by former Unity co-founder Nik Govier, the firm’s CEO, along with founding partners Stuart Lambert, Katy Stolliday and Emma Weisgard, with a vision of building a strategic and creative advisory firm in a world designed for a world where the lines between audience, sector, and discipline are less clear than ever. The fast-growing B Corp firm – whose values are daring, democratic, driven, difference and diverse – has evolved its offer to focus on what it calls ESGP (environmental, societal, governance plus purpose), recognising the blurring of lines where corporate action, consumer concern and investor expectations meet. The agency now helps some of the world’s biggest brands understand their footprint on the world and address material ESG risks so that they can become a force for positive impact. At the start of 2022, the agency rebranded from Blurred.london to Blurred.global to reflect the international nature of its client base – 65% of which are now non-UK based – mandates and team.
Blurred is headquartered in London and it has core team members in France and the Netherlands; its corporate and creative cohorts of expert advisors are based around the world.
Blurred grew by 37.5% last year to fee income of more than £3.8 million, with the permanent team growing to 25 people. Blurred has two distinct client groups: multinationals – including some of the biggest companies in the world – which the agency is helping to advance in terms of ESGP and telling the strongest possible story, and new climate impact-focused businesses that have the potential to become the giants of the future. New clients included Capri Holdings (Jimmy Choo and Versace) and used car marketplace Motorway, joining a bench that includes The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, Associated British Foods (owner of Primark), BT Group, British chemicals and sustainable technologies multinational Johnson Mathey and Arcelik, the Turkish owner of Beko and Grundig.
Blurred’s culture – like its work – focuses on ‘betterment’ and helping people be their true, best selves. It was one of the first agencies to achieve Blueprint status and is committed to DE&I in all its facets; the team is diverse in terms of ethnicity, neurodiversity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religious belief, national origin and socio-economic background. Of the core team, 36% is of ethnic minority origin, with 18% of senior roles held by colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds. The core team is 76% female, with women holding 71% of senior roles. Blurred has also started measuring against socio-economic diversity to ensure it seeks out and develops talent from disadvantaged backgrounds. Everyone in the firm has a fortnightly coaching session, and the firm asks every team member and new joiner for their five personal needs, which it measures itself against meeting. The leadership team includes MD Rachel Minty and senior partners Matt Peacock, formerly group corporate affairs director at Vodafone, and Jeremy Cohen former group head of responsible business at National Grid, senior consulting director Anisha Vikram Shah, who leads the Coca-Cola and ABF accounts, and head of talent Jenny Pape, who also leads the R3cruit product, which hires for clients. Senior consultancy hires in 2022 included Veronica Patton-Cemm from Intent Health, Karen Noctor ex of Smarts and Golin, and ESG advisor Cathal Wogan.
Much of Blurred’s work is confidential, but outstanding projects included three ESG capital market days to reposition ABF, the owner of Primark and 70 other businesses, in terms of social good and its ESG commitments and actions. Each was attended by around 700 institutional investors and post-event investor notices universally finished with the most important word in the public company world in relation to shares: buy. In 2022, the firm put its Materiality Mapping process – which maps client risk and opportunity against axes of impact on people and planet’ and ‘impact on brand’ – at the centre of its proposition. Blurred also ran two sessions attended by more than 100 people from around the world, looking at new ESG statutory reporting requirements. These led directly to new income including a major global multinational swapping PWC for Blurred to help it navigate the complex area for its C-suite.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Since Cordelia Meacher launched FieldHouse in 2012, fast-growth FieldHouse Associates solidified its reputation as a top-tier tech and venture capital PR specialist agency. The firm continues to work exclusively within an ecosystem that includes tech startups and scaleups at every stage, VC firms from UK seed specialists to European multi-stage funds and supporting players such as accelerators, corporations and professional services firms. FieldHouse today is a £2.4 million, 25-person firm whose clients include the likes of Jaguar Land Rover’s corporate venture capital arm InMotion Ventures, Oxford University’s AI company Mind Foundry, and seed stage investor SFC Capital.
FieldHouse is based in the UK with clients from across the EMEA region.
FieldHouse grew 10% to £2.4 million with new business boosts from companies working in very much of-the-moment fields — VC, AI, data, mobility, cybersecurity, and health. Target Global, a multi-stage VC with more than €3 billion under management, was the FieldHouse’s biggest 2022 win, and by far the largest VC the firm has worked with to date. Other client wins in 2022 French venture capital start-up Edda; and Odin Space, a spacetech company that maps previously invisible debris in orbit. About 90% of FieldHouse’s new business comes from referral, enabling the firm to be selective and strategic about who it works with.
Founder and MD Meacher, a former Brunswick and Hotwire leader, was intentional in building a culture rooted in entrepreneurialism, openness and empowerment, which has reaped an environment where experimentation, employees defining their personal career paths and opportunities from international travel to prestigious pro bono work are open to all. In 2022, FieldHouse, which has two in-office days per week, started allowing anyone to work entirely remotely, even abroad, for up to a month. Employees receive an annual £300 health and wellness stipend, and access to mental health care. Two-thirds of FieldHouse’s leaders are women. In its ongoing effort to further DEI, FieldHouse last year surveyed employees to identify gaps in understanding, and desire for training and action.
FieldHouse’s work with SFC Capital, the UK’s biggest seed-stage startup investor, was among the year’s most high-profile and effective. With Fieldhouse’s support, SFC’s campaign to reinvigorate seed-stage investment resulted in the government overhauling the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) SFC called out for being outdated. The widespread coverage FieldHouse secured for SFC’s second annual report on UK seed-stage investment also had an impact; Industry organization COADEC used SFC’s findings in its lobbying. Other hallmark work included keeping British space company Skyrora front and center; News of the company’s rocket launch garnered more than 30 pieces of coverage.
— Diana Marszalek
Headland was built 11 years ago to challenge frustration with traditional agency structures that meant corporate, financial and public affairs clients were forced to choose between senior strategic and commercial counsel and creative campaign delivery, or prioritise some audiences over others. In 2022 the fast-growing agency, led by co-founders Chris Salt and Dan Mines, expanded on this integrated, nuanced, multi-stakeholder model and its expertise in engaging corporate, financial, political, regulatory and employee audiences, with a new ‘citizen and community’ offer for brands requiring strategic consultancy and campaigns that engage the general public at scale – a deliberate departure from the language of ‘consumers’ to help brands engage people in a more meaningful way. Headland also strengthened its digital and strategy, insight and planning offers, and hired a raft of senior talent – with backgrounds from politics and corporate affairs to journalism and advertising – to enhance its counsel around sustainability, ESG, public affairs, technology, capital markets, and financial and professional services.
Headland is based in London.
Headland grew fee income by 20% to £24.6 million in 2022, after 26% growth in 2021, and the team has grown to around 160. Over the past year, the agency has won 45 new clients including Aviva, Heathrow, Jet2, John Laing Group, National Express, live events platform DICE, and PZ Cussons, who join an impressive roster including Accenture, ASOS, Danone, LIDL, Netflix, PepsiCo, Saga, TikTok, The Body Shop and UBS.
Headland aims to create a workplace where everyone feels they belong and can fulfil their potential. In 2022, the agency introduced a new governance structure in the form of a ‘People Management Group’, responsible for hiring, promotion and remuneration decisions. It also has internal working groups and policies in place to ensure diversity across the business, including an anonymous selection round for its trainee scheme and partnerships with Creative Access and the Taylor Bennett Foundation. Headland welcomed 10 trainees and six summer interns before launching its first apprenticeship programme last year with the PRCA. Across the business, 62% of roles are held by women, with a 43% female senior team. Significant hires included former Portland and Consulum partner Gregor Poynton as digital lead, Number 10’s former director of communications Jack Doyle joining as a partner and Martin Sparey, who previously led the tech team at Hotwire. The agency also appointed a new CFO, Bernard Yeboah, to evolve business operations as it continues to scale.
Notable work over the year included launching an integrated campaign for The Body Shop as it seeks to lower the voting age from 18 to 16, alongside the British Youth Council, including a report with the UN and recruiting celebrity activists. For the first two weeks, there was an increase of more than 2000% in online conversations around #VotesAt16. The team supported Premier Foods’ development of its ESG strategy, which led to praise from city audiences, significant media coverage, and a share price boost. The agency also continued its multi-year brand and corporate campaign for Saga, which offers holiday, insurance and financial products to the over-50s, as part of its transformation strategy, with a brand relaunch event for business, travel and marketing media, the creation of a new ‘head of experience’ role to galvanise colleagues and a new grandparents’ leave policy; 98% of all conversation has been positive and Saga’s Net Promoter Score is up five points on the pre-campaign period. Headland’s pro bono contribution included supporting UNHCR with strategic advice and media engagement, and work with the AMOS Bursary and the Taylor Bennett Foundation to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into jobs in the City.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
It was a pivotal year for MHP Group, as it was bought from Engine from Next15, finally giving its leadership the financial backing and freedom to accelerate growth plans, creating a corporate and creative powerhouse that has its eyes on international expansion this year. The group, led by CEO Alex Bigg and deputy CEO Nick Barron, is made up of three distinctive agency brands: corporate heavyweight MHP, creative consumer darling Mischief, and leadership consultancy Accord, which was launched last year to help clients tackle the rising threats of discord and polarisation. An industry leader in the application of behavioural science to solve complex communications challenges and promote brilliant ideas, MHP has specialists across corporate, consumer, capital markets, public affairs, health, financial services and creative, and its key client sectors include pharma, fintech, entertainment, food and drink, retail, technology and energy. The group has extensive digital, influencer and owned-channel capabilities and has also invested heavily in its earned media capabilities.
MHP Group is based in London and also has an outpost in San Francisco. Around 50% of its work is multi-market, delivered through the MHP Group International Partners network.
MHP Group’s fee income rose 7% to £45 million, with health, brand and reputation, consumer, financial services and studio driving growth; the group now has more than 200 employees. The agency won 70 new clients during 2022, including McKinsey, Spotify, Sky, Disney, Ocado, Wayve, pharma companies Alexion and Santen, and Innocent drinks. These joined Astra Zeneca, Lego, Coca-Cola, Barclays, Coinbase, Bristol Myers Squibb, Three, JustEat and E.ON on its client roster. The agency also works with leading UK and multi-national governmental organisations, including the Financial Conduct Authority and the World Health Organization.
Under new ownership, last year MHP Group launched a new deal for employees with key initiatives to promote wellbeing, diversity and inclusion including flexible working, an additional half-day of annual leave each month, an annual international remote working allowance, community volunteering, doubling training spend per head and paying out a record bonus pool. The agency has 14% BAME employees and is 46% female at board level, and has comprehensive policies to eliminate potential biases in recruitment and line management. Its DEI partnerships include the Taylor Bennett Foundation, Brixton Finishing School and The Ideas Foundation. MHP also promotes diversity in the worlds it operates in: for more than a decade, its 30 to Watch Journalism Awards have showcased diverse talent and last year it launched the 30 to Watch Politics Awards. As Mischief MD Greg Jones left in the autumn to join Smarts as European CEO, director Charlotte Brooks stepped up to become head of Mischief. New senior hires included Alison Goldsworthy as president of Accord, Tim Snowball as head of public affairs from FleishmanHillard, head of digital Thea Parnell, head of people Sonal Pyne, capital markets MD James McFarlane, design director Priya Patel, strategy director Matt Whiting, and Yasmeen Sebbana, former head of Keir Starmer’s private office, to act as Labour Party lead in the public affairs division.
MHP’s thought leadership initiatives included The Polarisation Tracker, working with Cambridge University's Political Psychology Lab to run a UK study of polarisation; The Media Network events and interviews with journalists; The Network Effect, an audience profiling tool that identifies triggers and barriers to advocacy, combining behavioural and data science; and Return on Influence, a new approach to designing and measuring influencer campaigns. The agency was shortlisted for three SABREs, including its Cinema for Victory campaign, with 906 film screenings of 41 Ukrainian films in 170 locations across Ukraine, and national film stars meeting soldiers to show their support. Stand-out work included a pro bono campaign for the Missing People charity, using digital technology and behavioural science to boost public engagement in young missing person posters. Traffic to the charity website increased 117%, while research found the posters improved viewer recall and eye tracking validated the posters’ improved performance. The agency also worked with pharma firm Takeda to raise awareness of the link between neurodiversity and prison – one in four offenders is estimated to have ADHD – to improve care and reduce offender rates. The work culminated in an action plan on the need for a new neurodiversity strategy in the criminal justice system and new partnership agreements between the justice and health departments.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Gill Brown, Mark Lowe and Graz Belli created Third City 11 years ago, with a goal of creating an agency that distinguished itself by offering high-end creativity and business savvy. In the time since, the trio of owners have built a thriving business by bringing that idea to fruition, serving up corporate work with the creative flair increasingly necessary to garner attention and consumer work that includes managing brands under increased scrutiny. 2022 saw Third City achieve B Corp certification and rolling out a new look at proposition, Comms for a New Economy.
Third City serves clients from its London headquarters.
Among the UK’s fastest growing independents, Third City’s revenue grew to just under £2.7 million with profit margins of 20%. ESG business is now worth £679,000. The firm’s growth strategy focuses on three core areas: ESG, fintech and healthcare and health tech which grew by. which grew by 126%, 25% and 20% respectively. A 25-person team supports new business from Kia, Curaleaf, Homeserve, Agriculture Horticultural Development Board (DEFRA), Support & Feed as wel las existing clients including Bupa, Starling Bank, Vanquis, Credit Karma, TransUnion, Zurich Insurance, Point A Hotels, eHarmony, King Edward VII's Hospital, and The Donkey Sanctuary.
Third City’s commitment to combine profit with purpose is embedded into the company’s operations and culture. The firm is sharpening its focus on working with tech-adjacent organisations and sustainability as a means of achieving its goal of having purpose-led PR account for a quarter of its business and doing pro bono work worth 4% of its annual fee income. Third City treating purpose as serious as profit, which pours into its dealings with colleagues, partners, communities and the environment, has garnered attention; In the last year we've won or been shortlisted for 20 awards including Zurich Youth Against Carbon Conference, Bupa’s Teen Minds, Credit Karma’s Gender Credit Gap, Starling Bank’s Make Money Equal. Protecting employees’ mental health is a Third City priority, and the foundation of a dedicated program that covers wellness packages to inflationary salary increases. Every employee has the option of going part-time, and tailor their schedule around personal commitments.
Internal initiatives over the last year include the launch of the Creative Collective, a student training course done in partnership with the university Goldsmiths. The program includes students working with staff on live campaigns, with bonuses to paid internships for participants whose ideas are adopted. Notable client work included the firm’s “Make Money Equal” campaign for Starling Bank, which won PRCA digital and national awards. Other highlights: the insurance company Bupa’s teenage mental health campaign, rolling out Sterling Bank’s first fantasy football for the women’s EUROs and supporting Billie Eilish’s Overheated Live, a muulti-day even focused on the climate and sustainability.
— Diana Marszalek
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