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Pan-European Consultancy of the Year: Fleishman-Hillard

If Fleishman-Hillard had not won our Pan-European Consultancy of the Year trophy last year, it would have been a shoo-in for the award based on its 2010 performance. As it was, we were forced to balance the firm’s impressive year—double-digit growth, at a time when many competitors were celebrating their ability to hold steady—with the desire to share the wealth. At the end of the day, though, Fleishman’s industry-leading growth was too impressive to ignore.

With 450 people in the region, Fleishman-Hillard remains somewhat smaller than the market leaders, but clearly now has the breadth and depth of talent to compete effectively for pan-EMEA business. In London, home to almost a third of the regional staff, there is strength across all major practices, but the growth has come from financial services and public affairs. The other powerhouse is Brussels, where a combination of management stability, expanded thought leadership, and strength in the financial services and energy sectors has helped the firm stay ahead of the competition. Fleishman is also among the leading multinationals in Germany, Italy, and Ireland, where the firm has bucked the recessionary trend during its 20th anniversary year.

While the firm won the Philips account (along with Omnicom sister agencies) in 2009, it didn’t really begin to feel the benefit until the end of that year, and more and more Philips work has come online during 2010, supplemented by other multimarket accounts, including SHV Gas, the World Innovation Summit for Education, and flavors and fragrances giant Firmenich.

Consumer Consultancy of the Year: Exposure

Over 18 years of existence, Exposure has been able to marry traditional PR with less conventional word-of-mouth marketing techniques, creating a $37 million consultancy that employs more than 150 people across offices in London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. And despite economic turbulence, Exposure grew its turnover by 14 per cent in 2010, driven largely by organic growth from longstanding clients such as Levi’s Strauss and Dr Martens. An increased focus on integrated marketing and global deployment of campaigns helped in this regard, as did the re-launch of its product development business, The Gild. Clever, creative campaigns ranged from a celebration of Dr Martens’ 50th anniversary with 10 classic music tracks recreated by 10 contemporary music artists in 10 music videos to a through-the-line push entitled “Craftwork” to accompany Levi’s new global strategy of “return to craft.”

Corporate Consultancy of the Year: Bell Pottinger Group

Bell Pottinger saw its public relations income improve by 8 percent in 2009, ending the year with fees of £60 million, up 8 percent at a time when the public relations operations of major communications holdings companies were declining—some of them by double digits. The first half of 2010 saw another 5 percent growth, and a 17 percent improvement in operating profit. One key is the firm’s diversity of both discipline and geography; another is the increasing number of clients turning to Bell Pottinges for integrated solutions—shared clients now account for 60 percent of group revenues—making it even more mission-critical to those businesses. A significant development in 2010 saw the integration of financial communications consultancy Pelham into the firm’s own corporate and financial offer to create Pelham Bell Pottinger. James Henderson, who founded Pelham in 2004 after 15 years at College Hill, became managing director of the merger operation.

Financial Consultancy of the Year: Brunswick Group

Brunswick is the dominant public relations firm in the global mergers and acquisitions business, topping mergermarket’s rankings by value of deals worked in Europe. But the days when Brunswick was exclusively—or even primarily—an M&A firm are a distant memory. A diversification of the firm’s portfolio of business in recent years means it now works on a wide range of critical communications assignments. This diversification reaped particular dividends in 2010, when the firm was tasked with handling some of the most high-profile issues of the year. For long-term client BP, Brunswick was charged with handling the fallout from the oil giant’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Another important client, Prudential, also faced a number of complex, very visible issues. And the firm continued to advise on a number of Europe’s biggest deals: GDF Suez Energy’s $27.3 billion merger with International Power; the £1 billion integration of JP Morgan and Cazenove; Dana Petroleum’s defence against a hostile offer from KNOC; British Airways’ merger with Iberia; Kraft’s purchase of Cadbury, and the sale of its North American pizza business to Nestle; Emerson Electric’s acquisition of the UK’s Chloride Group; Reckitt Benckiser’s £2.5 billion offer to acquire SSL International; and, Cisco’s $3.4 billion purchase of Norway’s Tandberg.

Healthcare Consultancy of the Year: Tonic Life

In less than five years, Scott Clark, Oliver Parsons and Moira Gitsham built Tonic Life Communications into one of the strongest and most successful healthcare public relations brands in the U.K. market prior to the firm’s by Lord Peter Chadlington’s Huntsworth and integration into its Huntsworth Health business. And over the past 12 months, the partnership between Huntsworth and Tonic Life has really begun to bear fruit. The firm has expanded its global footprint, opening its first offices in the Asia-Pacific region (Hong Kong and most recently Singapore) while generating growth from the European and U.S. operations, including an increase in shared business between the two markets. The firm has also been able to broaden its offer to clients. While Tonic Life remains focused on a market that Clark describes as “lifestyle to life science” public relations, clients can also draw on the branding, advertising, digital and market access expertise of other Huntsworth Health companies. The firm has enjoyed impressive double-digit growth over the past 12 months and has picked up clients such as Jenny Craig, Monsanto and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and Arla on the lifestyle side of the business and expanded its pharmaceutical industry client base with new assignments from Eisai and J&J DePuy in addition to Genentech’s Tamiflu, and a new assignment from Ciba Vision.

Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year: hanover

A year after celebrating its 10th anniversary, and having tripled in size over the previous three years, London-based public affairs consultancy hanover was in expansive mood in 2010 and wasn’t going to let a little thing like the global recession (or a tough year for the public policy business, triggered by elections in both the U.K. and the EU) slow it down. It opened a Brussels office in May (the launch party took place on the day the U.K.’s new coalition government was announced), in what it sees as the first step genuinely to establish itself as genuinely pan-European agency for both public affairs and corporate communications. Fee income grew to £3.13million in 2009, up 7 percent, and it on track for double-digit growth in 2010, to around £3.4million, a combination of client loyalty—Three, the American Pharmaceutical Group and the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes have been with hanover for more than three years; BSkyB, Santander and Microsoft are going into their third year—and new business success. New clients in 2010 included financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and online data providers and, as well as HPES, Serco, MSD and Amgen.

Technology Consultancy of the Year: Octopus Group

Octopus was founded in 2001 and its development in the decade since has been compelling, especially considering the sluggishness of the tech sector in general. The firm combines three specialist units, offering research, PR and marketing services, and around 30 percent of Octopus’ clients now use an integrated blend of these three services, which counts as a very encouraging return on the firm’s investment. Business was brisk for Octopus in 2010, with the agency posting impressive revenue growth of 25 percent in a tough market, taking it to £4.3 million in fees and 50 staff, making it the U.K.’s sixth biggest tech agency. The year’s standout win was Cisco, for which Octopus expanded its role from U.K. and Ireland to include the tech giant’s pan-European business. The firm also won international PR assignments from Meltwater and Basware, and new briefs from Colt and Webroot, adding to a client list that already includes Adecco, Computacenter, F5, Lloyds TSB, McAfee, Rackspace and Sony PlayStation.

Digital Consultancy of the Year: Edelman

The digital practice at Edelman accounts for 5 percent of revenues, but that number is misleading—it’s largely content creation, website and widget design and other creative projects; the bulk of the firm’s digital and social media work is embedded in the other practices. The fact is that the firm has invested more significantly in both talent and thought leadership in the digital realm than its peers. The former includes the acquisition of digital specialist Spook in the U.K. and this year the addition of former BBC director of global news Richard Sambrook as head of content (a role that expands beyond digital, but will include plenty of new media work).The latter includes Social Media Index and Tweetlevel products, designed to provide a way to analyze the influence of opinion leaders online. Creative work ranges from an Alzheimer’s awareness campaign for Pfizer’s Aricept; a film created for Norton Symantec to educate families about web access and security; and the production of online videos for the OMO and Tang brands that later became above-the-line creative.

New Consultancy of the Year: John Doe

John Doe was created about 18 months ago by Rana Reeves, who honed his creative credentials at Jackie Cooper PR and Shine Communications (after earlier roles at Burson-Marsteller and Fleishman-Hillard). The firm works above, below and through the line to link brands with popular culture, using an approach that blends traditional public relations, experiential marketing, digital and social media, community and content creation, and more. The firm has three offers: John Doe Consulting helps clients formulate a strategy and develop appropriate creative; John Doe Know helps them connect with a network of “fixers” across the creative spectrum, from journalists to designers, artists to filmmakers, sports stars to celebrities; and John Does focuses on implementation of digital and traditional PR media relations. The firm’s unique approach has enabled Reeves to build a team of about a dozen working from the firm’s Soho headquarters, and attracted an impressive roster of clients, including the W Hotel Leicester Square, Ctrl+Alt+Shift (the youth arm of charity Children’s Aid), Sony Playstation and PSP, Vice magazine, and VNBS.TV, while John Doe has also handled projects over the past year for London Trocadero, Tate Britain, The W Doha, Babelgum and Whitechapel Gallery.