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B2B technology specialist CCgroup – a mid-80s start-up that was reinvigorated by CEO Richard Fogg and chief client officer Paul Nolan after their MBO in 2012 – went into 2022 knowing it was already two years ahead of growth targets, after a stellar 2021 during which it broke the £4 million barrier. Fogg’s acceptance onto the prestigious Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme last year led to a bold new strategic plan for the business, including restructuring and further diversification and depth in its offer – which already covers telecoms, fintech, enterprise technology, deep tech, cybersecurity and analyst relations – with a view to becoming an £11 million business over the next three years. Above all, the plan led to a new people-first purpose for the agency: to unite talented marketing communications specialists to help technology companies achieve their goals and positively influence the world.
CCgroup is based in London.
CCgroup’s fee income in 2022 grew by 35% to £5.82 million on 20% margins, with the team growing to 46. This growth was largely driven by the success of the cybersecurity practice that the agency launched in 2021, which led to fees of more than £500,000 last year. The telecoms and deep tech streams also delivered, and its strength in fintech saw CCgroup launch its newest stream, emerging fintech. The analyst relations practice now accounts for 11% of fees and the agency have built on a full suite of brand and digital marketing services. After moving into a bigger league in 2021, winning six-figure retainers from some of the biggest tech brands in the world including BT, global tech distributor Westcon-Comstor, mobile network EE and fintech unicorn Mollie – all of which it still works with – last year CCgroup picked up more new work from Bullitt Group, BuddoBot, AllPoints Fibre, Crown Agents Bank and Juni, plus a search giant. The agency’s client roster also includes cybersecurity firm Netacea, Blancco, FintechOS, ClearBank and EXFO.
Becoming the best employer in tech marketing is one of CCgroup’s key objectives, and the agency has doubled down on its culture in 2022, including stepping up its already substantial focus on mental health and wellbeing, upping its generous training and development budget by 41%, setting up a sustainable impact committee, innovative benefits, cost-of-living support, and taking an approach of ‘radical flexibility’. The agency was one of the first to achieve Blueprint diversity mark status, and it has maintained its commitment to and progress on DE&I, moving from 17% of the team being from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds at the end of 2020 to 39% at the end of 2022. The agency tracks ethnicity data and reports it quarterly at board meetings, and asks its team every six months whether CCgroup is an inclusive place to work every six months as part of its staff satisfaction survey; the answer is consistently an overwhelming ‘yes’. CCgroup has overhauled recruitment policies, supplemented the typical Christmas holidays with optional alternative days off for Eid, Diwali and Hanukkah, and set up a prayer space in the office. Last year, CCgroup extended its maternity and paternity policies, and continued to support its female team through leadership coaching, menopause awareness training and support for the White Ribbon Organisation; the agency’s board is also now majority female for the first time. All of this has led to new business, with RFPs arriving specifically because of CCgroup’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. One departure during the year was Peter Bowles, MD of CCgroup’s consumer web3 offshoot Heist, which was a victim of the crypto crash last autumn.
Outstanding work for clients included reinvigorating BT:EE’s reputation as a mobile network leader among industry influencers – who had noted a lack of direction in its communications and were starting to rate it much lower than competitors – through briefings and executive profiling that led to the target group referring to BT:EE as “undisputed leaders” and saying they appreciated the operator’s transparency and honesty around key industry topics. For network security provider Titania, CCgroup worked with a research partner to survey cybersecurity decision-makers on how they were managing critical risks associated with misconfigured firewalls, switches and routers; the team’s report delivered 189 leads. And when Mollie was struggling to engage ecommerce customers across Europe, the agency recommended the fintech unicorn help retailers undertake their own strategic planning in a period of huge economic uncertainty. The campaign had a reach of more than 25 million and became Mollie’s most successful campaign to date, delivering nearly 300 MQLs, 90 SQLs and more than 65 converted leads. CCgroup’s IP during 2022 included a report on how brand influences enterprise technology buyers, and an analyst relations webinar on data.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
After setting a course out of its traditional B2B technology lane in 2021 – branching out from its telecoms and enterprise heartland into consumer tech, digital, influencer marketing and creative services (including hiring its first creative director) – 28-year-old AxiCom had yet another year of transformation in 2022. The agency unveiled a new global brand identity to reflect its new positioning as a global communications agency for not only B2B technology brands but also consumer and B2B brands across industries that have a technology story. AxiCom’s new stated vision – an ocean away from its perhaps dry legacy image – is of being “tech comms rebels with a cause”, delivering data-driven, creative, playful, culturally-relevant communication strategies and campaigns that impact business, people and society. The rebrand is more than partly a reflection of the swashbuckling spirit and energy of European president Kate Stevens, who has driven the agency forward for the past three years; AxiCom has been PRovoke Media’s best EMEA network to work for every year since she took the helm.
In Europe, AxiCom has 120 employees in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. It also has a US office in San Francisco.
AxiCom’s revenue for 2022 grew by 13% across Europe, with even better profit margins. It had double-digit growth in almost all markets and significantly higher growth in France; overall, this means it has hit its 2025 revenue target two years early. AxiCom has also continued its drive to grow its offices outside of its London HQ: the UK business now accounts for around 45% of total revenue. The agency won 60 new clients across Europe, with the most significant being Sage, which appointed AxiCom as its global communications partner, acting as global hub and local market support in eight markets including the UK, France and Germany. It also won the Hubspot account for Germany and France, and robotic remote surgery company Intuative chose AxiCom to deliver data-led insights and strategic counsel. The agency’s client roster also includes Nokia Phones (HMD Global), Talk Talk, Roku, Kantar, Whirlpool, Equinix, Group M, Proofpoint and Dell, and a major European car manufacturer.
AxiCom’s culture is based on everyone on the team caring about each other and caring about doing challenging work to change the game for clients. A rarity in the tech sector, 55% of the team and 80% of AxiCom’s leadership are female. DE&I commitments include an unconscious bias webinar at the heart of employee onboarding, and it also advises clients on how they show up in DE&I, with a commitment to providing diverse teams to our clients to ensure all voices and perspectives are heard. As part of the WPP network, AxiCom provides access to sister agency BCW’s Destination Diversity programme challenging assumptions around unconscious bias, privilege, allyship and exclusion, as well as WPP Roots, which champions ethnic & cultural diversity, and LGBTQ+ inclusive network WPP Unite. AxiCom also works closely with the Taylor Bennet Foundation and D&AD’s New Blood academy to source the next generation of creatives, and follows the BBC’s 50:50 programme to take steps towards equal representation. It also works with Visible Start giving women aged over 45 the opportunity to return to work in the creative industries. Key hires over the year included digital client service lead Sarrah Ahmed, while European MD Nick Head was promoted to global head of client services.
AxiCom was shortlisted for an impressive 10 EMEA SABRE awards, for work from almost all its European offices. The agency drove sales for Kantar’s TV on-demand insights barometer, and launched Nokia phones’ subscription service that leant into the circular economy with the promise of a more sustainable form of phone ownership; the campaign resulted in 30% share of voice on day one at Europe’s largest tech show. For Roku, the team created influencer-led content, leading to huge levels of engagement, and for TalkTalk, AxiCom promoted the brand’s green credentials with a pop-up stunt showing how switching to full fibre broadband can reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 194 bottles of champagne. In tandem with its new identity, AxiCom launched two proprietary pieces of intellectual property: The Axis, a data-driven campaign process which aggregates bespoke, brand-specific primary and secondary research across audience, brand, culture and technology to produce insights that inform communications strategy and tactics; and the Culture Engine, which positions clients at the intersection of media coverage and social conversation through a tech stack including Brandwatch, NewsWhip, Muck Rack, Creator IQ and Onalytica.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Harvard was founded 44 years ago as a technology PR and marketing specialist working with consumer and B2B brands with a technology story to tell. It was an epoch-ending year for the firm, as the dynamic leadership duo of Ellie Thompson and Louie St Claire went out with a bang after achieving a 12th consecutive year of growth. After significant changes to its structure in 2021, when Thompson became Harvard’s first female CEO and St Claire, who had led the firm for 10 years, became non-executive chairman, they announced early this year that they were leaving, along with group strategy director Pete Marcus, to start their own independent venture, with former Weber Shandwick and W Communications leader Rachel Friend stepping in as executive chair to lead the agency into the next era. Harvard’s mission is to help brands “make their move”, whether to disrupt a market, change minds or win new fans. The agency’s capabilities include strategy and planning, B2B marketing, creative campaigns, social media, content, media relations, influencer and analyst engagement, and last year it introduced four more offers: bringing design and branding together with its strategy and planning and content and editorial teams to create H:Lab; the ‘Find Your People’ influencer relations proposition led by consumer division Eat The Fox; content marketing; and internal communications and employer branding.
Harvard has more than 100 people based in the UK, with sister agencies Method operating across the US and Sling & Stone operating across Asia Pacific.
Revenue increased 12% to £9.56 million, with EBITDA increasing 10% to £1.85 million and margins of 19%. New clients over the year included EY, IOV42, Axonius, Speechmatics, Navvis, Xgimi, Scandit, Randstad, Delineate and Nerdio, who joined a client roster featuring Hubspot, Meta’s Workplace, Square, Vodafone, Dropbox, Cisco, Oppo, Anaplan, Sky and NetApp. All four new offers have already led to new work, including H:LAB undertaking a global rebrand for Mendix and a brand refresh for SkyFive; the content marketing team securing projects for Dun & Bradstreet and the FIA; and the internal communications team completing work for YNAP and Richemont.
As one of the first agencies to achieve the Blueprint diversity mark, Harvard has worked hard to create an environment where anyone, from any background, feels safe, inspires and enabled to thrive. The agency continued with its DE&I journey and commitments throughout 2022, increasing Black, Asian and ethnic minority representation to 31% (8% in senior roles) and evolving its strategy to bring more of the agency into its DE&I work, which now covers race and ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+ (13% of the agency team), disability (9%), neurodiversity (12%) and socio-economic background (75% went to non-fee-paying schools, and the agency runs an internship scheme for non-graduates from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds), with an action plan for each. The agency increased the number of Mental Health Champions to 10% of its workforce, launched chat sessions to encourage open mental health conversations, particularly among men, and created and launched an industry-wide mental health initiative. Harvard also ramped up its learning and development programme, and offered cost-of-living bonuses and interest-free loans. Senior appointments included Ben Roberts joining the Harvard board while also taking on responsibility for DEI strategy, after graduating from the The Xec leadership scheme. A significant new hire was Julie Brander, who joined Eat the Fox from Weber Shandwick and was behind the new influencer proposition.
Harvard was shortlisted for two SABRE awards: positioning XGIMI as the next generation of home projectors against market leader Samsung, with targeted media relations that saw the brand sell out of products in the UK; and building credibility for Meta’s Workplace collaboration platform with a global integrated B2B campaign following Virgin Atlantic and Royal Ambulance as they shared a day in the life with their frontline teams. The emotional content not only drove engagement but led to nearly 700 sales qualified leads. Other standout work included positioning mobile phone manufacturer Oppo as an unexpected contender to the Apple/Samsung duopoly, through Wimbledon sponsorship and product launches that led to the brand becoming the No.3 smartphone brand in the UK. Harvard’s thought leadership included a new Content Trends Playbook, and the Tech Moves 2023 report, giving give PR and marketing professionals a view on how technology trends may impact communications plans this year.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
It was a game-changing year for The Hoffman Agency in Europe, with the team taking the first steps to mirror the success and growth of colleagues in the US-based B2B technology firm’s Asia-Pacific operations. Under the thoughtful leadership of European MD Mark Pinsent, the firm not only grew fee income by more than 50%, but also acquired independent Munich-based B2B technology agency Eloquenza PR, with its eyes on further expansion in the EMEA region. The agency has a ‘content first’ model for clients across the technology spectrum, including earned media, owned content, social media, and crisis and corporate communications. Last year the agency also introduced its Techplomacy product offering In Europe, delivering strategic market insight to technology clients and giving them the knowledge, proof points and emerging trends to tailor and adjust communications and public affairs strategies.
Hoffman own offices in the UK, Germany and France, and also delivers campaigns across the Netherlands, Spain and Italy.
The agency’s fee income for 2022 was $2.74 million – year-on-year growth of 58%, not including fee income as a result of the merger with Eloquenza – and the agency is on track for $4 million in fees by the end of this year. The team grew to 20, increasing headcount by 150% on 2021. For the second year running the team had 100% client retention; its key clients in Europe are Adder Technologies, Airwallex, Axis Communications, Graphcore, Moloco, Nokia’s B2B business units, Rakuten Advertising, Tealium, TSMC and Workiva. The firm also picked up work with Genpact last year – supporting its high-investment sponsorship of Formula E team Envision Racing – but its biggest coup was Trellix, where the European team helped swing the competitive pitch that led to the agency becoming the cybersecurity firm’s global hub for PR, social media and content; a transformative win for the agency in Europe.
Understanding that the happiness, motivation, curiosity and development of its people is critical to successful client work, The Hoffman Agency has generous benefits, plenty of wellbeing support and sustainability commitments. In 2022, the firm invested in a significant coach-led project to understand how every individual in the European team felt about the agency; every employee said they trusted and respected the leadership, felt listened to and understood, and felt fairly rewarded. The process did highlight that processes and structures needed to mature, however, and this has become a central part of strategy for 2023. A dedicated team is responsible for diversity issues, and Hoffman has formed partnerships with the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Inclusive Employers. In Europe, 37% of the team is from minority, and two-thirds are female. The firm’s directors, including Pinsent, are still hands on with every account. Early this year, Chris Owen was elevated to general manager of the UK team, and Eloquenza founder Svenja Op gen Oorth became MD of Hoffman’s operations in Germany. Other key senior people are Georgina Leigh, who joined Hoffman in 2021 after seven years with Hotwire, and Constance Falourd, who joined the agency from AxiCom in 2022 to drive the growth of the French business.
The Hoffman Agency was shortlisted for two EMEA SABRE awards, for its work with AI chip company Graphcore and Trellix. The goal of the team’s work in Germany and France is to position the firm as a serious challenger vs Nvidia; after months of planning, it landed a feature in German daily business newspaper Handelsblatt about Graphcore’s partnership with global chip leader TSMC, with a priceless headline: “Europe's most valuable chip start-up is attacking market leader Nvidia with TSMC”. The agency also put Trellix’s extended detection and response (XDR) offer on the map last year, cutting through a crowded market with a global piece of research that yielded acres of global media and social media coverage and significantly boosted the company’s share of voice. And as part of Hoffman’s global campaign for Rakuten, the team made its editorial content actionable by creating a suite of sales assets that directly delivered $1.4 million in revenue against a target of $500,000, from a campaign budget of $70,000. Starting work with Trellix has also allowed the agency to form a strategic partnership with measurement and evaluation specialist Carma, establishing best practice and informing Hoffman’s client insights and reports.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
In line with its name, Milk & Honey is proving itself to be a land of opportunity. Founder Kirsty Leighton brought 25 years of experience in running international agencies to the firm, with the aim of creating a ‘business for good’ agency driven by purpose, ethics and — most importantly — happiness. From day one, Milk & Honey’s values – energy, bravery, respect, passion, collaboration and loyalty – have been built into the structure of the business, which was one of the first B Corps in the PR industry and was named in 2021 as one of the top 5% of B Corps in the world. Milk & Honey’s has expanded from its B2B technology roots across sectors including venture capital, visual technologies, dating, interior design, online health and ethical chocolate.
There are 50 people across EMEA offices in the UK and Germany, and the US.
Milk & Honey grew fee income by an impressive 75% to £3.85m in 2022, underlining the success of Leighton’s inclusive vision. New business came from Epson, United Fintech, Aster DM Healthcare, and Alcantara — joining an existing client roster that features Inner Circle, Royal Park Parnters, TheSoul Publishing, Luker Chocolate, Within3, GiffGaff and KPMG.
Leighton’s leadership team includes digital specialist and board director Rachel Proctor, new arrival Zharina Arnaldo, and Lewis Oakley. And Milk & Honey firmly believes that culture creates agency, rather than the other way around — reflected by a formidable commitment to diversity and inclusion, which includes school, university and community outreach to welcome 250 individuals from diverse backgrounds into the PR industry by 2025. Milk & Honey also partners with the Brixton Finishing School to facilitate workshops, workstreams and mentoring. The firm also asks all clients to abide by its values and sign its diversity commitment, supported by internal and external training. Mental health and healthy social media training focuses on the additional stress factors associated with coming from a diverse background, while Milk & Honey also provides training to ensure client campaigns are inclusive and do not negatively impact diverse communities. At least 25% of candidates must come from diverse backgrounds fro all Milk & Honey roles, and the firm currently reports a negative gender pay gap, a 100% UK and group female board, 15% LGBTQ+ and 27% identifying as non-white.
Milk & Honey publishes an annual report detailing its progress in terms of People, Purpose and Planet, while Leighton is a regular Forbes Council contributor on ethical leadership. Campaign highlights include Epson’s Cop27 campaign.
— Arun Sudhaman
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