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The former Manning Selvage & Lee—a firm born 50 years ago, when Selvage & Lee merged with Farley Manning Associates—is the flagship full-service public relations operation of French communications holding company Publicis Groupe, on the comeback trail after a difficult decade in the 2010s. The firm has its primary strength in the consumer and healthcare spaces. In recent years, MSL’s consumer operations have garnered the lion’s share of attention—something that’s almost inevitable when you are one of P&G’s leading public relations agencies—with its burgeoning digital work to the fore (especially its proprietary Fluency approach to influencer marketing). That has tended to overshadow solid healthcare capabilities and a surprisingly strong corporate practice.
With its headquarters in New York, MSL has eight offices in the US and three more in Canada, providing impressive coverage for the North America region.
MSL’s global revenues were up by 10% in 2022, with the US operation outperforming by a point or so, with the consumer brand business leading the way (13% growth) and the top 20 clients up by an impressive 17%. Areas of particular interest include some of MSL’s traditional strengths, such as influencer marketing and creative more broadly, as well as some emerging practices such as sustainability and impact and executive visibility. There were expanded relationships with clients such as P&G, JM Smucker, Cadillac, Lilly, Home Depot Emirates and Campbell’s (the Prego and Chunky brands) and new business from Chips Ahoy, Peerless, FMC, Peacock, DeVry University, Crocs, Hey Dude, Nearmap, TikTok and Inspire Brands, the parent of Arby’s, Baskin Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic and more.
It’s now a little more than four years since Diana Littman took over as CEO of MSL’s US operations, long enough for her to build a leadership team that reflects her vision for the agency: chief client officer Lisa Talbot, chief strategy officer Shreya Mukherjee, chief digital innovation officer Rob Davis (who joined from Ogilvy last year), and chief creative officer Roya Partovi (also new last year, from Merge) were all brought in by Littman in the past three years. Last year saw other additions, including head of sustainability and impact Emma Gillespie Cox from McDonald’s abd head of B2B/enterprise communications Ashley Chauvin from PSEG. Littman is remaking the culture too: the emphasis on DE&I continued with the appointment of Dierdra Donahue as SVP, equity and inclusion, and overall 35% of new hires were BIPOC bringing the total to 27% at the end of the year (against a 2025 target of 40%).
MSL has been taken the lead on tackling inequities in the influencer marketing realm, with its “Influencer Pay Gap” study identifying the scale of the problem and a closed-door industry summit bringing together agencies and influencers to talk solutions. That’s a natural fit for MSL, which has developed one of the best influencer marketing practices in the PR business: its Fluency business is built on solid data (from its own and external sources), a proprietary planning process, a certified TikTok partnership, and metrics that include a heavy emphasis on commercial impact—all built around the firm’s “Circle of Influence” strategic approach. The payoff is that MSL is punching well above its weight in the awards arena: its seven Innovation SABRE trophies ranked second only to Ketchum, and its 19 North American SABRE finalists were more than any other agency, with highlights including “One Sequential Step at a Time from Tip to Grip” for P&G’s Tampax brand to “#ClosingAmericasSmileGap” for Crest and Oral-B, from beefing with the burger industry for Arby’s to reviving a moribund CSR initiative for Sonic.
— Paul Holmes
PRovoke Media’s 2020 Boutique Agency of the Year, Bospar launched in 2015 as a fully virtual agency, meaning that, while much of the industry scrambled to adjust to new ways of working in 2021, Bospar doubled down on business as usual, resulting in its eighth consecutive year of growth.
Bospar was one of the early adopters of being a virtual, work-from-home agency. Without the limits of physical spaces, the agency has been able to expand to over 19 states, with its 98 employees based in cities including San Francisco (HQ), Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Scottsdale, Minneapolis, and Raleigh.
Being “politely pushy” is paying off for Bospar, which in 2022 continued its impressive growth streak. Revenue rose by 60% to $18.1 million last year, which came on top of a $115 rise in 2021. Facing an economically precarious 2023, Bospar last year gave senior staffers business development responsibilities and started a client retention program that includes quarterly client planning sessions, account reviews with leadership and media training exercises. While Bospar’s roots are in enterprise tech, it has expanded its expertise to span most dimensions of B2B with some consumer as evident in its client roster that includes Mendix, SingleStore, Team8,15Five, Dremio, Grin Technologies, and Socotra. New business wins included Carta Healthcare, FLYR, Infobip, Nitro Software, City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and SF Pride.
Being a permanently, fully remote agency is part of Bospar’s long-range goal of removing barriers that have historically cut people out of the communications industry, opening employment to people regardless of location, background and means. Bospar’s DEI Task Force launched several new initiatives including mandatory anti-bias training and works closely with the agency’s recruiting team to amplify its reach across new channels like HBCUs. Juana Blackwell joined Bospar as an assistant account executive after being named HBCU Student of the Year from Alabama State University. Approximately 20% of employees identify as BIPOC, and nearly 10% are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Age is not an issue for Bospar, whose recent hires include Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. The agency cover the costs of medical procedures outlawed in an employee’s home state. Bospar’s success is a credit to its co-founders — Silicon Valley vet Chris Boehlke and Curtis Sparrer, who was Boehlke’s mentee at the time. Other key people include principal Tom Carpenter and chief content officer Tricia Heinrich.
Bospar’s creative approach to tech PR continues to pay off, resulting in the firm earning six 2023 SABRE nominations. One of Bospar’s most high-profile efforts of 2022, however, had nothing to do with technology, but rather contentious debate around whether San Francisco police officers could wear their uniforms marching in the annual Pride parade. Bospar stepped in when the dispute (which stemmed from organizers’ belief that uniformed police would be threatening to participants) caused Pride’s then-PR team to quit, and the agency ultimately brokered a compromise deal that allow the parade to go on as planned — resulting in Bospar’s hiring as Pride’s AOR. Other key work included driving interest in Neon, the world’s first NFT vending machine, resulting in sales rising by more than 1,000% within two weeks of Bospar’s campaign launch.
— Diana Marszalek
Current Marketing was launched in 2006 as a boutique offering within the Interpubic family of agencies, and in 2019 merged with Creation, another IPG firm headquartered in the UK, to form Current Global. While Current was known primarily as a consumer marketing specialist—consumer still accounts for 50% of revenues—it had developed expertise in healthcare and technology before the merger with Creation, which significantly expanded its corporate capabilities (now about 20% of its business globally).
Current Global has US offices in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and an international network that includes offices in London, Germany, India, China and Latin America.
Since the creation of Current Global in 2019, the firm has grown by an impressive 75%, but after three strong years, 2022 was “a reset” in which culture and community were prioritized above growth—fee income actually declined slightly to around $37 million globally and $23.5 million in North America. The firm’s client roster includes some impressively big names, especially for an agency of its size: Abbott, Applebee’s, Bissell, The Clorox Company, FedEx, Novartis, and Papa John’s among them. And there were some exciting new additions in 2022 including Bacardi, Bauer, Five Guys, Hasbro, North Highland, Prudential, SaNOtize, SAS, Sonesta, and Tata Communications.
Current’s values call for the firm and its people to be curious, honest, inclusive, invested and relevant. There has, not surprisingly, been a good deal of focus on the “inclusive” part in the past year, with Current restyling DEI and IDEA (inclusivity, diversity, equity and access), introducing new business resource groups, expanding education and training, and seeing a payoff in terms of BIPOC representation (25% overall, 42% of junior staff, 15% of senior leadership. The firm has also been placing emphasis on flexibility, with its Flex approach to bringing people back to the officer, and community-building, including its innovative Academy of Curious Ideas, to encourage employees at all levels to contribute new thinking. Co-CEOs Virginia Devlin (North America) and George Coleman (in the UK) have built a strong leadership cadre, with promotions in 2022 for Renee Austin, now president of North America and global corporate leadl Emma Hedges, who was named North American technology lead; and Derek Reinglass, who leads a newly formalized and fast growing sports marketing unit. New additions to the team included Pete Campisi as gkivak consumer lead; Charlie Hart ass EVP, integrated media (both from sister agency Weber Shandwick, with Current providing leadership opportunities for employees of its larger sibling); and SVPs Daniel Brackins (digital health) and Lindsay Henry (consumer).
Current’s vision is “a better-connected world empowered by communication” and its mission is “to establish and foster meaningful human connections in a world where brands are competing for attention and relevance.” That’s a philosophical approach that manifests in Current’s own thought leadership: in particular: its “Accessible by Design” initiative to make all communication more accessible to people of various abilities was one of two Global SABRE Awards winners last year, the other being the voter registration initiative “Boards of Change” for the City of Chicago. And this year, the firm won two Innovation SABREs, one for offering one-day contracts to locked-out baseball players, an employer branding initiative for Papa John’s; the other for :Hero Wagon,” which saw Radio Flyer donate customized wagons to children’s hospitals. Its seven North American SABRE nominations (clients include Applebee’s, FedEx and Kingsford) demonstrate that Current continued to produce top-quality client work despite the lack of growth.
— Paul Holmes
PRovoke’s North America 2022 Digital Agency of the year, Day One launched nine years ago to be the agency that stops the world in its scroll. In the near decade since, the creative firm has landed a pile of awards and top-tier clients including American Express, Beam Suntory, Chipotle, Meta, Nike, and Walmart — proving that it perhaps did more than make the world stop — it also made the world care and react with work that blends empathy and agility with culture-worthy thinking.
Day One has offices in New York (HQ), Los Angeles, Chicago and Portland, Oregon.
As an earned creative agency, Day One is built around three pillars of storytelling excellence: 'shape, share & fuel' – all core to its creative process. In the past year, however, the firm has also doubled down on developing new and expanding existing offerings to meet clients’ audiences where they are at. New service offerings include Day One Studios, dedicated to turn out out platform-specific content designed to swiftly light up social. The studio is equipped to ramp up production as needed. In the past year, Day One Studios has created 900-plus photo assets, 550-plus pieces of short-form video content used across TikTok, Instagram Reels and paid media, and 20-plus pieces of longform content for YouTube. Rather than chase new business, Day One is focused on growing its work with existing clients and, in 2022, did just that. Revenue grew 23% to $43 million over the past 12 months and 80% over the last 2 years. Key clients include American Express, Nike, Chipotle, Meta and Ferrara Candy.
In 2022, Day One expanded its ERG program, giving employees the opportunity to create and lead support groups based on individual identities and needs. The results so far: Mi Gente (Latinx), She1A (women & women identifying), Slay One (LGBTQIA2S+), Roundtable (AAPI), and The Get Together (Black/African descent). This initiative encourages the team to connect outside of their individual roles to enrich perspectives and make everyone feel welcome, with agency support to request external programming like museum tours and dining outings. The firm’s Leadership Academy is an all-agency program tailored to employees by level and includes trainings around pertinent issues like DEI. Day One supports diverse creators through content distribution, casting and The Ones to Know, the agency’s curated resource of diverse storytellers. Co-founder Josh Rosenberg leads the firm as CEO, working alongside his fellow co-founders, agency president Brad Laney and managing partner Rob Longert.
2022 was a lot of things to Day One, including the year of the Corn Kid, a 7-year-old charmer named Tariq whose professed love of corn went viral — and who appeared in a Day One-produced Chipotle video that amassed 110 million views. When American Express partnered with Delta on producing a limited-edition card made from Boeing 747s, Day One made the experience of receiving one more immerse with an AR experience telling the aircraft’s story. The firm used TikTok to celebrate Nike’s 50th birthday and elevate Walmart shoppers.
— Diana Marszalek
One of the leading independents on the New York marketplace for many years, M Booth was acquired by Next Fifteen (best known for its technology and digital capabilities) in 2009 and has been growing rapidly ever since. While it is known primarily for its consumer work—largely due to strong creative work in sectors ranging from food to travel to financial services—M Booth has long had a formidable corporate capability, and in 2019 added a robust healthcare capability with the acquisition of the US operations of Health Unlimited—becoming the Booth Group in the process. The firm has also been expanding digital and social, data and analytics and other content creation capabilities.
M Booth offers national coverage from its headquarters office in New York and smaller satellite office in San Francisco, supported by parent company Next Fifteen’s global network.
M Booth ended 2022 with fee income in excess of $63 million, up about 9%, but the Booth Group (including its healthcare operation) is now an $85 million business—and the operation has grown by almost 300% since Dale Bornstein took the reins a decade ago, at which time it was a boutique-sized $16.5 million. The main growth driver was the firm’s continuing evolution into a 360-degree communications partner, offering a blend of traditional PR, digital and even paid services, and a combination of brand-building expertise and corporate capability—a breadth of services that saw clients such as The Macallan and Procter & Gamble significantly expanding the scope of M Booth’s work. New business, meanwhile, came from wins such as BIC’s and Beiersdorf’s entire US brand portfolios, AMEX Global Business Travel, Google Jigsaw, Avery Dennison, and J&J's new consumer health spin-off Kenvue. They join a roster that includes Wharton Business School (40 years as an M Booth client), American Express (18 years), Brooks Running (more than a decade) and Patron, Campari and Google—all coming up on their 10th year with the firm.
Under the leadership of Dale Bornstein, who was named CEO a decade ago, M Booth has built one of the strongest leadership teams in the business, with managing director and chief creative officer Adrianna Bevilaqua, and executive VPs John Paul Buchmeyer (head of strategy), Bonnie Ulman (chief insights and research officer) and Moon Kim (corporate practice lead). New additions in 2022 added bench strength, with Niki Chakravarthy joining from DeVries to lead the P&G business and Lauren Long from innovation consultancy 18 Coffees as SVP in brand building. Empathy and inclusion have long been hallmarks of the M Booth culture, which has earned the firm recognition in our Best Agencies to Work For on several occasions, and in 2022 the firm launched a new “Accelerate” program designed to connect BIPOC employees with members of the leadership team and offer expanded opportunities. The firm also partners with DEI consultancy Kaleidoscope, which has helped M Booth increase BIPOC representation to 31% across the group.
M Booth has been addressing the disparities in influencer marketing through its own Influencer Equity Alliance, which seeks to level the playing field and increase commercial opportunities for influencers of color. It has also been developing proprietary tools that underscore its strengths in areas such as popular culture (Culture Quotient) and social and digital marketing (Socializer). As for the work, M Booth won two Innovation SABRE Awards for its crowdsourcing and co-creation work with Google’s new Jigsaw offer, combating online toxicity, and for its forging of a celebrity partnership between Duncan Hines and Dolly Parton for Conagra Brands. It is also nominated for five Gold SABREs for work ranging from a data-driven, strategic rebrand for Avery Dennison to helping P&G’s Dawn brand create a cleaner world for wildlife to helping wellness brand Pharmavite with its employer branding and recruitment.
— Paul Holmes
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