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Hill+Knowlton Strategies is one of PR’s powerhouse networks in EMEA, and 2022 marked another extremely solid performance in the region, with a surprising level of innovation – and a surprisingly humble attitude – for such a big business. H+K’s depth spans multiple sectors and practice areas, including consumer, corporate, B2B, technology, healthcare, energy/industrial and financial, bolstered by industry-leading talent across digital, creative, behavioural science, purpose and change management. Last year the agency stepped up its creative capabilities with the launch of a virtual studio, bringing together 44 content creators from across the network to work on craft-led projects from the metaverse to events. It also invested in building an innovation and content hub, led out of Amsterdam, which covers creative strategy and direction, data and analytics, and content production. Its new ‘communities of practice’ approach also helped teams across the region feel part of one deeply-connected agency, and led to organic growth of many clients.
With 1,200 people in more than 30 offices across the region, Hill+Knowlton has one of the largest EMEA footprints of the PR networks, with particular strength in the UK, Brussels, Germany and the Middle East, as well as in France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Finland
In Europe overall, the agency grew by double-digits, with double-digit margins in the majority of markets. Growth was particularly strong in H+K’s biggest operations, in the UK (up 17%, led by Simon Whitehead) and the Middle East (up 31%, led by Bashar AlKadhi). There was also a notable improvement in performance (and renewed vigour) in Italy, Spain and Portugal – the latter of which has developed H+K’s largest creative studio in Europe. The agency picked up 163 new clients over the year, and improved its pitch conversion rate to 63%. New business across the region came from the likes of Amazon, Adobe, Honeywell, Philips, Bayer, Zurich, Canon, GSK, AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim, Ford, Bic, Accor, Walt Disney, Meta, Visa and Oracle, who joined a client roster that includes HSBC, Pfizer, IKEA, Honda, Spotify, The Coca-Cola Company, Adidas, P&G and dairy collective Arla.
H+K has maintained a flexible working approach, while enhancing learning and development programmes at all levels and other people-focused efforts such as Thrive, its well-being and mental health umbrella programme, and a whole raft of DE&I initiatives and internal groups focused on all aspects of diversity, from ethnicity to neurodiversity, tailored for market priorities across the region, including partnerships with schools and non-profits. It has also brought policies around menopause, parental leave and fertility up to date, and found ways to bring everyone together, from informal socials and volunteering to big activations such as its One London festival in the UK and a series of Vibe events across the Middle East. Senior hires included Karel Van Eetvelt joining as CEO in Belgium, Andreas Wabø joining as CEO in Norway, Sean Allen-Moy joining as head of media relations in London, plus new European creative directors Marloes Scheffers and Fredrik Junge, while Lucy Harvey was promoted to chief growth officer for the METIA region.
H+K was one of the most-shortlisted firms in this year’s EMEA SABRE awards, with 13 nominations. It was also instrumental in two of the pivotal global events of 2022: the agency was Egypt’s official communications partner for the hosting of COP27, in a huge 50-person effort around the network that included media relations and press conferences, social media, data, insights, monitoring, crisis, messaging and creative content, not to mention lighting up the pyramids. Overall the agency’s work for the climate change summit reached more than three billion people and had 44 million social media engagements. The agency also supported Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the Qatar World Cup, including its global tour of the FIFA World Cup Trophy. Other notable work over the year included getting younger drivers excited about Honda’s SUV, using influencer stories that beat all KPIs, tackling misconceptions about dairy farming with Arla, working with Adidas to improve access to pitches for grassroots women football players, and differentiating Duracell from other battery brands through behavioural science research and influencer content.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Five years after its mega-merger, BCW has evolved into a formidable player in EMEA, with the synergies between Burson-Marsteller’s corporate and public affairs heritage and Cohn & Wolfe’s consumer and healthcare expertise paying off in ways both predictable and unexpected. In the latter category, BCW has demonstrated an agility and propensity for innovation that you might not expect from an agency of its size. Its ‘integrated earned plus’ proposition took much of its work past PR into digital, film, creative, research and influencer marketing. The EMEA region has also been an intellectual pioneer for the global business, developing first the new “Motion” methodology that emphasizes integrated teams and measurable impact, and more recently incubating a new approach, designed to bring together data and human elements to drive superior engagement.
BCW now has 850 people across Europe and Africa, with offices in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany (five offices), Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Turkey and the UK providing good coverage of Europe; and an African hub in South Africa that coordinates client work across affiliate agencies in 50 African nations. Then there’s the separate Middle East region, a market leader with five offices of its own.
Fee income for Europe and Africa (the Middle East is its own region for BCW) increased by very high single digits in 2022—the best performing region in the BCW network—with markets such as Brussels, the DACH area and Turkey among the top performers and practice areas as diverse as consumer, digital and public affairs showing impressive strength. There was organic growth from a number of key clients, including Vinci, Polestar, Amazon, Clearpay, Centrica, Henkel, Boehringer Ingelheim, and IKEA, as well as new business from the likes of Swissport, Grundfos, Unilever, FIFA, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Bacardi, JDE, Ipsen and Klarna.
Regional president Scott Wilson has led BCW’s operations in the region since 2018, and has built a strong, stable leadership team across key markets and practice areas, including UK chief executive Rebecca Grant, who was promoted to global chief brand officer last year. Other significant promotions included Helen Searle to chief growth officer; Francisco Lopez to CEO in Spain; Beth Deeks to head of employee experience; and Chloe Vasseur to head of impact, transformation and sustainability. New additions, meanwhile, were digital and social strategist Noha Gilani, chief operating officer Finland Antti Lehtinen, and chief people officer Beckie Akers. The latter role is increasingly key as BCW seeks to deliver on a employee experience with its Destination Inclusion initiative and enhanced career development options.
BCW’s history of thought leadership continues with projects like BCW Navigate, a Europe-wide offer that helps companies with the policy and regulatory implications of AI; a study from BCW Change focused on changing employee expectations; and an update Twiplomacy study, looking at how politicians use Twitter for digital diplomacy. The client work, meanwhile, has never been better with 16 nominations for EMEA SABRE Awards this year, more than any other agency: the “Sunken Bar” campaign for Carlsberg Sweden, a clever publicity stunt that helped reduce alcohol-related deaths on the water; the opening of US fast food giant Wendy’s in London’s Camden neighborhood; augmented reality work for Astra Zeneca; the purpose-driven “My Reading Journey” campaign for supermarket Aldi, in partnership with footballer Marcus Rashford; the “Talk About Obesity” campaign for Novo Nordisk; and a campaign targeting female entrepreneurs for Visa in the Middle East.
— Paul Holmes
Edelman turned 70 last year but – despite becoming the PR industry’s first billion-dollar business — shows no sign of losing its independent, entrepreneurial spirit. The firm is still the global go-to agency for clients looking for everything from crisis support to brand building, and its offer ranges from corporate reputation management ad employee engagement to digital and social media strategy and insights-led creative campaigns, across every industry sector. In EMEA, the agency saw the fruits of its three-year drive – led by regional CEO Ed Williams and COO AJ Hesselink – to switch up its organisational design and become more integrated across offices and its work, moving away from a focus on market teams to a more connected, horizontal approach to give clients access to talent from across the region. To cement its new approach, last year Edelman introduced three new initiatives: the Edelman Trust Management Platform, a suite of tools to help brands understand how to successfully manage trust as a strategic asset, powered by an enhanced data and tech stack; the Action Method – a new creative process embedded throughout the business which enables teams to find action-oriented solutions to clients’ business problems; and the Gen Z Lab, a consortium of more than 150 young employees who advise clients on their Gen Z strategies.
Edelman has 1,200 people in 17 offices in 12 markets across EMEA. It is the largest full-service agency in the UK, which accounts for about half of its total EMEA revenues, and has substantial offices in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brussels and the Netherlands. Its fast-growing Africa operations were combined with established Middle East offices in 2021 to create a single unit.
In EMEA, the firm grew its fee income in EMEA last year by 11.9%, putting its income at $205 million – the first time the agency has earned more than $200 million in the region. There was particularly strong growth in technology – from product marketing to public affairs – where income grew by 16% and the team enhanced its deep sector expertise across the region, including in blockchain in France and web3 in Spain. Health remains Edelman’s biggest sector in EMEA, accounting for 58% of income, mainly led from the UK but with Germany catching up fast. The Middle East, led by Omar Qirem, also had a strong year, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where the fast-growing team grew income by 38%. New business in EMEA came from the likes of UAE renewable energy company Masdar, BUPA, luxury bodycare brand Rituals, and Seat Cupra. They joined a client roster that includes Microsoft, HP, Samsung, AstraZeneca, Unilever, Mars, Johnson & Johnson and PayPal.
Edelman’s new operating system across EMEA means it is now much more purposeful about how it asks employees to spend their time, cultivating talent, enabling its people to do their best work, considering what individuals want and need to learn, and supporting them across the regional network, from mental health to an inclusive working culture. In 2020 the agency created a ‘Social Contract’ with employees, which sets principles and expectations for how its teams show up for each other, for clients and society, and all staff from across EMEA attend the agency’s annual ‘Future Festival’. Edelman has an EMEA DE&I council that oversees activity and report into local and regional leadership, including progress against goals such as 50/50 gender balance at leadership level, activation of employee resource Groups and delivery of DEI-focused learning and development programmes, ranging from general unconscious bias training to more inclusive leadership modules as part the agency’s leadership academy. Country-specific activity is tailored to meet local goals, from a partnership with 10,000 Black Interns in the UK to support for Seat at the Table in Belgium. Edelman also runs mentoring programmes and engages in key moments such as International Women’s Day, World Mental Health day, Pride and Black History Month.
Edelman’s Trust Barometer research – the 23rd edition of which was published at the start of this year – remains the PR industry’s most valuable piece of thought leadership, especially in recent years as trust in institutions has declined sharply; the latest edition shows business is now the only institution viewed as competent and ethical. The agency was shortlisted for an impressive 11 EMEA SABRE awards, including work for Sanofi, EY and LinkedIn. Stand-out work last year included the ‘No to Normal’ campaign, which saw Unilever remove every use of the word ‘normal’ from its beauty and personal care product packaging and advertising – including its leading Dove brand – in a bid to usher in a new era of inclusive, positive beauty in partnership with experts, activists and influencers. The campaign had astonishing levels of engagement and approval, and substantially increased Unilever’s social and media visibility. In France, the team demonstrated the true financial cost of gender inequality for NGO Fondation des Femmes, prompting 25,000 people to sign a petition and a pledge from presidential candidate to take action. And when Xbox asked Edelman to get young gamers excited about a new Minecraft update focused on science, nature and history, the team partnered with the National Trust and influencers to build the ancient site of Corfe Castle in the game, leading to 97% player retention.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
FleishmanHillard has always been perhaps Omnicom’s most modest agency brand, partly due to so much of its work being confidential, high-level corporate, crisis and reputation management, but it has long held trusted partner status for an impressive roster of clients across EMEA. In 2022, the agency continued to evolve in every way from culture to client work, exuding greater agility, energy, excitement and confidence that resulted in its most successful year ever in the region and set it up for a new phase in its 77-year history. There was significant growth across every part of the business, which operates across consumer, corporate, healthcare, technology and public affairs, served by social, digital and studio teams.
FleishmanHillard has one of the most extensive networks in Europe, with 270 people in its London headquarters and another 290 or so across offices in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Prague, Valencia, and Warsaw (it parted company with its market-leading Moscow operation as a result of the war). There’s also an impressive office in Johannesburg that provides Africa coverage.
2022 was a second consecutive year of double-digit growth for FH in the EMEA region, with both the Brussels office (a public affairs powerhouse) and the South African operation leading the way with double-digit increases. The firm’s top 20 clients grew by 15%, and the firm added several impressive names (*GSK, Moet Hennessy, Allianz, Subway, UCB, AstraZeneca, GM, Londsec, Allergan Aesthetics, Schroders, Snap and Danone Nutricia) to a client list that already included names like Cadbury, IcelandAir, Sky Glass, Momentum Metropolitan, 3M, and Samsung.
CEO of UK and the Middle East Jim Donaldson has been in that role since 2016 when former EMEA region leader John Saunders was named global president and CEO. Donaldson has the support of a strong leadership team that includes European COO Oliver Beheydt, business development manager Paul Haugen, managing director of creative and planning Depali O’Connell and head of DF&I Antionette Willcocks, who has helped the firm to deliver on its promise to be “the most inclusive” PR firm. To that end, FH partners with a host of organizations, including the National Equality Standard, PRCA’s Race & Ethnicity Equity Board, the Taylor Bennett Foundation and UpReach. Other employee initiatives include EMEA mentoring programs and a well-developed suite of professional development tools. New hires in 2022 included Willcocks, head of consumer health Hadassah Cullen, and senior cultural strategies Vijara Varilly.
FleishmanHillard’s flagship global thought leadership centers around authenticity and that work continued in 2022, but there was plenty of activity in Europe, including studies looking at the impact of ESG on the B2B buying process, a report on the “Togetherness Economy” and a look into “The Culture Gap.” Interesting work included a campaign for “IcelandAir” positioning the island nation as “Around the Corner” in terms of travel from the UK; supporting Currency Cloud in its preparations for an acquisition by Visa; corporate reporting for EY; and focusing on electric vehicles for large global client GM.
— Paul Holmes
The world’s second largest public relations agency, Weber Shandwick has been a force across EMEA since its formation 22 years ago, but in recent years its network in the region had felt somewhat fragmented. Last year, however, that changed dramatically under the influence and leadership of energetic new EMEA chief executive Michael Frohlich, who has bought a sense of real cohesion, connection and collaboration to the region, setting out a five-year plan for the business and driving forward a new proposition focusing on the power of earned communications to shape society by working at the intersections of business, culture, media and policy, all underpinned with data. The results can be seen everywhere, from account wins to award-winning work, as well as a fresh sense of purpose among the agency’s teams in the region.
Weber Shandwick is a top three PR agency in the UK market, its largest operation in EMEA, and is also among the market leaders in Germany, the Nordics (where it continues to operate as Prime Weber Shandwick, after acquiring the leading local independent creative agency in 2014), and the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT). Its footprint extends across the entire region, with 24 owned offices and a wider network of affiliates.
Across the board, Weber Shandwick saw mid-single digit growth in EMEA, with strong margins and retention of 95% of its top 50 clients. The MENAT operation’s performance was also of note, with double-digit growth, as was Switzerland, which had strong double-digit growth and has become a regional hub for corporate and healthcare work. The agency introduced a ‘fewer, bigger, better’ approach to new business, which increased overall win value by 5% and led to 70% pitch conversation, bringing on board more regional work for major brands and organisations including IKEA, Adobe and Santander, who joined clients including IBM, Amazon, GSK and Nestlé. The health practice had a particularly strong year, with new briefs from Sanofi, Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis, Moderna and Abbott.
With new values in place – impact, curiosity, inclusion and courage – Weber Shandwick refreshed its approach to talent and its employee value proposition across EMEA in 2022, including a focus on DE&I, with a raft of new inclusive policies, the UK launch of inclusion and sustainability boards, and a region-wide celebration of National Inclusion Week. The agency introduced a new mobility programme, Access All Areas, and a new mental health programme, Open Minds, alongside a three-year partnership with mental health resource This Can Happen. Frohlich also set up an EMEA ‘side board’ allowing younger employees from across the region to bring the issues of the day to the main board, from culture to employee advocacy, giving them a voice in the future of the firm. Senior hires included Gen Kobayashi as EMEA chief strategy officer, Dylan Davenport as EVP brand UK and Kristen Dimmock as health of health strategy for the UK and EMEA. At the end of the year, the Weber Shandwick Collective introduced its new C-suite advisory, Business & Society Futures, which pulls talent together from across its agencies in the region, led in EMEA by corporate lead Greg Prager.
Weber Shandwick’s creative work across the region was again outstanding, yielding 10 SABRE shortlistings for campaigns including from Sweden, the Middle East, Spain, Switzerland and Germany for clients from MasterCard to Caterpillar. The Weber Shandwick Collective also won a number of Cannes Lions last summer, including in the design and direct categories for Prime Weber Shandwick’s sustainability work with H&M. The firm’s United Minds management consulting business adds another dimension to its thought leadership.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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