Technology: Top 40 Tech Consultancies

Tech agencies experienced mixed fee income results, find Cathy Wallace and Kate Magee.

Transparent: Whiteoaks Consultancy MD James Kelliher
Transparent: Whiteoaks Consultancy MD James Kelliher

For the second year running, Edelman took the top spot in the technology top 40, posting a growth in tech fee income of five per cent.

This kept the agency ahead of the Hotwire Group, which this year leapfrogged Brands2Life to take the number two spot.

However, during 2009 tech fee income for Hotwire, Skywrite and 33 Digital all contributed towards the Hotwire Group's total fee income, which explains the growth of 18 per cent.

As with all the PRWeek league tables this year, the tech table was a roller-coaster, with as many agencies posting growth as posting a loss.

Brands2Life managed annual growth of one per cent, but 2009 seems to have been a difficult year for the tech team at Citigate Dewe Rogerson, which saw tech fee income drop 13 per cent.

Text 100 also had a disappointing year, with tech fee income dropping 33 per cent; sending the agency plummeting to the ninth slot in the table, compared with its fourth place slot the previous year.

But it was not all bad news for tech teams in 2009. Surrey-based shop The Whiteoaks Consultancy saw fee income grow by an impressive 41 per cent.

Managing director James Kelliher attributes this aggressive growth to 'totally transparent PR' and an offering that links PR performance to sales performance.

Tech shop Wildfire PR (profiled overleaf) also had a good year, growing ten per cent.

Meanwhile, 3 Monkeys Communications continued to storm up the tech table, posting a Microsoft-fuelled 104 per cent growth in tech fee income during 2009.

41% - Increase in The Whiteoaks Consultancy tech fee income compared with 2008.

EDELMAN

Position: 1

Fees: £6,594,222

Growth: 5%

Once again, Edelman has scooped the top spot in the technology league tables, with a fee income of £6,594,222. But unlike its whopping 51 per cent growth in 2008, its more modest five per cent growth shows 2009 was a very different beast.

The agency's major account win was HP's seven-figure personal systems group account across EMEA. It already handled PR for HP's imaging and printing group, but this expanded remit means it now works for the client in 44 markets.

Edelman also added a range of clients in the clean-tech area, including Oerlikon and Northern Power. 'It will clearly be a big market in the future,' says European MD and global executive VP technology Jonathan Hargreaves.

The big hire of the year was Cairbre Sugrue, who became MD of the technology practice in September. He joined from software firm Oracle, where he was senior director of corporate communications.

Hargreaves says Sugrue's hire is part of the agency's strategy to make sure it retains its boutique tech feel. 'We want to stay true to being a tech practice, not a corporate or consumer-tech division. We want to keep developing into hardcore enterprise spaces and we will continue to hire against that,' he says.

Other notable hires include Weber Shandwick's Paul Wooding, as senior vice-president, and Hill & Knowlton's Alexia O'Sullivan, who joined as an associate director dedicated to analyst relations.

Edelman's next move in 2010 will be to hire senior journalists to work in editorial roles, helping clients to create content. 'We want to encourage our clients to editorialise, to make their language more punchy, pithy and not just corporate speak,' says Hargreaves.

The team also set up a blog - Naked Pheasant - last year to ensure its staff had practice using social media and learning what works in that space.

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- HP win

- Growing in a difficult market

- Attracting good quality staff and developing them

Low points

- 'Having to make big demands on our staff,' says Hargreaves. 'Fortunately, we didn't cut investment.'

THE RED CONSULTANCY

Position: 10

Fees: £1,996,364

Growth: 13%

David Vindel, head of technology at Red, says the tech landscape in 2009 was shaped by several key events in the wider industry.

At the beginning of the year, tech giant Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection. In March 2009, industry researcher Gartner predicted the worldwide IT spend would be down 3.8 per cent. There were redundancies at major firms such as BT and IBM. And in April 2009, Oracle announced an agreement under which it would acquire Sun Microsystems.

'These were defining events and showed how competitive the industry was. There was a lot of consolidation and people were finding the environment very tough, and this provided the environment for the PR world,' says Vindel.

Nonetheless, Red managed to flourish in this difficult climate. 'Clients looked to PR for thought leadership more than ever before to really differentiate themselves in a brutally competitive sector,' says Vindel. 'Clients were looking for integration and a multi-discipline PR approach.'

Big wins for Red in 2009 included the corporate communications brief for Sage, Britain's second largest software company, and a UK brief for ESRI UK, a GIS software company.

The agency also won business with Good Technology, a mobile messaging software company that relies totally on PR to get its name out.

Red also continued work for existing clients such as McAfee and Eye-Fi. A campaign for McAfee won PRWeek's technology campaign of the year award in October 2009. The team also won a Sabre award for its work with the antivirus software provider.

Throughout 2009, staffing at the tech team remained constant at 14, although the agency has made hires in 2010 and is actively recruiting. 'We are feeling cautiously optimistic, I believe everybody is,' says Vindel.

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- Winning Sage - a global corporate communications brief for a big brand

Low points

- Not being able to grow some clients

- Being asked to do more work for no extra reward

WILDFIRE PR

Position: 19

Fees: £790,992

Growth: 10%

According to Wildfire PR MD Debby Penton, the agency's relatively small size was a real asset through 2009: 'It was a tough year across the board, but I believe being a small agency we were quite well positioned.' Penton echoes many in saying 2009 was typified by clients slashing budgets and looking to get more, for less: 'We were in a position to make clients feel more valued as they were bigger fish in a smaller pond. We were able to show them they could get good value for money.'

A second advantage of running a small agency, Penton adds, was being able to get all staff up to speed with digital and social media. 'Digital should not be siloed, or the job of a "digital specialist",' she says. 'In a smaller agency, it is easier for all staff to adopt it and we picked up more business from clients on that basis. Last year was the year social media took off, and while clients do not know what the answer to it is yet, they are looking for agencies to get them through it and answer questions for them.'

Significant wins for Wildfire in 2009 included Rocela, ReadSoft and Corizon. For Penton, the biggest win was CD burning and digital media solutions software provider Nero. 'It is a big global company and was very competitive and highly contested,' she says.

The agency also continued working with long-standing client Humax around digital switchover, and carried out a new launch for Bluetooth headset provider Jabra.

Staff-wise, there were no changes to the Wildfire team during 2009.

Looking ahead, Penton says priorities for Wildfire include a revamp of the agency's website to complement its high SEO ranking. 'This is a year we can do more exciting work for clients, as they have a bit more money and are open to spending it on trying new things,' she adds.

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- Winning Nero

- Embracing social media and seeing the team begin to be known in that space

Low point

- The economy making 2009 a tough year for everyone.

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