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

2024 Creative 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

Edelman (DJE Holdings)

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The world’s largest public relations firm, and the only independent, family-owned firm in the top tier, Edelman was founded in Chicago in 1952 and has grown to become a global powerhouse. In recent years, with digital and social media driving much of the PR industry’s growth, attention has been focused on Edelman’s strong consumer portfolio, which catapulted it into the number one spot, and its creative credentials, which were strengthened with the addition of experts in paid media, digital content creation, and data and analytics. But Edelman has equally formidable expertise in corporate and financial PR, public affairs (including a specialist unit focused on geopolitical challenges, healthcare and technology.

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Edelman is headquartered in New York, remains a market leader in Chicago, and operates a network of 13 offices in the US and an additional five in Canada, as well as an extensive footprint in EMEA, the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.

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There’s no way to sugar coat it: 2023 was a difficult year for Edelman, and in particular for its US operations, which posted a 9% decline in revenues that was considerably worse than the industry average. The firm’s two biggest industry sectors, health and technology, both suffered considerably as the market softened, only partially offset by a good year in food and beverage, where revenues were up 15%. There was growth in public affairs and crisis work too. The firm works with multiple Unilever brands (including Dove, Vaseline, Degree, Hellmann’s, Knorr); Microsoft (brands including Xbox, LinkedIn and Microsoft Modern Life Search & Devices); eBay and lululemon.

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A major change in US operations came in October when Lisa Osborne-Ross, following a leave of absence, left her position as CEO for the region—a post that was eventually filled by Kirsty Graham, who had been serving as global practices and sectors president since joining the firm in 2020 after joining from Pfizer. Other people moves included the promotions of Biance Freedman Boyd to CEO of Canada and Radina Russell to head of corporate in the US. New additions include Alex Thompson from Reuters as global chair of corporate affairs and impact, and Tyler Vaught from Twitter to lead influencer marketing.

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It’s obligatory here to mention Edelman’s continue commitment to its Trust Barometer and all that flows from it: not only the considerable mainstream media attention it receives, but also its expanding diagnostic capability: the combination of two decades of trust data with a significant investment in AI is yielding data that will make the firm’s ability to predict the impact of client actions and positions with even greater certainty. It’s also worth noting that the quality of the firm’s work continues to excel: Edelman picked up a Gold Lion at Cannes for its work with Vaseline on the “See My Skin” inclusivity initiative, as well as 4 Silver and 4 Bronze winners. The firm topped our Global Creative Index with work from HP, Vaseline, and Unilever’s Dove brand. Other highlights included the lululemon “Dupe Swap” allowing customers to trade dupes for genuine Align leggings, and a pollution-allergy awareness campaign for Allegra Airways.

Paul Holmes

Ketchum (OPRG)

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Founded in Pittsburgh more than 100 years ago, Ketchum is one of the most storied names in the communications for business, and in recent years the public relations firm has been more famous and more successful than its ad agency parent, establishing itself as a top 10 global PR shop before its 1996 acquisition by Omnicom. While Ketchum—our Large Agency of the Year last year—is a full-service agency the boasts a thriving healthcare practice, and capabilities in corporate and technology, it remains best known for its work in the consumer space and for its outstanding creative track record.

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Headquartered in New York, Ketchum has a presence in nine other US cities (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, DC, Raleigh, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles), as well as in Toronto and Montreal, supplemented by an extensive global network.

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After Ketchum delivered its strongest year in 2022, earning it our Large Agency of the Year honors, last year was considerably more challenging. Overall Omnicom’s PR agencies declined by 0.8%, and Ketchum—with its high levels of exposure in consumer—was not immune. Still, there were bright shoots: 48 competitive new business wins, 84 additional assignments for existing clients (the top 10 clients now use an average of 10 of the firm’s specialist services) and growth in healthcare (health equity in particular) and corporate (with purpose driven ESG and DEI work soaring). New business came from clients such as Mars Petcare (Ketchum now handles PR, influence and advocacy) and AT&T (marketing sports and sponsorship) while there was organic growth from clients such as Aflac, the American Egg Board, Freddie Mac, HCL Tech, Kraft Heinz, Michelin, and P&G.

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Mike Doyle has led Ketchum as president and global CEO since 2020, stepping into the role mid-pandemic and has worked to emphasize innovation and creativity as the agency’s hallmarks. Jim Joseph joined in 2022 as US CEO and global chief marketing and innovation officer. Together, they have built on the firm’s heritage as an employer of choice and its employee value proposition, “Better for Being Here,” with a standout wellbeing initiative, “Flex and Flow,” which helps employees achieve greater work/life balance. There’s a heavy emphasis on DEI too: Doyle advocates for and champions the LGBTQIA+ community, serving as an executive sponsor for Omnicom’s OPEN Pride employee resource group and a board member for GLAAD. The DE&I Center of Excellence team works across Ketchum to prioritize efforts that support retention and advancement, build cultural intelligence, and improve representation. Maxine Enciso, head of DE&I andJulie Veloz, head of talent, culture and employer brand, play critical roles.

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Influencer marketing has become a key differentiator for Ketchum in recent years, with work for clients as diverse as Doritos, Jack Daniels, New Balance, all of which led to the revival of the Emanata brand as an influencer marketing division, offering intelligent influence identification; brand safety; creator and user-generated content; and full-funnel measurement. Another new offer, Election Navigator, is focused on helping brands understand societal and political issues. The firm received In2 SABRE nominations for a wide range of work, from the Cheetos 75th anniversary celebration to the “Doritos After Dark” campaign (both for Frito-Lay), from introducing the Mercury in Retrograde Menu for Wendy’s to elevating premium whiskey perceptions for Jack Daniels. In the corporate realm, meanwhile, the firm handled a broad range of issues, from employee engagement to the launch of a new mission and purpose, for Tyson Foods.

Paul Holmes

M Booth (Next 15)

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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.

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M Booth offers national coverage from its headquarters office in New York, a smaller satellite office in San Francisco, and newer “hubs” in Los Angeles, Denver, Texas (Austin, Houston, Dallas), Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, Florida, North Carolina, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, all supported by parent company Next Fifteen’s global network.

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For the first time in a while, M Booth experienced a slight decline in revenues in 2023, hardly the exception, especially for a firm so focused on the consumer realm. That should not detract from the firm’s long-term growth: fees are up by 300% over the past decade, so that it ended the year with fees of $62.2 million and 270 people. There was strong growth in integrated campaigns, drawing on the firm’s earned media, influencer and content creation capabilities. The firm continued its work with the likes of Wharton Business School (a client for 41 years), American Express, Bic, Edrington (The Macallan), Brooks Running, HP Hood, Procter & Gamble, and Focus Brands. New business, meanwhile, came from Rudi’s (consumer and corporate), General Mills’ Good Measure, Blizzard Entertainment, Zero Water, Arla, Penn Engineering and Focus Brands, which grew beyond the restaurant brands to include four specialty chains: Auntie Anne's, Carvel, Cinnabon, and Jamba.

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With Dale Bornstein at the helm for more than a decade now, M Booth has built a strong, stable leadership team, including Adrianna (AG) Bevilaqua, chief creative officer; Jon Paul Buchmeyer, recently promoted to chief impact officer; Lauren Swartz, recently promoted to chief client officer; and Moon Kim, EVP and corporate practice lead. The past 12 months saw the addition of talent in the influencer, earned media and integrated marketing spaces, as well as creative, DEI, and analytics. M Booth’s BOLD approach (Brave it. Own it. Learn it. Do it.) has been hard-wired into the culture over the past 12 months, with the role out of “Only the Bold” as the firm’s new brand proposition. More than 1 third of the staff are BIPOC, and 22 saw the formal launch of an Accelerate initiative, which ensures BIPOC visibility by connecting diverse talent with mentors and sponsors from senior leadership. The program is designed to combat unconscious bias and ensure BIPOC talent are top-of-mind for promotions and new assignments. The firm’s “Allyship Into Action”efforts earned it a SABRE Award from this publications.

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M Booth received 10 In2 SABRE nominations for its 2023 work and will take home four trophies at our event in May, for work on behalf of Bic (the Back-to-School Supply Closet campaign) and EY (enhancing the B2G offer with ah in-house think tank). The firm is also nominated for 10 Gold SABREs, with highlights of that work including more Bic work (“A Life Less Clogged” and :”Lit Up Weed”), support for Brooks Running’s presence at Fashion Week, Rao's “Homemade #LasagnaSoup Viral Sensation,” and “From Home Ec to Home Eq[uity]: Helping to Close the Chore Gap Before It Starts” for P&G’s Dawn and Swiffer brands. The firm’s own thought leadership effort, addressing the disparities in influencer marketing through its own Influencer Equity Alliance, has also earned plenty of recognition over the past year.

Paul Holmes

MSL (Publicis Groupe)

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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.

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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.

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MSL grew by a very respectable 6% last year, outpacing its peers, and has now seen fee income increase by 30% over the past three years. The healthcare practice led the way, but consumer was up in the high single digits too, with the firm’s top 15 clients growing at almost twice that rate, The bulk of the firm’s 2023 increase came from organic growth, with existing clients such as Procter & Gamble (personal health, home care, femcare brands and sustainability), Inspire Brands, Campbell’s, the United Soybean Boad, Jennair, Nearmap, the Hass Avocado Board, HeyDude and TaxAct all adding the scope of the firm’s work. But there was an impressive haul of new clients too, with brands like Bath & Body Works, Campari, Crocs, Culligan, Lixil, Optimum, and Pfizer joining the roster.

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MSL has been one of the top two midsize firms in our Best Agencies to Work For research for each of the past two years, a reflection of the work CEO Diana Littman and her team have put into building a culture around three core values: leading, loving, and learning. The learning aspect including DEI workshops, a Black talent career development program, and the parent company’s Marcel Career Labs; the loving requires a careful balance of flexibility and community, asking people to show up in the office 12 days a month. In addition to the Community Leads of the firm’s eight markets, there’s now a Community Lead for the remote workers too. Littman’s leadership team includes chief strategy officer Shreya Mukherjee, chief digital innovation officer Rob Davis, and executive director of talent Mark Zangrilli, while new hires in 2023 included EVP of sustainability and impact Anna Andreis (formerly with McCann), EVP of client development and innovation - recently elevated to Managing Director - in health Bailey Pescatore (from BCW), and evp, strategy Liz Keller (Weber Shandwick).

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In addition to being a leader in terms of influencer marketing generally, MSL has also taken the lead on the increasingly visible topic of influencer equity, championing equal compensation for diverse influencers. That’s part of the firm’s commitment to “making every client more influential in the world,” an approach that has led to a massive haul of awards over the past few years, MSL led the entire industry with 10 In2 SABRE wins for its work last year, for campaign s ranging from “#ClosingAmericasSmileGap” for P&G’s Crest and Oral-B brands to Ben Affleck’s Super Bowl ad for Dunkin’ to “Chunky Dares America to Try Their Spiciest Soup Ever’ for Campbell’s to Hispanic marketing work for Always. In the corporate realm, meanwhile, the firm was recognized in SABRE for its work for the United Soybean Board. The next big step in the integration of the firm’s Fluency influencer approach with AI, which will help with influencer identification, risk assessment, and the ability to predict authority and impact—bringing real science to the art.

Paul Holmes

Ogilvy (WPP)

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The public relations operations of iconic advertising brand Ogilvy have often taken a back seat to the ad agency’s creative dominance, and sometimes appeared to be suffering from an identity crisis as a result—one reason the Ogilvy name has been missing from our North American Agency of the Year lists for the past few years (even as the firm has gained recognition in Asia and EMEA). The ill-fated attempt to bring all of Ogilvy’s entities, including PR, into one consolidated business unit was designed to simplify operations and offer greater integration, but it seemed to diminish the standalone value of the PR function and fuel turnover at the top. Things have stabilized since Julianna Richter, formerly Edelman’s US chief operating officer, was named  global CEO of public relations and influence in 2020, but seemed to soar to an entirely new level in 2023 as the firm was finally able to capitalize on its integration of earned, social, and influencer to deliver integrated campaign for an array of big name clients.

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Ogilvy’s PR and influence operations are headquartered in New York, and there are also offices across Cambridge, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Parsippany, San Francisco and Washington DC, offering what the firm calls “borderless creativity.” Ogilvy also has an established presence in the UK and EMEA, and the largest, best-established network of any agency in the Asia-Pacific region.

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WPP does not break out the financial performance of individual agencies in its public disclosures and Ogilvy’s PR operations report as part of the larger Ogilvy brand, not the PR division that includes BCW, H&K and more. But there was healthy growth, estimated to be in the double digits, in 2023. There was some exciting new business from the likes of H&R Block, No7, Canon, Uniqlo, and Snap but the bulk of the firm’s growth came, very intentionally, from growing its existing clients. There were expanded remits with The Coca-Cola Company (Sprite and Minute Maid are the latest additions), L’Oréal (CeraVe and Garnier most recently), Google, and Burger King, and the firm’ top 10 clients now account for about 70% of revenue—a significant increase, fueled by the fact that six of them now draw on earned, social and influencer and indicative of the strategy of building deeper, more strategic relationships.

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Richter ‘s leadership team includes president of PR and influence for North America Charlotte Tansill, promoted to her current role at the start of 2023, and North American leads for the three functions: Drew Warren (PR), Christine Cotter (social), and Ansley Williams (influence). Ogilvy boomerang Krystal Bullard was hired to drive operations and the integration for PR, Social, and Influence across North America, and other additions included Jordan Lubowitz (PR lead in Washington, DC. At Ogilvy PR, the culture is centered around fostering an environment where our employees can do the best work of their lives. That means a range of resources including opportunities for 1:1 coaching/mentoring and well-being programs, including access to complimentary mental health counseling and a robust Employee Assistance Program. The firm’s hybrid work philosophy, “Together with Purpose” encourages employees to spend three days a week in office. In North America, the firm has set a goal of at least 40% representation of minority groups, and progress is evident, with 57% of hires last year across Ogilvy PR being people of color.

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Last year saw the formal launch of a new approach to Earned-First Creativity, Earned-First Impact, a bet on the future of marketing that is already paying off in terms of the firm’s creative work. Ogilvy received more North American SABRE Awards nominations for its client campaigns than any other agency, with highlights including two purpose-driven initiatives for Dove (“Black Haid is Professional” and “Turn Your Back,” which took home Best in Show at the PR Week awards); support for the Ad Council’s “Tear the Paper Ceiling” initiative, aimed at creating opportunities for people with skills and experience but not paper qualifications; the feisty “Definitely Do Your Taxes” campaign for H&R Block; “Create Real Magic” for Coca-Cola; and “Unbox & Discover” for Samsung. The firm’s emphasis on “cultural relevance” was on display in one of its early 2024 campaigns, a Super Bowl campaign involving Michael Cera and L’Oreal’s CeraVe brand. Other thought leadership included the launch of Ogilvy’s TK.Lab and proprietary TikTok Insights Miner, and an influencer point of view called “Real People. Real Impact.” The firm is also tapping into AI, both at the WPP level and with its own tools.

Paul Holmes