Bigger agencies shunned as mobile brand Vodafone opts for Paratus

Vodafone has surprised the industry by shifting the bulk of its lucrative PR business to ten-person agency Paratus Communications.

Changes: Vodafone UK undergoing review
Changes: Vodafone UK undergoing review

The UK's biggest mobile operator selected the firm after a competitive pitch that saw it ditch long-term incumbents Harvard PR and Shine Communications.

Instead, six-year-old Paratus takes charge of Vodafone's consumer, b2b and social media accounts, worth a combined £500,000. The agency prevailed following a review overseen by Vodafone UK director of external comms Aileen Thompson and head of external comms Julien Cozens.

The company also sought external assistance to manage the pitch, in the shape of h2glenfern senior partner Piers Marlow-Thomas. As well as Paratus and the two incumbents, Launch Group is thought to have pitched ideas.

Cozens declined to offer any details about whether a different servicing model would be employed in tandem with the company's new agency.

Paratus co-founder Dominic Shales, who will head the account, hit back at the suggestion the hire would raise eyebrows in the industry.

'We've got a really strong track record of working with large brands,' said Shales, pointing to other clients such as AXA and Costa Coffee.

Shales instead highlighted Paratus' business model, in which a core team of permanent staffers is supplemented by specialist freelancers.

The social media component, seen as of particular importance to Vodafone, will be headed by Paratus senior consultant Adam Vincenzini.

The appointment comes at a time of considerable change at Vodafone UK. The firm is expected to make a number of redundancies as part of a plan to cut 500 roles group-wide.

'Vodafone is going through change,' said one source involved in the review. 'So is the comms team, and it felt the need to change its agencies.'

VODAFONE'S AGENCIES

- Paratus has won Vodafone's PR accounts

- Harvard PR had handled b2b for the past eight years, while Shine oversaw consumer PR from 2007

- Skywrite spearheads comms with developers

- Finsbury was awarded financial PR in 2005

- Threepipe runs CSR projects

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