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After a couple of quiet years, which included its sale from China’s Bluefocus to private equity players CVC Capital/CDPQ, Citizen Relations has returned to prominence under the leadership of global president Nick Cowling. The firm’s strong roots across consumer, corporate and creative provided the foundation for the launch of a new mission in 2020, focusing on purpose-led communications and supported by a social impact division. That positioning has transformed the agency’s offering towards helping clients determine how to behave, rather than just what they say, and is supported by a new creative and strategic hub in North America.
Globally, there are 185 staffers, with the majority of staffers operating across four offices in Canada, and three more in the US and London. Citizen also owns Canadian firm Middle Child.
2022 was the best financial year in Citizen’s history, with 20% growth that pushed the agency over the $35 million mark for the first time — a testament to the transformation strategy launched several years earlier. After a seven-year stall, the US continued its growth streak, registering double-digit growth for the third consecutive year. Citizen’s reputation for delivering results paid off with new business from Champion, Carrier, Simon Property Group, Sunlife, Deltek and TSX, as well as mandate to launch Vinfast’s electric SUVs in North America. Citizens’ focus on innovation, as well as new social impact and strategy/creative, offerings secured relationships with existing clients including P&G, Duracell, PepsiCo Foods (Canada), MolsonCoors, Kraft Heinz (Middle Child), L'Oreal (Middle Child), Loblaws, Egg Farmers of Canada, United Wheels and Groupo Bimbo. Chief digital officer Crystalyn Stuart-Loayza, who runs Citizen’s new digital team, was among the year ‘s new hires.
Cowling’s leadership team also includes US GM Laura Bremer, President, Ontario and West Jenn Duggan, its first chief creative officer in Josh Budd, and its first chief digital officer Stuart-Loayza. Citizen’s employee engagement score rose to 83% (3.5% higher than 2021), reflecting how the firm’s new sense of purpose is also translating to a more vibrant employee culture. Citizen’s approach to DEI is multifaceted, evaluating the full range of measurements to identify disparities in promotions, mentorships or among suppliers. The year capped with a 40% diverse staff; Citizen’s executive team is 50% women, 29% BIPOC and 15% LBGTQIA+. The firm’s focus on mental health continues with an annual campaign conducted in partnership with local organizations where Citizen operates.
Up for 12 North America SABRE Awards, Citizen’s 2023 work reflected the agency’s rejuvenated capabilities. Among the highlights is Citizen’s creation of the ReclaimYourName.dic for Elimin8hate, a free plugin that adds over 8,000 Asian names to Microsoft Word’s dictionary, making the software more inclusive. Others include the “Cheetle in Cheadle” campaign for Cheetos and “The Really Real Book of Egg Facts,” the Egg Farmers of Canada’s response to the proliferation of egg misinformation online.
— Diana Marszalek
Tom Coyne’s agency has always had a strong sense of mission, from its formation in 1991 when the emphasis was on becoming a destination agency for talent (reflected in several Best Agency to Work For awards) to today, when the firm exists because “we believe great communication can change the world,” as Coyne says. The vision has changed little in 30 years, but the range of services offered has evolved considerably, as Coyne has transformed itself from a traditional consumer public relations firm into a modern integrated agency, offering social media management, influencer relations, digital marketing, content development and more and expanding its business in healthcare and corporate communications.
Coyne PR operates from two North American offices: its headquarters in Parsippany, NJ, and a satellite office in New York. But as a member of the Worldcom network, it also has access to partners in 115 cities and 49 countries around the world.
In the first year of the pandemic, exposed in the travel and retail sectors, Coyne saw almost $10 million in fee income either shut down or put on hold. Characteristically, Coyne made the decision to not lay off any of his people, and as the business rebounded over the next couple of years that proved to be a smart decision. The firm has now recovered all that lost revenue and then some, and 2022 was the best year in its history, with fee income just shy of $40 million (up 9% on 2021). With healthcare turning in a particularly impressive performance (it now accounts for 40% of the firm’s business), new clients included HelloFresh, Reproductive Medicine Associates, Champagne Taittinger, PharmaRegs, V Foundation for Cancer Research, TruRoots, MiraDry, Einstein Bros. Bagels, KISS Beauty, and OraPharma. They join a roster that includes Bimbo Bakeries, Stellantis, L’Oreal, Pacira BioSciences, Vtech, and Humana.
As people began to return to the office, Coyne introduced its "Better 2Gether" approach, which in practice means people spend about 40% of their time in the office (important for culture and team building) and 60% in more flexible circumstances. The firm’s diversity numbers are better than the industry average (37%) but Coyne is not resting on its laurels: it reimagined its DEI Committee last year to spark innovative approaches, with employees themselves taking the lead, and the intern program is now 50% diverse. Tom Coyne continues to serve as CEO, supported by presidents Rich Lukis and John Gogarty, and executive VPs Lisa Wolleon and Jennifer Kamienski. New hires in 2022 strengthened the bench, with Lauren Klingler joining as healthcare VP from RxMosaic and Courtney Moore-Adoteye as social media director (and co-chair of the firm’s DEI committee) from Prosek.
One area where Coyne has made a significant investment over the past 12 months is in new business. Seeking to involve employees at all levels in the process, the firm issues regular “Creative Challenges,“ encouraging everyone to submit ideas and creative concepts. The firm has also been expanding its media monitoring and data and analytics capabilities. As for the work, it remains highly creative and increasingly diverse across both consumer and healthcare practices: showing consumers around the world how to #CleanseLikeaDerm with CeraVe; celebrating Steve Aoki, the new chief music officer at Orangetheory Fitness; tapping T-Pain to alleviate morning after pain with Alka-Seltzer’s Hangover Relief; setting the World Record for Largest Game of Freeze Dance with Pacira BioSciences; and forecasting global travel trends in a post-pandemic world with Hilton.
— Paul Holmes
Havas Formula was founded in 1992 by Michael Olguin – who moved from CEO to chair at the start of this year, elevating Tara Reid to CEO – as a national integrated agency offering public relations, social/digital, experiential, and crisis communications. A subsidiary of global communications group Havas, the agency's mission is to establish, build and improve brand reputations and narratives through storytelling and “experiences that champion bravery”. Its core practice areas include consumer, lifestyle, creative, technology, financial and travel, with category expertise in food and beverage, consumer packaged goods, spirits and retail/restaurants.
Havas Formula operates across six North American offices: New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Miami and Denver.
Havas Formula’s fee income grew by 29% last year, to more than $34 million – its best year yet in its 30-year history – with the team now at 190. New work over the year came from Virgin Red, Extreme Networks, Extended Stay America, Brompton, Wolverine Worldwide, Enovix, SmartNews, CircusTrix, Mixbook and Fresh Press Farms, which joined Chase, Cox Automotive, Re/Max, Panda Express, Maui Jim, Merrell, Canon, Hormel (Chi-Chis. Herdez, LA Victoria, Wholly Guacamole) and Jaguar Land Rover on its client roster.
Havas Formula’s culture is driven by a people-first philosophy, with values including accountability, authenticity, bravery, collaboration, compassion, inclusivity, ingenuity and respect.
Diverse voices and perspectives are encouraged, and the firm strives for a harmonious and healthy working environment that supports employees’ growth and development. The agency has socially-responsible procurement policies in its supply chain and continued with its #CommitToChange diversity, equity and inclusion plan developed in 2020. In addition to participating in and supporting Havas Group DEI initiatives, Havas Formula has also introduced a Diverse Student Mentor Program; a ‘For Moms’ community; a ‘Trading Places’ scheme where employees switch roles to develop new ways of thinking and working; the Femmes Forward accelerator program for women; Havas Lofts, a global learning program exposing employees to new cultures; and Havas NextGen, enabling younger employees to build skills and relationships in other markets.
Last year, Havas Formula unveiled new research, the ‘Meaningful Brands Special Report: The Client-Agency Relationship Barometer’, examining how agencies can become more meaningful, long-term partners amid ongoing disruption brought on by the global pandemic, supply chain issues and shifts in technology and data. The agency also launched its Mosaic program: before any new business opportunity, the agency brings together a group of employees who best represent the brand’s target audience to gain insights into how to market to these audiences. Havas Formula had four SABRE nominations, including two campaigns for Merrell; a campaign for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters featuring Martha Stewart; and the agency’s work with Panda Express on the Chinese restaurant chain’s collaboration with clothing designer Phillip Lim to mark Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
PRovoke Media’s 2021 and 2022 Consumer PR Agency of the Year, Hunter was founded in 1989 with a specialization in food and beverage PR and has expanded organically into adjacent categories in the years since to become one of the country's biggest pure play consumer firms. Hunter's expertise includes health and beauty, home and lifestyle, travel and hospitality and retail. The firm's capabilities have evolved dramatically over the past decade to include a full suite of integrated consumer marketing services including brand strategy and planning; social and digital media; content creation for all mediums; and multicultural.
Hunter has offices in New York, Los Angeles and London, as well as members of its staff located in 22 cities across North America.
With a 21% rise in fee income, Hunter became a $51 million, 248-person business in 2022, continuing its years-long tradition of double-digit growth. Services Hunter has added in recent years — brand strategy; talent and influencer engagement; social and digital media; multicultural programming and content creation for all mediums — drove roughly 40% of Hunter’s overall 2022 fee revenue, up from 30% the year before and the most in the agency’s history. Hunter is known for its long-lasting client relationships, some of which are decades long: Tabasco Pepper Sauce (34 years); Diageo (18 years); Mrs. T’s Pierogies (17 years); Church & Dwight (17 years); Johnson & Johnson (16 years) and Pompeian and Smithfield (10 years). 2022 saw Hunter expand its work for existing clients like Amazon, Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove. New business came from Newman’s Own (both Foods and Foundation), Sparkling Ice, Lysol, Wyndham Rewards, Merck Animal Health, Revlon and Ulta Beauty. In September, Hunter expanded its Los Angeles operation to support the continued growth of Hunter: Entertainment, a full-service entertainment marketing group entertainment marketing team charged with procuring talent and brokering media properties.
Under the watch of CEO Grace Leong and chief officer of innovation and growth Gigi García Russo, Hunter puts a premium on employees, knowing full well that their wellbeing is key to the agency’s continued success. Over the last year, the agency evolved its hybrid work model to includes allowing employees to work from anywhere four weeks a year. Staff-led cultural committees organized events from a bring your parents to work day and Chinatown walking tours to immersive training and charitable initiatives. Speakers addressed issues like workplace accessibility and leadership development. Hunter has a decades-long history of addressing the lack of diversity in the PR industry and continues to work within the organization, the industry, and with clients to establish new benchmarks for BIPOC representation, support organizations fighting for equality and representation and create programs that uplift marginalized voices. The year saw Hunter’s employee-led Anti-Racism Action Group, led by DEI manager Daniela Acosta, expand effort to encompass IDEA and published the agency’s first DEI statement outlining the firm’s commitment to goals and results. In 2022, the ranks of employees who identify as being from diverse backgrounds grew to 30%, and 80% of Hunter’s business units had BIPOC talent. Hunter also launched a platform to track the diversity of suppliers.
Hunter’s back-to-back Consumer Agency of the Year wins is a credit to the agency’s steadfast strength in producing the kind of creative, purpose-driven ideas that drive results — and sustain decades-long client relationships. In 2022, the firm’s hallmark work included a social media campaign raising awareness for Victoria’s Secret Pink’s commitment to inclusivity and an Abbott Diagnostic home Covid testing campaign stressing the importance of an organized medicine cabinet in staying safe. Other 2022 highlights included marking Grape Nuts’ 125th anniversary by kick-starting a donation program to help young women fund their adventures, and orchestrated Johnnie Walker’s partnership with Los Angeles’ women’s soccer team, the Angel City Football Club.
— Diana Marszalek
Our 2022 North America Small Agency of the Year, Praytell has been on a roll since Andy Pray founded the firm with two employees in 2013, thanks to the company’s ambition of driving meaningful impact on clients and consumers — without the high-stakes hustle and pressures that often come with doing so. The agency’s “no ego, no BS” mandate, and willingness to take chances, is increasingly drawing big-name clients, as well as the creative talent to support them.
Praytell has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Austin. The agency also has offices in London and Melbourne.
PRovoke Media’s 2022 small agency of the year, Praytell in the last 12 months saw recent investments in creating new practice groups (alcohol, lifestyle, travel and food & beverage and tech) and opening UK and Australia offices, pay off in a big way. Last year saw the agency land a slew of coveted clients — Sonos, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Clairol, Kleenex, Marriott, Air New Zealand and Converse among them — bringing in $11 million in new business. The momentum with bigger, more integrated scopes drove 25% year-over-year growth, making Praytell a nearly $30 million business. All while joining robust relationships which joins an impressive roster of existing clients including Sally Beauty, Destination Canada, Fender, Estee Lauder Companies and E&J Gallo Winery.
During its 10th year in business, Praytell continued to evolve its operation that would be able to sustain its commitment to the wellbeing of its employees and culture while meeting the demands of growing business. During 2022, the company updated internal processes, invested in talent and offered new benefits and ways of working, all in the spirit of “keeping it Praytell.” Two years after formalizing its approach to DEI, which increased BIPOC employees to 42%, Praytell focused on the specifics of increasing representation of underrepresented communities. LatinX employees now make up 14% of staff. The firm also formalized accountability for inclusive leadership by hosting inclusive leadership training & incorporating DEI performance metrics in annual reviews and across its leadership team. Praytell invested in its five active ERGs, including launching a compensation model to reward ERG leaders throughout the year. Also in 2022, the firm started covering up to $4,000 in travel reimbursements for medical services outside of an employee’s home state.
Along with its client roster, the scope and scale of Praytell’s work grew in 2022, ranging from earned, social and digital campaigns to TV spots. The results, though, are the true testament to the caliber of the agency’s output. In six months, Praytell grew Fender’s TikTok following from zero to 1 million with a Gen Z-focused campaign that leveraged influencer marketing and PR with user generated content. The firm’s “As Seen on EV” campaign for Electrify America included a series of bingeable EV-focused TV show-like drama, courtroom and reality shows, as well as telenovelas, aimed at educating consumers about the upsides of owning electric vehicles. The YouTube videos have been viewed 51 million times. Praytell is a finalist for six 2023 SABRE campaign awards.
— Diana Marszalek
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