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Golin has had a presence in the UK since the 1980s, when it acquired consumer specialist Welbeck, but the operation had its ups and downs, and has at various times been best known for both its consumer and technology work before arriving at the current mix of business: a balanced portfolio of consumer, technology and health clients (the latter capability much enhanced by the firm’s 2012 acquisition of Virgo Health, with which Golin now works even more closely since the appointment of former Virgo MD Ondine Whittington as group managing director, responsible for both businesses. The firm has also invested in building out an network of its own offices in Europe.
The combined UK operations of Golin and Virgo total 180 people, while Golin has additional EMEA offices in Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Hamburg, Istanbul, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Riga, Rome, and Stockholm—as well as an extensive global network
Golin’s growth in London was a very healthy 15%, following better than 20% growth last year, retaining all of its top five clients (a group that includes the likes of Adobe and Unilever), and winning new clients including Specsavers, GSMA, ASICS, Heycar, Affinity Water, and Hard Rock. The combined healthcare operation performed particularly strongly, up 34%. There was solid growth in Europe too, with the German operation up by 11%, while the Romanian office remains a market leader and an agency capable of punching well above its weight in creative competition.
Some of the most dramatic changes at both Virgo and Golin have been internal and cultural, with the firm adopting a conscious and caring approach to the return-to-office post-pandemic. There are a host of important initiatives: a “smart hybrid” approach that sees many people in the office just once a week; new gender-neutral family-friendly leave policies; expanded diversity and inclusion commitments; assistance with the cost-of-living crisis; and a renewed commitment to giving back: a new effort to encourage students from different socio-economic backgrounds to consider careers in PR, for example. With Whittington now leading the combined operation, there has been further investment in people, with Nina Bhagwat, ex Channel 4 and Barbican DEI director, joining to ensure the firm’s commitment delivers measurable results, and the appointment of Tinashe Sithole as the firm’s first learning and development director. There were new managing directors in two key European markets: Anja Guckenberger, formerly of Edelman, in Germany, and Pinterest veteran Estelle Gouin in France
Golin received EMEA SABRE nominations for a very creditable nine campaigns, with standouts including two high-profile campaigns for ASICS “Mind Race” and “Dramatic Transformation” that showcase the firm’s creative capabilities, from unexpected platform ideas to high-quality content creation; highlighting the “Gender Pain Gap” for Nurofen; an initiative from Magnum ice-cream to support female cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast; and managing “Tag the Game,” a new purpose-driven initiative for Unilever’s Persil brand, encouraging kids to spend more time outside. All of those campaigns came from the UK, but there was nominated work from Istanbul too (“Upcycling with Wall's Max,” another Unilever effort). The firm also established partnerships with Macmillan Cancer Support and The Royal Marsden Hospital to provide communications support.
— Paul Holmes
A little over two decades ago, Allison+Partners was launched amid the wreckage of the dot-com bust and quickly established itself as a significant player, first on the West Coast and soon nationally. Now entering its third decade, the firm has been one of the fastest-growing and most award-winning midsize agencies in the US, establishing itself as a leader in the consumer, corporate and technology arenas, and building a formidable digital capability. With the support first of parent companies MDC and more recently Stagwell it has expanded its global footprint significantly, opening its London office in 2012 and adding additional European markets in recent years.
Allison+Partners’ flagship EMEA operation is clearly London, where it has a team of professionals providing consumer, corporate and digital expertise; there are additional European offices in France and Germany, as well as in the Dubai.
Allison+Partners’ UK operations were up by a little less than 20% in 2022, ending the year with fee income of $6.4 million, while the continental European operations grew by 33% to $1.7 million—between them accounting for a little less than 10% of the firm’s global revenues. But the EMEA side of the business has been adding big name clients (Mars-Wrigley, Haagen-Dazs, Tindle, RadBikes, Kimpton Hotels, PDD, Corona, GXO, Bouygues) to a roster that already includes Dow Jones, Reddit, Dexcom, CyrusOne, Palo Alto Networks, Pega, Techdata, Vistage, and Cortland.
Allison has its own approach to building a strong culture: no single office is larger than 100 people (most are in the 40-50 range) and the firm is organized as a single profit center, eliminating any barrier to collaboration. Like many firms, Allison gave a lot of thought to the best way to bring people back into the office, added wellness and gratitude days for additional flexibility, and dedicated additional resources to diversity and inclusion: more than 35% of UK employees come from diverse backgrounds. Jim Selman, partner and managing director, UK and Ireland, was brought in from Freuds in 2015 to lead growth and has delivered, supported by Dan Whitney, managing director, marketing innovation team and creative services lead. The past 12 months have seen a number of people moves designed to strengthen leadership: Susie Hughes as EVP; Gary McCarthy, as EVP, integrated marketing; and Megan Stoner as SVP.
In the UK, Allison offers a seamlessly integrated approach to brand and engagement strategy, content strategy, social strategy, creative service and design, content marketing, influencer marketing, social media marketing and management, performance marketing (including paid media, paid social and programmatic), analytics, insight and research. Selman is a prolific blogger, and a thought leader when it comes to storytelling in communications, and the German team also been aggressive in publishing thought leadership on topics ranging from the pandemic to data-driven work. Client work includes the SABRE-nominated “Dexcom No-Pricks Parlor,” which featured brand amvassadors joined Dexcom, a leading provider of technology for people with diabetes, to celebrate Diabetes Awareness Week and the importance of access to real-time continuous glucose monitoring. Working with Kimpton Hotels, the firm supported the “Stay Human” campaign, building on research of showing that travelers want to see more inclusive and authentic travel content on social media to create a collective of six diverse content creators for the hotel chain. Allison also handled the expansion of Reddit into the UK, managing consumer, corporate and trade PR.
— Paul Holmes
Hanover was founded 23 years ago by Charles Lewington, formerly the press secretary to UK prime minister John Major, who remains as the firm’s magnetic CEO after selling the agency to Canadian group Avenir in 2019, and plans to remain at the helm post-earnout this year. The consultancy has grown to a heavyweight with true trusted advisor status, whose focus on providing strategic counsel to corporate clients, working with senior leaders to enhance recognition, reputation and resilience, working with some of the world’s biggest businesses on the most complex global communications challenges; a growing number of its briefs have ESG at their heart. The agency is a market leader in advocacy, healthcare and corporate communications, with a growing consumer marketing business and sector specialisms in food and drink, technology, media and financial services, with strategy, data, creative and digital underpinning its offer. Hanover has two sister agencies: Multiple enables ambitious entrepreneurs and enterprises to define their purpose, fire up their people and build platforms for growth, while The Playbook offers creative communications for sport, consumer and technology brands.
Hanover is headquartered in London, with offices in Brussels and Dublin, and has a Middle East operation based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
It was another impressive – and resilient – year for Hanover commercially, with fee income growing by 10% despite the impact of the war in Ukraine and the natural conclusion of one of its major clients, Expo 2020. More than 40% of revenue came from providing new services to existing clients, with growth in healthcare, technology, renewable energy, digital, strategy and insight, internal change programmes, ESG and creative execution. Hanover also delivered solid annual earnings growth, and its headcount exceeded 200 for the first time. The agency’s client base, including businesses who have been with Hanover for many years, includes Novartis, Goldman Sachs, Airbus, Facebook, Sky, Pernod Ricard and Uber. Through its organic growth programme, Hanover increased its work for Apple, Meta, Budweiser, Pizza Hut, Sky, Nissan and Merck, and the agency also won retained briefs from the likes of Amazon, McDonalds, Netflix, Saudia Airlines and the UK Centre for Disaster Protection.
Lewington is supported by a strong leadership team that includes Gavin Megaw, group MD of corporate, brand and strategy; group healthcare MD Andrew Harrison; Dublin MD Lorna Jennings and Brussels MD Claudia La Donna. Key senior appointments last year included Stephanie Lis as director of campaigns, former NHS strategy director Ian Dodge and NHS medicines advisor Malcolm Qualie as senior health advisors, and Andrew Molson as chair of the firm’s ethics committee. Hanover has made a deliberate attempt to broaden the socio-economic background of its teams. Five years ago, around 70% of its UK team had attended private or grammar school. That now stands at 35%, putting the agency in the Top 75 of the Social Mobility Foundation Index. Women continue to hold 55% of leadership positions and the agency has pregnancy, fertility, adoption and menopause policies. Hanover’s inclusion and diversity network has commitments across six areas and its workforce in London is now 16% ethnically diverse, with a target of 20%, which it aims to achieve through mitigating unconscious bias in recruitment, investing to ensure retention and progression into leadership roles, internships for career starters outside London, and partnerships with the Taylor Bennett Foundation and 10,000 Black Interns. The agency has a Healthy Minds Working Group and invests in its LiveSmart programme covering resilience, adaptability, managing stress and tech/life balance. It has an active LGBTQ+ network, invested more than £200,000 in its training programme, the Hanover Academy, in 2022, and is setting stretching carbon reduction targets.
This year, Hanover is shortlisted for four SABRE awards, including a cost-of-living crisis campaign for Pizza Hut, work for the Financial Services Compensation scheme, and an impressive campaign for Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I around its responsibility as part of the nighttime economy. With 66% of women reporting they feel unsafe walking home at night, Hanover helped Budweiser take action, facilitating a partnership with WalkSafe+, an app that provides tools to users to enable a safer route home. The agency developed a fully-integrated campaign working with Transport for London and other stakeholders, including OOH advertising that resulted in nearly 20,000 sign-ups to the WalkSafe+ database in one month. In terms of thought leadership, Hanover’s Rewire programme includes a proprietary diagnostic tool which helps clients take action to address gaps in their reputational resilience; the tool is becoming a data engine that tracks confidence in resilience across the corporate affairs leadership community.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Porter Novelli celebrates its 50th birthday this year with a story of transformation: 2022 was the year it revamped its global positioning, changed how it operates its network across EMEA and started to prove that being middle-of-the-pack is by no means middle-of-the-road. Its new stated reason for being is “to do business better by closing the say-do gap” — and this isn’t just a strapline but a philosophy that now runs through the core of the business, helping clients to do business better and more sustainably. The agency is now structured around four key areas: purpose and impact, corporate counsel, employee experience and brand growth. At the heart of this is Porter Novelli’s strategic services hub, covering planning, data, strategy and insight alongside a new content and production studio. In EMEA, a new “connected core” borderless model creates agile teams of talent from across the region for clients.
Porter Novelli’s EMEA offices are in France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, Romania, Turkey, the Netherlands, Dubai, Kenya and Nigeria, with the region led from the UK, its largest office with a team of 80.
Porter Novelli’s EMEA revenue has grown by 40% over the past two years, including 18% growth in 2022 and a second year of 30% margins. In 2022 its regional deal flow increased by 54%, and it resigned two clients who didn’t fit with its new philosophy. New work came from the likes of Chanel, Belvedere Vodka, Roche Alzeimers, IT company Iron Mountain, Insulet, manufacturer of the innovative Omnipod insulin pump, autonomous vehical software company Oxbotica, and biotech Blueprint Medicines, plus a top-three UK supermarket chain. They joined a client roster that includes Beiersdorf (Nivea, Eucerin, Elastoplast), William Grant & Sons, Amgen, Barco, Bayer, Almond Board of California, Pfizer, Sony and Ericsson. A new source of revenue was using the agency’s tech stack to package up consumer, B2B and policymaker insights, earned media and social platform intelligence, search data and cultural trends into interactive dashboards for clients.
Porter Novelli’s new approach is reflected in its ‘Say-Do Academy’, providing a broad range of training for everyone on its team, and ‘Close the Gap’ educational benefits including an MSc in management and leadership and a degree in management or data science at Cranfield. The agency spends 6% of revenue on learning and development and EMEA MD Fenella Grey leads quarterly listening sessions across all peer groups. The agency’s retention rate is 81% and 82% of the team say it has a great culture and are excited about their future. Porter Novelli’s DE&I goals for 2022 were to increase the percentage of people of colour on its team, and this rose from 8% to 20% – including 10% in senior positions – with a 2023 target of 30% across the business. It also aimed to increase the number of women in leadership positions to above 50%; by the end of the year, 83% of its leaders were women and it has zero gender and ethnicity pay gap. The agency has also increased representation across neurodiversity and sexuality and has an age-diverse workforce. PN ceased its graduate programme in favour of a more inclusive approach to recruitment and has partnerships with the Black Young Professionals Network, TheValuable500 and Socially Mobile. Staff are supported with mental health and wellbeing initiatives, a subsidised on-site café, and provision for ‘gap weeks’ to get back to nature and pursue other adventures in addition to holiday allowance. Grey is supported in EMEA by a senior regional team including Sarah Shilling, EVP Growth, digital services director Pete Tomlinson and director of health Amber Tovey. New hires including Yasmin Somauroo as people manager and DE&I lead, creatives Ben Briley and Elliot Weld, and Emily Buckland, director of talent and people.
Porter Novelli was shortlisted for an EMEA SABRE award for its creative work with pharma company Kyowa Kirin; the ‘Shine a Light on XLH’ campaign featured an exhibition of portraits of people with rare blood disease X-linked Hypophosphataemia, where their symptoms were brought to life through illuminated body make up and digital technology to show the far-reaching physical, mental and emotional effects of the condition. This was supplemented with a toolkit for patient advocacy groups, social media content, and outreach to journalists and policymakers, and has been rolled out across Europe and APAC. Other stand-out work included getting British consumers to embrace almonds as part of a healthy diet for the Almond Board of California, and a partnership between Nivea Men, charity Talk Club, mental health influencer Roman Kemp, and grassroots football clubs to help men talk about their mental wellbeing. As part of the agency’s refresh, team members and clients are encouraged to write thought leadership pieces on its #Fridayhaveyoursay platform, which has generated business leads and increased engagement across socials channels by 238%. The agency produced a range of reports in the region, analysing trends from COP27 to Cannes, which have substantially grown its Instagram and LinkedIn audiences.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Female-owned, female-led and fiercely independent since it was founded 40 years ago, WE Communications has expanded in recent years from its technology heritage to develop equal strengths in healthcare and consumer PR. Its sweet spot is now storytelling at the intersection of all three: how tech-fuelled transformation can improve the way we live and work, from telehealth to sustainability. WE’s operation in EMEA has grown fast, particularly in the UK, and its German and South African agencies have also matured considerably from underdog boutiques to a full-service networked player in the markets, offering digital marketing, social media services, insights and analytics to national and international clients of all sizes, and working across offices for many clients. Last year WE also invested in its corporate and brand purpose offer in the region, including the acquisition of London social impact and behaviour change agency Hopscotch to strengthen its capabilities in advising brands on social and economic issues, brand reputation and responsible governance, and expansion into crisis and issues management.
In EMEA, the agency has around 140 people across its offices in London, Frankfurt, Munich and Johannesburg. Headquartered in Seattle, WE has six other US offices and a substantial Asia-Pacific footprint across Australia, India, China and Singapore.
After stratospheric income growth of more than 57% in 2021, WE’s EMEAs operations settled down last year, with more modest 4% growth overall (rising to 6% in the UK and South Africa) to become a $15.2 million business, and a focus on building out its broader, more integrated offer. The firm won 20 new clients in EMEA last year, with briefs coming from medical devices company Med-El, pharma Astellas, Hero MotoCorp, semiconductor supplier Solidigm, Trend Micro and biotech GBT, which joined Microsoft, Intel, BioNTech, Abbvie, Vodafone/Vodacom, Boehringer Ingelheim, Capgemini, Amcor, Lenovo Ionos and Abbott on WE’s client roster across the region; the agency retained 84% of its top 25 clients in EMEA. In the UK, the agency has seen an upsurge in demand for media training from clients including Intel.
WE strives to create a working environment where its people can do their best work while also feeling seen and heard. Global employee engagement scores showed 74% of employees say they feel like they belong at the agency. In 2022, WE created a Global DEI Council to create a forum for sharing and learning across markets, and in EMEA, local leads are empowered to shape programs that are most meaningful to their people, considering cultural norms and local laws and furthering its efforts to create a more inclusive culture for everyone; in Germany, for instance, there is a focus on LGBT+ initiatives, while in the UK – where the firm appointed its first head of culture last year – there has been training around around menopause, neurodiversity and a partnership with 10,000 Black Interns and in South Africa there is a focus on bringing people of colour into leadership positions. During a DEI-focused month of training, employees had access to speakers and content with a broad range of topics including ageism. WE has also developed an Inclusive Language Style Guide and training to help employees act and advise as inclusive, self-aware and respectful communicators. In EMEA, WE is female-led across the region: Ruth Allchurch was recently elevated into a regional MD role after heading the UK operation since 2018, supported by a team that includes Germany general manager Bianca Eichner, South Africa MD Sarah Gooding, and head of digital Daniel Blank. The Hopscotch acquisition added more senior talent, while Kemi Akindele joined from Freuds as director of corporate reputation and brand purpose.
WE is shortlisted for five SABRE awards, including work for Microsoft, Intel, and Elsevier Health, as well as Vodacom in Africa, for which the agency has developed a wide-ranging, complex stakeholder engagement and media relations-focused Africa.Connected campaign, focused on financial inclusion. Other notable work over the year included promoting chemical company OCI’s presence at COP27, which was so successful it led to a retainer for the agency, and expanding German telco brand Gigaset’s social media presence and following. The team also created a purpose-driven global awareness campaign for Med-El – a pioneer in the field of cochlear implants – on hearing loss with relation to music, ‘Your Life, Your Soundtrack’. And WE supported pharma Astellas with corporate reputation and brand purpose work, including producing its first podcast, LinkedIn campaigns and events. In terms of thought leadership, WE published the sixth edition of its annual Brands in Motion global report on how brands can navigate a world in consistent transition; last year the research found consumers want greater transparency and tangible proof-points from business leaders about progress on values-led commitments.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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