Regional Consultancies of the Year (Large) | PRovoke Media

2024 Regional Consultancies of the Year (Large)

The 2024 EMEA PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 200 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the UK, Europe the Middle East and Africa. Analysis of each of the Winners and finalists across 20 geographic and specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are unveiled at the 2024 EMEA SABRE Awards, which take place in London on 17 April. Tickets and tables are available here.

You can find the 2024 SABRE Awards EMEA finalists here.

Finalists

BCW (WPP)

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BCW had evolved into a formidable player in EMEA before the announcement that it would be merging with sister WPP agency Hill & Knowlton this summer, and in its last full year under the BCW name, the agency again demonstrated an agility and propensity for innovation that you might not expect from a firm of its size. The agency demonstrated a particularly firm and early grasp of the implications of AI for the communications industry, with the development of Decipher, BCW’s impressive AI offer, which combines a predictive intelligence cognitive AI platform with corporate reputation and crisis counsel. It will be interesting to see how BCW’s team and ethos evolves as part of the Burson mega-agency; regard in which EMEA CEO Scott Wilson is held means he will be heading up the region across the merged firm. 

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BCW has around 850 people across Europe and Africa, with offices in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany (five offices), Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Turkey and the UK, and an African hub in South Africa that coordinates client work across affiliate agencies in 50 African nations. The separate Middle East region, Asda’a BCW, is a market leader in its own right, with five offices. 

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BCW had single digit growth across Europe and Africa, but this rose closer to 20% for its top 25 clients in the region. The Middle East operation grew by low double digits, and there was a particularly strong performance in Turkey. The agency’s work for Swissport, Henkel and Coca-Cola – as part of its cross-agency WPP Open X team – expanded to new countries, and new business across the EMEA region came from the like of eBay, Trainline, Cisco, UAE-based agritech Silal Food & Technology, and the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport, with notable new business across three markets or more from home automation company Nice and the International Cricket Council. 

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Key regional hires last year included Ross Hall as EMEA corporate and public affairs lead, and Solveig Veerkamp returning to the agency as EMEA social and digital lead. Chief inclusion officer Carol Watson relocated to the UK and provides specialist and comprehensive DEI support to the EMEA region, including via Destination Inclusion, BCW's immersive DEI learning journey. Using employee experience platform Culture Amp, BCW introduced a new performance management, and the agency launched The Learning Hub to support learning and skills development. Partnering with Wellable, Let’s Move is BCW’s annual challenge to support the health and wellbeing of its people, and the Passport Programme enables people to work remotely from another country. According to the latest employee survey, 88% believe BCW is an inclusive working environment, and 83% say they can be their authentic selves at work. 

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Alongside Decipher, BCW’s thought leadership included the BCW Navigate guide to AI, and a specific guide to AI during 2024’s pivotal triple-election year. The agency produced the Influence Index, revealing who has influence in Europe’s parliaments, and the Age of Values report, which looks at consumer values, expectations and behaviours in different countries around the world. Asda’a BCW also produced the 15th Arab Youth Survey: one of the most important pieces of research in the region. Client work, meanwhile, maintained a high standard, with a haul of more than 50 awards last year including Cannes Lions. BCW has 15 nominations for EMEA SABRE awards this year. Its work with Motorola raised awareness of violence against women in surprising way on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by replacing Motorola’s logo on the shirts of AC Monza players with real crisis line messages from women for the football team’s Serie A match against Torino; the campaign went viral and earned 100% positive sentiment. And the team helped the International Cricket Council gain overwhelming approval from the IOC for the sport’s inclusion in the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, with an estimated audience of 3bn. 

Maja Pawinska Sims


Edelman (DJE Holdings)

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Edelman turned 70 two years ago but—despite becoming the PR industry’s first billion-dollar business—shows no sign of losing its independent, entrepreneurial spirit. The firm is still the global go-to agency for clients looking for everything from crisis support to brand building, and its offer ranges from corporate reputation management ad employee engagement to digital and social media strategy and insights-led creative campaigns, across every industry sector. In EMEA, the agency saw the fruits of its three-year drive—started by Ed Williams, now international president and new EMEA chief executive AJ Hesselink—to emphasize organizational design and become more integrated across offices, moving away from a focus on market teams to a more connected, horizontal approach. 

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Edelman has 1,200 people in 17 offices in 12 markets across EMEA. It is the largest full-service agency in the UK, which accounts for about half of its total EMEA revenues, and has substantial offices in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brussels and the Netherlands. Its fast-growing Africa operations were combined with established Middle East offices in 2021 to create a single unit.

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While Edelman struggled in North America, which dragged down its global numbers for 2023, EMEA was the brightest spot in the overall story, with fee income up by about 8.1% to $228.6 million. That means a healthy 34% increase in size over the past four years. The Middle East was once again a star performer, with better than 25% growth, while continental Europe was strong generally. The technology and public affairs practices both made a significant contribution, up better than 30%, while the Edelman Smithfield financial brand continued to grow, up 60% in the UK since 2020 and expanding into the Middle East. Edelman continues to work for a host of big names across the region, including several Unilever brands, ASICS, AstraZeneca, DP World, IKEA, Mars Petcare, Microsoft, Shell and Starbucks, and picked up new business such as Lidl and Merck in Germany; ADNOC, COP28 and PepsiCo in the Middle East; Wella in Spain; and Knorr and Siemens in Italy.

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In May, Edelman promoted Ed Williams to lead its international operations (everything outside the US) and upped longtime COO AJ Hesselink to CEO in EMEA. There were other significant changes, with Ruth Warder becoming the sole UK and Ireland CEO after the departure of Hugh Taggart; Golin veteran Jon Hughes appointed as new COO; and Edelman Germany CEO Christiane Schulz assuming an expanded role of regional client leader. New hires, meanwhile, added to the depth of the firm’s creative capabilities, with Marie-Claire Maalouf joining from BBDO as chief creative Officer for UAE and KSA and new creative directors in the UK, Germany, Italy and more. Edelman has an EMEA DE&I council that oversees activity and report into local and regional leadership, including progress against goals such as 50/50 gender balance at leadership level, activation of employee resource Groups and delivery of DEI-focused learning and development programmes, ranging from general unconscious bias training to more inclusive leadership modules as part the agency’s leadership academy. Country-specific activity is tailored to meet local goals.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Edelman continues to evolve its industry-leading Trust Barometer thought leadership platform, adding new markets (most recently in Africa) and ensuring that it serves as a diagnostic and consultative tool with the introduction of the Edelman Trust Management Platform. The firm also continues to build on its Action Method, a creative process that enables teams to find action-oriented solutions to clients’ business problems. Examples of this approach in action include “The Squared Ball,” an initiative to draw attention to inequities in women’s football, for financial services giant Allianz in Germany, or the introduction of Black hair styles into video games for longtime Unilever client Dove. The firm also handled the 50th anniversary of women on the trading floor for the London Stock Exchange and the “Speak Up for COPD” public education campaign. There was an expanded interest in social impact work too, with sustainability communications for IKEA, Nissan and Starbucks, among others. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

Hill & Knowlton (WPP) 

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Hill & Knowlton had become one of PR’s biggest networks in EMEA before the news that it will be merging with sister WPP agency BCW this summer, and in its last year as a standalone brand did both John Hill and Don Knowlton proud. The agency had a surprising level of innovation for such a big business, including in the AI space, where it has a dedicate AI team and is rapidly developing new products and offers. H&K operates across consumer, corporate, B2B, technology, healthcare, energy/industrial and financial, bolstered by talent across digital, creative, behavioural science, purpose and change management. The agency also has a virtual studio, bringing together content creators from across the network, and continued to invest in its Innovation and Content hub, led out of Amsterdam, which covers creative strategy and direction, data and analytics, and content production. H&K's advisory services also performed well, bringing together C-suite methodologies including FutureSight, a team of geopolitical, policy and communications advisors. 

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With around 1,200 people in more than 30 offices across the region, H&K has one of the largest EMEA footprints of the PR networks, with particular strength in the UK, Brussels, Germany and the Middle East. 

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In 2023, H&K EMEA contributed more than half of the global network’s revenue and margin for the first time. In a tough year, it grew by low-single-digits in the UK (led by Simon Whitehead, who will become Burson’s UK lead after the merger) and mid-single-digits in the Middle East (led by Bashar AlKadhi, who will become Burson’s Middle East lead), with healthy double-digits margins across the region. The Portuguese office was again an anomaly, showing much stronger growth than elsewhere in Europe. Across EMEA, H&K’s client roster includes GSK, Amazon, Airbus, Activision Blizzard, Spotify, Pfizer, Honda, Ford, P&G, Adidas, IKEA, Dell, Campari, Hitachi, Meta, Westinghouse and dairy collective Arla. New business came from the likes of Canon, Versuni, Bose, Anglo-American and IAG Cargo.

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H&K has maintained a flexible working approach, while enhancing learning and development programmes at all levels and other people-focused efforts such as Thrive, its well-being and mental health umbrella programme, and a whole raft of DE&I initiatives and internal groups focused on all aspects of diversity tailored for market priorities across the region. In the UK, the agency has 19% Black, Asian and minority staff and carried out anti-racism training, as well as a new menopause policy and a new ERG focused on neurodiversity. The agency relaunched entry-level opportunities, including its internships, apprenticeships and work experience schemes, and introduced the Futures Council, allowing juniors to major in one sector or specialism and minor in another, to diversify capabilities and facilitate cross-agency collaboration. The agency also found plenty of ways to bring the team together, from walking and cycling challenges, to the Vibe social programme in the Middle East. METIA regional director of innovation Kirsty O’Connor was recognised in PRovoke’s Innovator 25 for EMEA in 2023. 

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Hill & Knowlton earned six SABRE nominations across EMEA this year, including for ‘The Good Store’, an innovative retail initiative in Dubai for TECOM Group during Ramadan, which aimed to raise donations to the Emirates Red Crescent charity. The Good Store hijacked business districts across Dubai, mimicking the look of a real supermarket, but with white-painted goods featuring a QR code that enabled people to easily donate. The campaign reached 8.9m people and led to 7,500 people donating, raising more than US$27,000 for people in need, in just two weeks. The agency also helped Airbus communicate with employees in Spain, created the #BackBreakfast campaign with Arla, supporting children in the UK who live with food insecurity, and supported Westinghouse in its work to build Poland’s first nuclear power station. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

Ketchum (Omnicom PR Group)

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Across EMEA, Ketchum– which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2023 – weathered a tough year in style, demonstrating innovation, resilience, collaboration and creativity under the dynamic regional leadership of Jo-ann Robertson, who was last year elevated to CEO of global markets – all Ketchum territories outside the US the agency. One of Robertson’s drivers is creating the most diverse and inclusive agency in the industry, and this extends to its client work: Ketchum’s DE&I consulting model grew at pace in the UK and Germany last year. The agency is focused on “doing work that matters” across its brand, corporate and healthcare divisions, and it has seriously stepped up its integrated offer – covering data and analytics, creative, earned media, purpose and reputation – exemplified by the launch of integrated consumer health offer, Consumer+. Its approach paid off with solid organic growth, Cannes Lions, and the huge coup of retaining the Samsung account in the UK.

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Ketchum has 44 offices and/or affiliates in EMEA, including 30 in Europe (Amsterdam, Belgrade, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dresden, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, The Hague, Helsinki, Istanbul, Kiev, Lisbon, Ljubljana, London, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Sofia, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Vienna, Warsaw, Zagreb and Zurich); 12 in the Middle East (Amman, Baku, Beirut, Cairo, Casablanca, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait, Manama, Rivadah and Tunis); and two in Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg).

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Ketchum’s UK business saw 44% growth across its top 10 clients, including P&G, Danone, Adobe, Velux, and Philips, and the agency retained the multi-million pound Samsung account for another three years. Its German operation grew by high single digits and there was notable growth in smaller markets like Austria. New wins across the EMEA network included Dolmio, anti-waste app Too Good To Go, Salomon, travel insurance provider Collinson Group, children’s mental health charity The WEMP Foundation and pharma giant MSD, joining a client bench that includes Accor, Mastercard, Nespresso, P&G, PwC, Smart, Velux, P&G, Vivo, Deutsche Bahn and Burger King. 

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Ketchum’s approach to its people is ‘culture add, not culture fit’ and it is committed to diversity and inclusion. In the latest quarterly employee survey, 82% agreed that ‘leaders demonstrate a visible commitment to DEI’ – the highest score yet. While Ketchum is flexible on office time, it offers plenty of reasons to come in, from speaker sessions with a diverse range of thought leaders, to social activities and celebrations of client wins. The agency offers an industry-leading family leave package from day one of employment, as well as robust mental health support. DEI focus differs depending on the market; the UK office stands out for its high proportion of women in leadership, its Inclusion Council and an unusually high proportion – 28% – of non-white employees, while the DACH team is among the most LGBTQ-friendly businesses in the region, across all sectors. Chief strategy and innovation officer Sera Holland was part of PRovoke’s Innovator 25 class in EMEA, Matthias Wesselmann joined as new Germany CEO from market leader FischerAppelt and, at the start of this year, Ketchum hired former WE European leader Ruth Allchurch as its new UK CEO. 

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Last year Ketchum launched the ‘Beyond the Ballot’ global offering with sister agency Portland in response to 2024’s historic triple election event: a shared platform with polling data and political intelligence to help clients understand the potential impact of the UK, European and US elections. Ketchum was shortlisted for seven SABREs across EMEA, and won four In2 SABREs, including global markets chief creative officer Indy Selvarajah being names as creative professional of the year. Its standout work ranged from a cheeky stunt for Burger King in Germany that got ‘royal endorsement’ for the brand for the new King Charles, to ground-breaking work for Adobe showcasing diverse creators and artists. ‘Sounds of the Underground’, in partnership with Merseyrail and Supplies for Ukraine, offered Ukrainian musicians ‘remote’ busking spots in Liverpool metro stations during Eurovision. Each spot featured a speaker streaming the artist’s music and a QR code for passers-by to donate to the cause and hear their stories. Ketchum curated a Spotify playlist and filmed their stories in Ukraine, leading to donations that allowed the charity to buy 60 life-saving trauma kits. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

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The Weber Shandwick Collective – which includes Weber Shandwick, digital business Flipside, creative specialist That Lot and management consultancy United Minds – has arguably never been in a stronger position in EMEA. The agency has completed the second year of the five-year plan set out by energetic EMEA newish chief executive Michael Frohlich and is already a completely transformed beast, with a far greater sense of cohesion, connection and collaboration across the region, and bold, outstanding creative and strategic work for some of the world’s biggest brands. The agency’s new proposition focuses on the power of earned communications to shape society by working at the intersections of business, culture, media and policy, all underpinned with data. Stand-out initiatives over the year included the development of new AI tools and the new TWSC Women’s Health offer, covering policy and advocacy, health communications, corporate communications, employee engagement, digital innovation and design, fuelled by culture and data intelligence while working with external advisors from business, government, academia and society.

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Weber Shandwick is one of the biggest agencies in the UK, its largest operation in EMEA, and is also among the market leaders in Germany, France, the Nordics (where it continues to operate as Prime Weber Shandwick), and the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT). Its footprint extends across the entire region, with 24 owned offices and a wider network of affiliates. 

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Across the board, Weber Shandwick saw mid-single digit growth in EMEA, with high double-digit margins and a 50/50 split between organic growth and new business. In total, it won 480 new briefs across EMEA worth an estimated $30m – a pitch conversion rate of 75% – with the value of each win increasing on average by 20% compared to 2022. The value of work for its top 20 clients in the region increased by 12%, and for next 20 clients it increased by over 30%. There was a particularly strong performance in health: revenue from the agency’s top 20 healthcare clients across EMEA was up by double digits last year, and the corporate practice also grew by double digits as it boosted its C-suite advisory and did more work that blends corporate comms with creative, strategy and digital. The German team also increased revenue by double digits last year. New briefs came from the likes of Japanese multinational Komatsu, Xiaomi, the WHO Foundation, Pinterest and Dyson, which joined an enviable roster that includes IKEA, eBay, Adobe, HSBC, Pfizer, IBM, Nestlé, Sanofi, Abbott, Mastercard, Nespresso, Deutsche Telekom, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Novartis, Purina and Iberdrola. 

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After refreshing its approach to talent and its employee value proposition in 2022, TWSC continued its focus on DE&I, with a new talent attraction model, hybrid working, a new listening strategy, the introduction of the Culture Amp employee experience app, the Access All Areas mobility programme, a celebration of Inclusion Week, the EMEA ‘Sideboard’, which allows younger employees from across the region to bring the issues of the day to the main board, a region-wide celebration of Inclusion Week, and mental health programme Open Minds, alongside a partnership with mental health resource This Can Happen. The IPG Belong survey showed that 82% of the team feel respected, 81% feel they can be themselves at work, and 75% feel cared about. The agency’s commitment to social responsibility is demonstrated through partnerships with the Food Foundation to advocate for free school meals, pro bono support for Black-owned SMEs and Ukrainian med-tech companies, and other inclusive partnerships including with the Mindful Business Charter. 

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The Weber Shandwick Collective’s biggest piece of thought leadership in EMEA for 2023 was The Earned Effect study, in partnership with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. The research showed campaigns that generate sustained coverage and conversation over the long term tend to achieve more significant business impact, and this led to the development of the Earned Impact Value measurement tool. The EMEA healthcare team also produced the 
TWSC was shortlisted for an impressive 16 SABREs this year in EMEA, including work with IMB, Mastercard, Sanofi, Abbott, Mars Wrigley’s Pedigree dog food brand in the Netherlands, Husqvarna with Weber Shandwick Prime in Sweden, and the UAE Ministry of Education. 

Maja Pawinska Sims