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Last year marked the start of a new era for Cirkle, which in its 21st year became the first employee owned trust agency to agree sale terms with a network. Majority owned by its team since 2018, the sale to Huntsworth (whose PR agency group is now known as Accordience) meant all employees were rewarded for their part in building the business. The purchase reflected a real evolution in the agency’s growth, client base and offer, from being known as a trade food and drink PR shop to becoming an integrated consumer brand, lifestyle and corporate communications agency with specialist content production, digital, social, SEO and influencer teams. Under the leadership of CEO Ruth Kieran, the agency also now has purpose squarely at the heart of its brand work.
Cirkle is based in London.
Last year, Cirkle brought in more than £2.5million of new business fee income and had a 77% pitch win rate, winning hotly-contested accounts including Ocado, Aldi, Yoplait, AkzoNobel (which owns Dulux and Cuprinol), Heineken, Dyson, and a move into the beauty sector with Max Factor. The agency also had organic growth of 19%, and client retention of more than 80%, culminating in a record 51% fee income growth, 38% EBITDA margin and growing the team by 57% to 70 people. Its client roster also includes Mars Petcare, Ferrero, Britvic, Nomad Foods (Birds Eye, Goodfellas, Aunt Bessie’s), Pepsico, Premier Foods, and Haleon, part of GSK, whose brands include Sensodyne, Panadol and Centrum vitamins.
Kieran is supported by a management team that includes consumer brands managing partner Kate Gibson, corporate reputation and B2B managing partner Annemarie Penderis, head of trade Amy Searle and creative director Chris Grabowski. The agency’s leadership works hard to provide an inclusive, flexible and supportive environment for all employees; last year it was awarded full Blueprint status, having been an Ally of the diversity mark for two years, and the agency’s D&I committee contributes towards a range of initiatives including training and engagement. In 2022, Cirkle doubled its investment in training and development, and was again named as one of Great Places To Work’s best places for women to work in the UK. The agency is committed to become more sustainable, with ambitious five-year targets to reduce its carbon footprint – it became carbon neutral last year – and has implemented energy- and emissions-saving actions including an electric car scheme. In 2022 Cirkle expanded its partnership with social mobility charity Career Ready, and started supporting Brixton Finishing School, delivering mentoring schemes, work placements and masterclasses, supporting more than 100 young people. Its team also supports a local foodbank as its charity partner.
Cirkle was shortlisted for an impressive 11 SABRE awards, including work for Heineken, AkzoNobel and Aunt Bessie’s. Among its stand-out campaigns was ‘CAN'riculum Vitae’ for Tango and The Prince's Trust, reaching young people through cans of the soft drink featuring the resumés of people who had been helped by the charity. The agency gave legacy brand Captain Birdseye a refresh by replacing its traditional old sea dog image with an Italian actor and model and launching an ethical summer swimwear range made from sea-bound-plastic, increasing brand recognition by 19%. And for Aldi, which has been criticised by Marks & Spencer over the two retailers’ similar products including caterpillar-shaped cakes and Christmas gin, Cirkle offered an olive branch to M&S in the form of a 10ft mistletoe structure with an invitation to ‘kiss and make up’, with coverage contributing to increased footfall and sales. In terms of thought leadership, Cirkle conducted a national survey for its ‘Power of Earned Media’ report, on how brands can build credibility, trust and affinity from families during the cost-of-living crisis.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Hope&Glory celebrated its 10th birthday in 2022 and continues to defy convention: its much-admired founding duo of 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 good margins 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. Never taking its reputation for attention-grabbing consumer brand campaigns for granted, the agency continues to innovate, and in 2022 focused on developing its work across consumer-focused corporate and brand purpose, and data-led digital communications and content, working on an increasing number of influencer and social-first briefs.
Hope& Glory is based in London.
In 2022 Hope&Glory’s fee income was up 10% to £12.1 million. The agency won 35 new clients, including YouTube, Google, Depop, Bumble, Mars Wrigley, Nestlé, Netflix, Amazon and The Body Coach, and declined more than 100 invitations to pitch. Critical to Hope&Glory’s success has been its ability to maintain long-term relationships, including working with Virgin Media O2 for 10 years, including with O2 pre-merger; with Barclays, IKEA and Airbnb for seven years; and Uber, Uber Eats and spirits firm Edrington UK for six years. All of the agency’s clients say they would recommend it, and 75% said they were more likely to do so now than ever. In 2022, Hope&Glory parted with its first “big” client, Sony, after eight years; it had replaced the annual income of around £400,000 within the three month notice period. The roster also includes Gregg’s, Meta, Sainsbury’s, Adidas and Pokemon. The team grew to 87 and churn was 10%, with those departing mostly moving in-house – 10 former staffers are now clients.
Hope&Glory maintained its Blueprint status for its commitment to diversity and inclusion, after a comprehensive overhaul of practices and policies, and 17% of the team and 10% of the board now come from BAME backgrounds. The board is 50% female, and the agency’s team is 14% neurodiverse. The agency mentors through schemes including D&AD Shift, Women in PR, BME PR Pros and People Like Us. The agency also increased its focus on inclusion to ensure these team members stay and are nurtured to senior roles, measuring the rate at which people progress and the opportunities they are offered. It also put in place policies to keep women in the business, including a menopause package, returnship coaching, fertility loans and a grief package for miscarriage, as well as generous parental leave policies, including for adoption. So far, 100% of new parents have returned to the agency, which last year promoted three women to director level while they were pregnant. Training covered areas from resilience to micro-aggressions, and the agency introduced flexible hours, continued its intern programme– nearly half the team started as interns – and, as every year since it started, allocated 25% of profits as bonuses for the whole team. Senior appointments included Adam Mack as head of strategy and Don Ferguson as deputy MD, working with joint MDs Anna Terrell and Seb Dilleyston.
Hope&Glory had an impressive eight SABRE nominations this year, including for its work with Greggs, where it brokered a somewhat unlikely clothing and merchandise collaboration between the retail bakery and Primark that became a cultural moment, generating £1 million of sales (the range sold out in two days), incredible levels of reach and engagement, and substantially increased both Greggs’ and Primark’s YouGov Buzz Scores, elevating them to No.1 in the UK quick service restaurant and high street fashion rankings respectively. Hope&Glory campaigned to criminalise cyberflashing with Bumble, working with Adidas and Stormzy to launch #Merky FC, a programme that aims to create opportunities in leadership positions in the football industry for the Black community. It also ran Facebook’s Paralympics content campaign across 20 markets, delivering 45 million views and over 400 million engagements, and launched Netflix’s social campaign for the latest season of The Crown, reaching over six million people across TikTok by taking influencers back to the 1990s.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
In 2022, The Romans evolved from being – in the words of founder and CEO Joe Mackay-Sinclair – the agency you’d have an affair with to the one you’d marry, as it deliberately moved from being a boutique consumer shop hired for sexy creative projects, to winning seven-figure agency of record retainers. Launched in 2015 with minority investment from celebrated UK ad agency Mother, The Romans immediately caught the attention of London’s fiercely competitive consumer market. Mackay-Sinclair has ensured the agency continues to be one of the most-watched creative communications agencies in the capital – and beyond, as 2022 was the year The Romans marched both east and west, with new offices in the US and UAE. The agency has expanded into eye-catching corporate work, partnerships and sponsorships, not least through its new sports and entertainment division, which is building The Romans’ reputation in a new arena with a string of new business wins.
The Romans is headquartered in London, where it has a team of 70. In 2022 it expanded internationally and now has a New York office with 10 people, plus a Dubai office with a headcount of five.
Having doubled in size to break the £5 million barrier in 2021, it was another significant year of growth for The Romans, which grew income by 27% to £7.1 million. The agency prioritised retained business in 2022, with 75% of its new business wins being sizable agency of record relationships; its ambitious forecast ambitious for 2023 is more than 40% growth, with an expectation of being a £10 million agency by 2024. New business came from the likes of Snapchat (for which it resigned its six-year Twitter account), Heineken, Uber Eats, Wiggle, Adidas, the Jockey Club, Betfair Formula E, Tui Holidays, cybersecurity firm Avast, a global culture brief for whisky brand Ballantines, and lead UK consumer agency for Dove. Its win of the year, however, was its first supermarket account, Lidl. The agency has worked with Method, Ecover, Unilever, OVO Energy, Jameson, Stitchfix and Amazon for more than five years.
In early 2022, Lucy McGettigan was promoted to the newly-created role of partner, taking equity in the business. She was one of The Romans’ first hires in 2016 and is tasked with leading UK operations. Key hires in 2022 included Sarah Jenkins, formerly of BCW, joining as EVP to lead the new US office, as well as Alexandra Dewar, formerly of Teneo, to lead Dubai. The Romans’ stepped up its commitment to anti-racism including training, recruitment, supply chain targets, and numerous mentoring programmes. The firm supports the People Like Us non-profit, including with its recent ‘race pay gap campaign, and its agency is 19.5% Black or people of colour, with a commitment to raise this to 23% this year across all levels of the business. In response to the cost-of-living crisis, the agency gave everyone a 10% pay rise. Its in-house chefs provide free breakfast and lunch every day, as well as a barista who provides free coffee. The Romans prides itself on creating a fun culture and a great working environment for its young team, but also takes supporting them seriously, through training, access to mental health professionals and a free gym, flexible working, generous maternity and paternity policies, and a sabbatical scheme – including paid flights anywhere in the world – for staffers who have been with the agency for more than seven years.
The Romans had six EMEA SABRE nominations, including two for its first campaign for luxury CBD brand OTO, highlighting its products as a sleep aid via a partnership with UK band Faithless and its seminal 90s dance anthem, Insomnia, which was reworked into a relaxing orchestral piece, downloaded more than 100,000 times. The Romans also worked with plant-based cleaning products brand Ecover to create a ‘refillery’ where Londoners queued round the block to refill their plastic bottles from reimagined fuel pumps at a derelict filling station. And when global cyber-security firm Avast enlisted the agency’s help to draw attention to the erosion of digital civil liberties, the team’s creative idea was to replace every mention of 1984 in George Orwell’s dystopian novel with ‘2021’ in print, Kindle and audio editions of the book, with Dr Who actor Matt Smith voicing protagonist Winston Smith; every single piece of global B2B and consumer coverage included a branded key message. Last year the agency also worked with Duolingo to encourage Scottish fans to sing the Ukrainian national anthem before their World Cup qualifier. In terms of thought leadership, the sports and entertainment team carried out a study into how Gen Z audiences are engaging with sports properties and sporting talent, working with a host of influencers as well as TikTok and Meta.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Tin Man was founded nine years ago by ambitious consumer PR wizard Mandy Sharp with a laser focus on creating “communications with heart” that has endured as the agency has grown from its consumer brands heartland to expanding into digital and corporate work. The agency’s work is grounded in its own evidence, from its Heart Score measurement and evaluation tool, that the power of emotional connections can change behaviour and make a real commercial impact on brands. It works across sectors, from entertainment and education, to travel and leisure, to healthcare and tech platforms, to food and drink, devising campaigns across earned, shared, owned and paid media. In 2022 the agency continued to innovate, growing Oh My! – the in-house film and production agency launched in 2020, which now produces content for all Tin Man clients as well as its own – as well as creating its own proprietary behaviour change model, Science of Emotion, in collaboration with behavioural scientist and author, Richard Shotton.
Tin Man is based in London and, through its Tin Man International Collective, is active in markets including Spain, France, Germany and the US.
Tin Man’s annual growth has averaged 36% since its inception, and its profit margin has always been over 20%. In 2022, the agency grew revenues by an impressive 46% to fee income of £4 million, with 22% margins. New clients included Vodafone, Virgin Atlantic, Amazon Alexa, Gumtree, Magnet Kitchens, Luton Airport, Warner Brothers Studio Tour London, and Royal Canin (Mars Petcare). The agency retained 92% of its clients, with a roster that includes Mondelez, Unilever, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Guide Dogs, Plenty of Fish, Megabus, Brown Forman (Jack Daniels, Chambord, Fords Gin), Smart Energy GB, Barclaycard and LNER. The agency’s influencer marketing tool, Tinfluence, was one of its biggest growth areas, bringing in £700,000 in revenue last year from the likes of Unilever, Gumtree and Actimel. The team grew 47% to 47 people, with staff retention of 88% over the year.
In 2022, Tin Man realised the power and potential of the predominantly female-run agency, which has an 80% female board, with its inaugural Tin Women Collective event, bringing together senior female talent in the agency and from its clients to network, share experiences, enjoy dinner and drinks and listen to inspirational speakers. Sharp is also a Women in PR mentor, helping young, diverse female talent take on senior leadership roles in the comms industry. Tin Man also tailored policies and initiatives to support the team, from miscarriage, fertility and parental leave to divorce, menopause and gender transition. The team is now 15% Black, Asian, mixed race or ethnic minority (with a target of 20% this year), 10% LGBT and 11% neurodiverse. To seek out young applicants from diverse backgrounds the agency’s PRosper outreach programme works with schools and universities outside of London with a high proportion of BAME students, and has already hired three interns through the scheme. Tin Man’s apprentices come via the Taylor Bennett Foundation and The Industry Club’s Marketing Debuts BAME apprenticeship scheme. The agency has a blind recruitment process and has invested heavily in external D&I training, from agency wide inclusive language training to unconscious bias and inclusive leadership. Every one of Tin Man’s team say they feel the agency has an inclusive and fair culture and feel comfortable being their true selves at work.
Tin Man was shortlisted for five SABRE awards for its 2022 work, including two for its inclusive Virgin Atlantic campaign to remove gendered uniforms as part of its new gender identity policy, featuring Drag Race star Michelle Visage. The agency also helped Gumtree join the cost-of-living conversation and celebrate the second-hand thrift economy by opening a pop-up shop where everything on display was completely free of charge, leading to an 11% uplift in traffic to the Gumtree’s ‘Freebie’ pages. And its campaign for Cadbury Fingers and the National Deaf Children’s Society, working with former Love Island finalist Tasha Ghouri, who has a cochlear implant, and Giovanni Pernice, Strictly Come Dancing partner of deaf contestant Rose Ailing-Ellis, to highlight the exclusion often experienced by deaf people and encourage more people to learn British Sign Language had off-the-scale levels of engagement and 5.5 million video views.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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.
After a spectacular 2021, during which the firm grew by 44%, there was a consolidation in 2022: a more modest growth number for sure, at 23%) but enough for Trigger to hold on to its leadership position in Norway with fee income of NOK83.1 million (a little over €8 million), while headcount increased from 38 to 46. Key clients are a mix of corporate leaders, public sector accounts and not-for-profits, names like Samsung, Visit Norway / Innovation Norway, the Norwegian Directorate for Children Youth & Family Affairs, Polestar, The National Museum of Art, the grocery chain KIWI (largest advertiser in Norway), Google and Coca-Cola. New clients last year included the hotel chain Scandic, Hurtigruta Svalbard, Sparebanken Vest (large bank), Vipps MobilePay (employee communication for an employer of choice in Norway), PEAB (a major construction company), MESTA, and the Norwegian Cancer Foundation.
From its inception, and now under the leadership of CEO, Bente Kvam Kristoffersen, Trigger has been a values-driven business and is now a partner-owned business, which means the firm is selective about the clients it represents and often turns away businesses that don’t fit its underlying vision and philosophy. It also means an egalitarian, merit-driven culture with little hierarchy. Key talent includes creative leaders, Magdalena Kamøy and Bjørnar Thorsen (both who have been with us for more than 10 years), who work closely with the management team and develop new talent. There is also a keen commitment to sustainability—Trigger was one of the first Norwegian firms to be certified—that reflects much of its work in that arena.
For more than a decade, Trigger has described what it does as “engaging communications,” an approach that seeks to mobilize the target audience to become part of the campaign, spreading the messaging through social media and participation. It’s an approach that is evident in the firm’s consistent award-winning work, which energizes stakeholders and builds social movements around pressing issues. Highlights of the past year include a vaccine-education campaign developed together with minority youngsters, a “Hate with no name” campaign that discussed prejudice against people with disabilities. The firm also worked on “The Period Act” with grocery chain KIWI, which sought to make pads and tampons free and accessible in Norwegian schools. For another major corporate client, Samsung, the firm produced “For the love of sound,” releasing a song that focused attention of hearing impairment. The firm was once again nominated for six EMEA SABRE awards and won two Innovation SABRE trophies.
— Paul Holmes
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