2024 Consumer PR Agencies of the Year, North America | PRovoke Media

2024 Consumer PR Agencies of the Year

The 2024 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada. 

Winners are unveiled at the North American SABRE Awards ceremony, taking place on 1 May at Cipriani Midtown. Tickets and tables are available here. Analysis of all winners and finalists across 13 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Separately, you can find the 2024 SABRE Awards North America finalists here.


Finalists

Citizen Relations (Plus Company) 

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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 very much got its mojo back under the leadership of CEO Nick Cowling, who has grown the agency by 75% since he took the helm in 2019. The firm’s strong roots across consumer, corporate and creative have evolved into a thoughtful, integrated offer based on long-term audience experience. The agency’s team of PR practitioners, strategic planners, creatives and designers, digital and experiential specialists, creative technologists and data analysts work across is sectors such as consumer packaged goods, food & beverage, automotive, financial services, gaming, tech and travel. New offers last year included Conversational Intelligence (Cxl), a suite of products and services to help clients stay informed of market opportunities and challenges, and Performfluence, an influencer marketing product. 

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Citizen has four offices in Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City), four in the US (New York, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Irvine), plus European offices in London and Berlin. Citizen also owns Canadian agency Middle Child. 

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After 20% growth in 2022, which pushed the agency over the $35 million mark for the first time as the agency saw its transformation strategy bear fruit, last year Citizen grew fee income by another 11% to £39.1 million and increased its headcount to 240 across its offices. New briefs came from the likes of Dole, Nestle, Amtrak, Dorel, Unicef and Seat, which joined a client roster that includes Duracell, Molson Coors, P&G, Microsoft and Wyndham Resorts & Hotels. 

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Cowling’s leadership team includes US president Laura Bremer, Canada president Jenn Duggan, chief digital officer Crystalyn Stuart-Loayza – who has played a key role in transforming the business since she jointed in 2022 – and chief creative officer Josh Budd. Key new hires in 2023 underlined the agency’s evolving offer, across integrated, creator marketing, digital strategy, creative tech and production. Long-rooted in a ‘people first’ culture, Citizen runs an annual Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) report to track and share progress and leans on its EDI committees to allow employees to feel seen and heard, and ensure its efforts are tangible. For example, North America participates in an annual challenge where Citizens are given $50 to support a Black-owned business during Black History Month. Citizen partners with non-profit Indspire on an Indigenous Bursary Fund that supports Canadian Indigenous students in the marcomms industry. As part of its commitment to an inclusive workplace, in 2023, it introduced an escalation and complaint policy that allows problematic situations to be brought forward without concern. Citizen also launched a Vendor Diversity program which improves spending with historically marginalized businesses. It has completed a Client Partnership Code that includes EDI, and participates in a BIMPOC Mentorship Program. 

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Last year was the agency’s most-awarded ever, including its first two Citizen-only Cannes Lions, for the ‘Reclaim your Name’ campaign – the first Microsoft Word plug-in to normalize Asian names rather than highlighting them with spellcheck. The agency has six SABRE nominations this year, including two separate campaigns for Molson Coors, and the ‘Asshole Activists’ campaign for bidet company Tushy. In terms of thought leadership, in 2023 Citizen released its first annual Connections Report, shedding light on the loneliness epidemic and how brands can address it, tackle social connection, drive change, and foster better conversations. The agency’s first annual Forward Forum Digital Communications Summit brought industry leaders and brands together to discuss content, commerce, creators, and communities.

Maja Pawinska Sims

Day One (Independent)

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Moving into its 10th year, Day One has established itself as a go-to agency for major brands that need to move at the ‘speed of culture’, as they put it. That is reflected in an offering that focuses largely on consumer brands, helping them drive business impact through campaigns of micromoments across channels. That approach is supported by a youth insights arm, a thriving creative studio, and a writer’s room — all of which adds up to a formidable understanding of Gen Z and consumer audiences. 

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Day One’s 174 staffers span offices in New York (HQ), Los Angeles, Chicago and Portland, Oregon. 

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Day One has grown by 29% over the past three years, with fee income up 5% in 2023 to $45m. Notably, Day One has become the lead creative agency for many of its clients, and has quadrupled revenue that relates to ‘always on’ social, for clients Nike, Lyft and Beam Suntory. Other long-term partnerships include American Express, Nike, Meta, Chipotle, Ferrara, Converse and Soundly — while there was new business in 2023 from Calm, e.l.fl Beauty, Lyft and Hot Pockets.

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Co-founder Josh Rosenberg leads the firm as CEO, working alongside his fellow co-founders, agency president Brad Laney and managing partner Rob Longert. Other key leaders include chief creative officer Jamie Falkowski and people/culture/diversity EVP Fiza Gujaran, while the agency hired Britta Larson as GM of its West Coast presence last year. SVP Randi White was named DEI lead in early 2023, since when there have been new ERGs, internal programming, and DEI training. 95% of staff currently participate in at least one of the firm’s six ERGs, covering Latin, female, LGBTQ+, AAPI, Black/African and parents/caregiver communities. Day One has also focused on growing its DEI staff proportion, which now stands at 39%, including 23% of executive leadership. Day One partners with the One Club Creator Lab to mentor high-potential creators, and its workin the DEIB space also extends to influencer casting on behalf of clients — helping to identify, promote and cast 700+ diverse storytellers since 2018. 

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The firm’s focus on Gen Z includes a youth insights arm that provides answers within 24 hours, along with a new research studio that examined media consumption habits. Campaign highlights reflect this kind of innovation, including a SABRE-nominated effort for Chipotle, and further initiatives for  e.l.f Beauty and Converse.

Arun Sudhaman

Finn Partners (Independent)

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Founded in 2011 when Peter Finn spun it off from Ruder Finn into a standalone business, Finn Partners has expanded organically and via acquisition into one of the largest independents in the US. There’s a strong consumer practice, including deep domain expertise in fashion and beauty and travel and lifestyle marketing; a fast-growing global health capability capable of competing with the best specialist firms; a tech practice that was the stellar performer of 2021; and specialist offerings in the arts and in education.

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Headquartered in New York, Finn Partners has US offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Ft Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orange County, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC, as well as growing international network. Two 2022 acquisition added a new offices in San Diego and Vancouver, Wash., and last year’s CB&A acquisition brought an office in Madison.

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During a year when “flat was the new growth” Finn Partners was, well, flat (in reality, revenues were down about 0.5% to $195.4 million)—although the previous three years had seen revenues almost double, with 60% of that growth organic and 40% coming from a series of strategic acquisitions. While health remains the largest single practice (a little over $50 million), Finn counts consumer ($27 million) and travel and leisure ($23.5 million) separately, and the firm’s burgeoning purpose and social impact work transcends all practices. New and growing relationships in consumer included Oatly, Little Caeser’s, Mazda, Denny’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bridgestone and Nature’s Path, while the travel practice added  work from Pure Michigan, Air France KLM, I Love NY, Hyatt, Tourism Ireland, and the Islands of the Bahamas. Elsewhere there was growth from 2K Games, Honeywell and BMC (in the tech sector) and Bausch & Lomb, AstraZeneca, and Walgreens (health). 

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Finn has been steadfast in his vision for the firm that bears his name, seeking to create “a world-class agency with a heart and conscience,” and to instill values such as "principled leadership” and “passion.” The firm continues its commitment to DEI, with BIPOC employees now accounting for 25% of the team, work with the Lagrant Foundation, a diversity internship program in partnership with PRSSA, and support for 150 Black-owned businesses in communities where Finn has offices. Several of the firm’s founding partners remain in place, including Noah Finn, Dena Merriam, Daniel Pooley, Mark Singer, Howard Solomon, Scott Widmeyer, and Alicia Young, with critical support from Gil Bashe, chair of global health and impact, and Helen Shelton, chief diversity officer. New additions to the team in 2023 included new senior partners Kathy Kiely and Aidan McCann (integrated marketing), Charlene Blohm (education, via the acquisition of CB&A), and Jodi Petrie (technology). 


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Finn was named to Fast Company’s list of the Most Innovative Companies 2024, an uncommon feat for a PR firm—which significantly joined 13 of its clients on the list. Finn then took that spirit of innovation to SXSW, where it brought together start-ups, disruptors, policymakers and more at a series of events. The firm has also established an AI Working Group that is developing tools and trainings. There were SABRE nominated campaigns for Honeywell (The Flight Against Climate Change), Eviation (Ushering in the Sustainable Era of Aviation) and Meharry, ODAG, and DCI Donor Services (OrganEquity). In addition, the firm was tapped to promote Kodiak’s “Keep It Wild” campaign supporting wildlife and land conservation, working with the brand’s creative director Zac Efron, while in travel there was some standout work with Sensible Weather, an app that helps compensate consumers when foul weather ruins their vacations. The purpose and social impact practice, meanwhile, worked with GE Healthcare Foundation on the launch of an initiative addressing the often-fatal complications that arise from pregnancy and childbirth.

Paul Holmes

Hunter (Stagwell Group)

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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.

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Hunter has offices in New York, Los Angeles and London, as well as members of its staff located in 22 cities across North America.

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With a 12% increase in fee income, Hunter closed 2023 as a $57.6 million, 265-person business – double its revenue and size since 2019 after four consecutive years of growth. Roughly 60% of 2023’s growth was organic. 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 2023 fee revenue, up from 30% the year before. Hunter is known for its long-lasting client relationships, some of which are decades long: Tabasco Pepper Sauce (35 years); Diageo (18 years); and Johnson & Johnson (18 years) among them. New business came from Revlon, Ulta, PepsiCo, Sunsweet, Children’s National Hospital Foundation and others. 

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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. Named one of Newsweek’s Most Beloved Workplaces, Hunter’s efforts last year ran the gamut from a Bring Your Kids to Work Day program (complete with kid-filled influencer panels) to providing employees a continuing education stipend. On the DEI front, 28% of Hunter employees identify as being from diverse backgrounds and 35% of new hires are ethnically diverse. The agency’s Black and Jewish Employee Resource Groups meet regularly to share resources and help advance the agency's mission of creating a culture of belonging. The Black ERG hosted Panel Noir featuring prominent Black influencers, content creators, editors, and journalists that engaged more than 80 Hunter employees in challenging preconceived notions and inspiring new ideas on diverse consumer engagement. The event was part of the firm’s training and development initiative, Hunter Community College.

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Hunter’s back-to-back Consumer Agency of the Year wins in 2021 and 2022 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 2023, the firm’s hallmark work included helping Ring garner Halloween-time attention by offering a $1 million grand prize to anyone who captures a real ET on their video doorbell. Other highlights included working with Listerine on driving diversity in dentistry; partnering with singer Kelis on a Lactaid-themed remix; and launching Match Day Memos, a Johnnie Walker campaign to boost coverage of women’s sports by rallying people to watch it year-round.

Diana Marszalek

Zapwater Communications (Independent)

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The Covid era was not kind to travel-focused PR firms, and Zapwater was no exception, losing 40% of its business overnight. But the Chicago-headquartered firm has rebounded impressively since that setback, diversifying its client base (to retail, beauty and wellness, housewares, and luxury) and, in particular, stepping up investment in digital with an emphasis on influencer marketing and conversion-focused data and analytics. In addition, the firm’s recently developed Hispanic/LatinX marketing practice now accounts for one third of its team. 

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In addition to about 30 in its Chicago HQ, Zapwater has a handful of people in both Los Angeles and Miami.

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Zapwater was a striking standout in the consumer space last year, growing by about 35% at a time when the market was contracting. While the firm’s boutique size makes that kind of growth a little easier—it ended the year with about $5.8 million in fees and close to 40 people—it should nevertheless be apparent that David Zapata and his team are doing something right. The firm’s core clients include Accor Hotels, Air Tahiti Nui, Ball Horticulture, Copa Airlines, Discover Dominica Authority, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Marquee Development and Visit Finland were joined in 2023 by Ace Hardware, Grenada Tourism Authority, Hestan Culinary, Havila Voyages, Heritage Line, Pan Pacific Hotel Group, and a host of resorts.

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David Zapata, who formed the firm in 2005, has always placed an emphasis on the  working environment, and the firm was named the Best Boutique Agency to Work For in our 2023 survey of agency employees. The firm prides itself on a benefits package at least commensurate with those offered by larger agencies, including health insurance, a retirement plan with matching contribution, generous PTO, including an additional week off for volunteering. DEI is especially important for a travel specialist where 30% of the staff is bilingual, and an employee-led, leadership supported DEI committee has encouraged support for mental health as well as for more obvious initiatives supporting diverse recruitment and allyship. In terms of management changes to support the agency’s growth, last year saw Jennifer Lake promoted to chief strategy officer and Amanda Recupido named chief operating officer.

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In 2023, Zapwater launched its dedicated bilingual services division, Chispa, to provide comprehensive and culturally nuanced services for clients in Latin America. The division handles original Spanish-language content, translation, localization of marketing materials, bilingual media relations, social media management, crisis communications, and influencer marketing. But it’ the breadth of quality work for clients that stands out: Zapwater received six nominations from this year’s SABRE Awards—more than many giant global agencies—with standouts including celebrating a decade of marriage equality at 40,000 feet for Air Tahiti Nui; cultivating a new wave of gardeners for Ball Horticulture; the “Find Your Inner Finn” campaign for Visit Finland; and “Elevating Enthusiasm Post Renovation” for Skydeck Chicago.

Paul Holmes