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Despite making roughly twice as much money in Asia, The Hoffman Agency remains headquartered in San Jose, California, where Lou Hoffman launched the company more than 30 years ago. In that time, the firm has grown beyond its B2B technology roots to encompass consumer marketing and integrated communications, with a particularly strong bent towards startups and disruptors. The firm’s focus on humanising complex companies and tackling business challenges such as employer branding, market entry and fundraising, continues to stand it in good stead, as does the launch of its Techplomacy public affairs practice, and specific expertise in such areas as semiconductors and integrated marketing.
Hoffman has North American offices in San Jose, California (HQ), Portland, Oregon and Boston. There are 170 people across 10 Asia-Pacific markets, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. And its European presence includes offices in the UK, Germany and France
North American business accounted for $7.8 million of Hoffman’s $26.3 million in global revenue, up 41% from 2021. Asia-Pacific revenue grew 21% in 2022 to almost $16m, led by strong returns from Southeast Asia (+57%) along with double digit expansion in all other markets, reflecting an operation that appears to be firing on all cylinders. There was new business from Tencent. Moloco, Oracle, TSMC, Nvidia, LG Energy Solution, Samsung Display, Peloton (crisis work), Bosch and Yahoo Hong Kong, joining an existing client roster that features Zoom, ASML, Visa, Heidrick & Struggles, Nutanix, Trellix, Twitch, Supermicro, Ripple and Google. Many of Hoffman’s Asian clients, notably, have been successfully expanded into multi-market assignments, including international duties. In Europe, 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 region.
Proudly independent and with a single P&L, Hoffman is flexible and collaborative, and a strong local management team has turned that into an asset when it comes to recruitment and retention. Caroline Hsu’s impressive performance as Asia-Pacific MD over the past six years was rewarded with a promotion to chief global officer last year, while other key leaders include North American chief digital officer Gerard LaFond and European MD Mark Pinsent. Across regions, Hoffman has made the wellbeing of its employees and workplace its number one priority, leading to high retention rates. The firm has also intensified its DEI efforts by requiring 25% of new hires to be BIPOC, offering DEI-related training and activities and creating a scholarship for diverse students attending California Community Colleges. Today, 29% of Hoffman’s staff represent the BIPOC community, up from 19% in July 2020. Diversity among the agency’s senior team in rose from zero to 21%.
Hoffman has won our SEO/Content Distribution Innovation SABRE Award every year all but once since the category was created in 2015 — and this year was no exception, with Hoffman earning honors for its work on Synopsys’ corporate blog. A key thought leadership highlight was the launch of the firm’s Techplomacy public affairs practice, which combines geopolitical expertise with technology specialisms, supported by ongoing intelligence reports into critical current issues. Other highlights include SABRE recognition for work for Trellix, Visa and Gunung Raja Paksi.
— Arun Sudhaman / Diana Marszalek / Maja Pawinska Sims
More than 20 years ago, Allison+Partners was launched amid the wreckage of the dotcom 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.
The firm’s US offices—its San Francisco headquarters, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami (new in 2021), New York, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington, DC—are deliberately sized so that no one location is dominant and the firm has centers of excellence across the country. Over the past few years, the international reach has been growing too, and Allison now has offices in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Middle East, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the UK.
Mirroring its 2021 performance, North America revenue last year grew 22% to end the year with fees around $95.3 million, while global revenue hit $118.5 million, fueled by particularly strong business in Asia. Allison saw new business from AmeriSave, Brita, EQ Office, GE Power & Water, Globant, GoodRx, IHG, Kyndryl, Rad Power Bikes and Revlon, and significant expansion of its assignments for AB InBev, Aflac, Dexcom, IHG/Kimpton, PhRMA, Plug Power and TikTok. New offerings include Brandgeist IQ, a proprietary methodology for measuring the real-time cultural relevance of brands already being used by Budweiser and Progressive. V.I.T.A.L. is an end-to-end research and strategy framework that measurably connects customer needs to brand positioning and go to market activity. 2022 also saw Allison+Partners adopt The Social Discovery Squad, a new approach to futureproofing clients by adding more video and visuals, prioritizing channels like paid influencer campaigns and refocusing KPIs.
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. The firm’s decision not not to lay off any staff during a difficult 2020 created a solid foundation for progress in the years since. Allison has made gains in building a more inclusive agency. In 2022, roughly 23% were racially or ethnically diverse, versus 19% in 2021. Diversity among senior leaders has risen to 14%. DEI initiatives also include six employee-led advocacy groups (leaders are compensation for their work), a a comprehensive diverse supplier program and augmenting candidate interviews to eliminate bias. Last year, PRovoke Media recognized founder Scott Allison, who serves as global chairman and CEO, with a SABRE Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement.
Allison+Partners is a regular on our SABRE Award shortlists (last year the firm picked up Best in Show honors at our Innovation SABRE Awards for its work with Budweiser) and this year was no exception. Allison’s work was up for nine 2023 SABREs, making it one of the year’s most-nominated firms. Among the finalists is Corona’s global plastic fishing tournament, which included a series of events around the world to remove plastic debris from the ocean and raise awareness about marine plastic pollution. More than 20 tons of plastic were collected by participants, who were paid for their efforts. Also nominated: Dexcom U, a first a first-of-its-kind NIL program creating a platform featuring 14 college athletes with diabetes to serve as brand ambassadors for Dexcom’s diabetes management technology while inspiring the next generation of diabetic athletes.
— Paul Holmes
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
Launched by Phil Nardone in 1995, PAN’s focus on integrated marketing has underpinned its continued innovation in a technology category that can sometimes appear overly enamoured with media relations — particularly as the firm has broadened its capabilities beyond B2B technology into such areas as digital health, fintech, and professional services. The focus remains on B2B brands, but PAN now brings deep storytelling capabilities that span the funnel and often result in the firm growing its mandates beyond earned media into marketing and brand purpose programs. And that mindset, which the firm dubs ‘We Move Ideas’, is applied as much internally as externally, resulting in a culture that has built a consistent ability to address challenges and capitalise on opportunities before they present themselves.
PAN’s 200+ employees have the option to work in collaborative office hubs in Boston (HQ), San Francisco, New York, Orlando, and the firm’s UK and global base in London
PAN’s fee income grew 17% in 2022 to more than $30m, with revenues doubling since 2020, despite parting ways with SAP (which accounted for 23% of revenue) shortly before the pandemic. While new business accounted for 53% of that growth, PAN’s expansion owes much to its ability to drive integrated marketing mandates (+19% YoY) on behalf of its clients, to the extent that such work now accounts for almost a third of its revenue. Among its top 25 clients, furthermore, 84% are integrated — leading to strong growth from such names as IDE Technologies, Quanteriz, CloudBees, Artec Europe, HungerRush (integrated marketing only), UPS Capital (up 94% thanks to broader storytelling work), Radial, Booz Allen Hamilton (doubled from PR to corporate/executive positioning to ESG and corporate sponsorship) and Amwell. Lucrative wins included MarkForged, Qualtrics, BCG Ware2Go, CivicPlus and Aurora Solar — among 33 new client wins in 2022.
Phil Nardone is supported by a leadership team that features CMO Mark Nardone, CCO Darlene Doyle, CPCO Elizabeth Famiglietti, and Megan Kessler, who joined the C-suite this year as the firm’s first chief of integrated marketing and strategy. New hires included Juliana Allen to lead technology, while Nikki Fest O’Brien departed to become president at Greenough. PAN’s commitment to DEI has seen a 27% increase of BIPOC representation among employees in 2022, now accounting for 10% of senior leadership and 22% of all staff. Nardone himself is a key evangelist, establishing the PAN Portal program with four HBCUs, while the firm has also rolled out a series of educational initiatives to ensure DEI remains top of mind among staff. In terms of workplace culture, PAN’s focus on is on belonging, education and communication, and includes a fully flexible working model, along with paid sabbaticals, longterm service bonuses, and generous parental leave.
PAN’s DEI commitments informed a four part guest lecture series with four HBCUs, along with specific training for Booz Allen’s new CDEIO and a biweekly newsletter for all clients. A new strategic consulting group launched via a four-part series that explored the interplay between strategic storytelling and business challenges, while a new CyberPulse dashboard also rolled out to monitor cybersecurity conversations for PAN’s clients. The firm’s focus on integrated marketing has seen it shift its work towards more dynamic content marketing across video, animation and visual, with campaign highlights including a SABRE-nominated effort to promote Booz Allen as a workplace of choice, along with impressive content marketing work for UPS Capital to increase qualified leads and sales.
— Arun Sudhaman
Founded 40 years ago, WE Communications parlayed its still-critical Microsoft relationship to become one of the world’s biggest, and most successful, specialist technology PR firms. Global reach now stands at offices in 21 cities, including seven in North America, where the firm remains a benchmark in terms of helping brands harness the transformative appeal of technological change. That focus means that WE’s capabilities have broadened beyond the technology vertical to encompass considerable depth in healthcare, corporate, ESG, digital analytics and consumer marketing. Just as important, perhaps, WE continues as one of the world’s biggest independent PR firms, underpinning an entrepreneurial spirit and ‘purpose and people’ mindset that is not often associated with firms of its size.
WE’s Seattle HQ is accompanied by North American offices in Austin, Boston, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City. In EMEA, the agency has around 140 people across its offices in London, Frankfurt, Munich and Johannesburg. And, in Asia, there are 631 WE employees following an ambitious acquisition spree that added top-rated outfits in China (Red Bridge), India (Avian Media) and Singapore (Watatawa).
WE’s North American fee income grew by 7.7% to $134m after winning Global and North American Technology Consultancy of the Year honours in 2022. Once again, expansion was led by technology but supported by WE’s expertise in corporate, healthcare, and social impact. There was new business from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Bezos Academy, Lyft, Smartsheet, Discord, Land O Lakes, General Mills, Leo Pharma and Penumbra, while the firm’s existing client roster features AbbVie, Adobe, Brother, Capgemini, Elsevier, F5 Networks, Horizon Therapeutics, Intel, Microsoft and SAP. 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. In Asia-Pacific, 2022 calendar year revenue grew by 2% to $33m, although fiscal year growth of 6% better reflects WE’s progress in recent years. India led the way, up 37% in 2022, while Singapore also performed credibly (+19%), but WE was hampered by more sedate returns from its China and Australia operations.
WE’s ability to people ahead of profits never proved more welcome than during the pandemic, when the firm moved swiftly to prioritize employee health and safety, investing in mental health, employee assistance and repurposing operating expense budgets for employee development. That approach continues to reap dividends in the post-Covid era, reflected by a 74% ‘belonging’ core among employees. DE&I has become a core priority at WE, with 25% of the staff now hailing from non-white backgrounds, supported by the formation of a Global DEI Council in 2022. External benchmarking reveals there are no pay disparities at WE in terms of race or gender, while all of these efforts are led by EVP/DEI head Elizabeth Herrerra Smith, who sits on the global executive team that features CEO/founder Melissa Waggener Zorkin, global COO and international president Kass Sells, North American president and chief client officer Dawn Beauparlant, and chief talent officer Kate Richmond. 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. In Asia-Pacific, a strong leadership team features regional lead Mantri, China CEO Nicky Wang, Singapore head Daryl Ho and Australia MD Dan Woods
WE’s Brands in Motion (BiM) study continues to give the firm a distinctive edge in terms of understanding how corporates should respond to an era of radical change, while its social impact consulting was boosted by the acquisition of Hopscotch in 2022. Campaign highlights included the ‘Supercharge Intel’ global campaign across 20+ countries, Smartsheet’s sponsorship of McLaren Racing, and an initiative to re-engage ankylosing spondylitis patients for AbbVie.
— Arun Sudhaman / Maja Pawinska Sims
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