THE TOP EUROPEAN PR CONSULTANCIES 2000: NETWORKS - LOCAL NETWORKS Networks continue to expand apace, but not at the expense of quality and consistency.

The European marketplace for business communications has never looked stronger, and the globalisation of commerce continues, leading to ever more cross-border and pan-regional campaigns. So far as the PR agency networks are concerned, these are propitious circumstances, and many are experiencing strong growth. But competition is intense, with established global players such as Pinnacle and Worldcom being challenged by a younger generation of networks, many of which have their roots in the UK. This, coupled with changing client needs, has led the older networks to re-appraise their offer.

The European marketplace for business communications has never

looked stronger, and the globalisation of commerce continues, leading to

ever more cross-border and pan-regional campaigns. So far as the PR

agency networks are concerned, these are propitious circumstances, and

many are experiencing strong growth. But competition is intense, with

established global players such as Pinnacle and Worldcom being

challenged by a younger generation of networks, many of which have their

roots in the UK. This, coupled with changing client needs, has led the

older networks to re-appraise their offer.



Likewise, Worldcom, with 26 partners, has realised that quality and

specialisation of its members is an important issue. ’Five or six years

ago Worldcom Europe was a bit of an old boys’ club,’ says Crispin

Manners, chief executive of Worldcom member Kaizo. ’Now it’s much more

client-focused and recognises that clients need specialist skills. A lot

of the clients that are looking to talk to Worldcom have gone down the

owned agency route before and have found it doesn’t give them the right

commitment and content at a local level.’



Digital commerce and communications channels have had a profound effect

across Europe. New kinds of clients are emerging, sometimes at

break-neck speed, and many established clients are changing the way they

work. All of this creates demand for PR strategy and services.



’Relatively small companies are now global from day one and need the

support that networks can give them,’ says Brodeur Worldwide managing

director EMEA Mike Copland.



Grant Butler Coomber director Sophie Spyropoulos agrees. GBC’s network

was originally called Global Technology Communications but last year it

was temporarily given a code name of Tiger International before being

rebranded again as Embrace, with 11 European members, plus a further two

in Israel and South Africa. The new name reflects a change in direction

for the network which now has public affairs and consumer, as well as

technology members.



Although the dot.com bubble appears to have deflated a little, it would

be wrong to surmise that the digital revolution is slowing down. There

is no doubt that many companies are still pouring huge amounts of

capital into building up e-commerce operations. Among these are many of

Europe’s corporate giants.



’It’s pretty buoyant in our sector,’ explains Mark Mellor, director of

Firefly, the UK member of the Fireworks network. ’The next year will see

a number of traditional bricks and mortar companies come good and enter

the on-line market proper. You’ll see things like pan-European internet

banks emerging with single brands across Europe.’



Historically, a lot of the cross-border communications work in Europe

has been driven by US-based clients. Martin Slater, president of Noesis,

a Milan-based agency which does work for the Pinnacle Europe and Euro PR

networks, describes the UK as a ’clearing house,’ through which a lot of

business is passed on, mainly from US clients.



However, networks such as Euro PR and Ecco report an increase in

international campaigns from European-based clients. ’We’re seeing a

trend for European-based companies to raise their heads above the

parapet, which is a good sign,’ says Ecco managing director Martin

O’Brien.



Manners points out that some of the lessons learnt in Europe are now

being applied across the Atlantic. ’In the last few months we’ve seen

two or three clients who like what they are getting in Europe and are

asking us to go back the other way and source a solution in the US,’ he

says. Although European companies are increasingly looking at the bigger

picture, the majority of pan-regional work is initiated by US-based

corporations.



Some of these clients, however still spend the vast majority of their

communications budgets in their domestic markets. ’There’s still a need

to educate some US clients,’ says Euro PR managing director Richard

Price.



’The budgets are never enough to do what the clients want in the markets

we operate in.’



Spyropoulos says in general US clients are becoming more realistic, and

European budgets are rising due to a clearer recognition of the

diversity and size of the European marketplace. Consequently,

communications programmes are being structured to make more allowances

for local cultures and market conditions.



The networks are using extranets to cut down on costs and share best

practice, case studies, images and other material beneficial to clients

operating in more than one European market. Spyropoulos adds that one of

the best ways to ensure clients’ money is well spent is for agencies to

talk ’frankly’ with their network partners. This requires trust, but

clients have a right to expect as much.



Brodeur Worldwide, meanwhile, is using what it terms its Global Support

Council to ensure consistency of client relationship management and

client programmes across the EMEA region. Each partner agency in the

network has a member on the council whose role is to ensure cross-border

programmes run smoothly. Copland envisages further expansion to the

network but says Brodeur is guarding against the mentality of

’sprinkling flags everywhere across the map.’



One network that has expanded geographically very strongly is

five-year-old IPRN, which has taken on five new partner agencies in the

EMEA region over the past year or so -Headline PR in Hungary,

Congresswise in Cyprus, Edson Evers and Associates in the UK,

Information and Communication in Sweden and Naori-Shomrony Media & PR in

Israel.



The changing nature of how the EU develops its policies has given a

heightened role to cross-border public affairs. The principle of

subsidiarity calls for as much legislation as practicable to be

developed at the lowest possible administrative level. Therefore

interaction between Brussels and the national capitals of the EU’s

member states has become increasingly important.



GPC Europe, which has 15 offices employing 200 staff across Europe,

believes that focusing only on Brussels is insufficient to influence the

European political agenda. GPC Brussels vice-chairman Louise Harvey says

clients are increasingly looking to have their stance on important

issues reflected rather than just have their names put before key

influencers.



The well-worn phrase ’a Europe of the regions’ rings very true. Although

business increasingly transcends national borders, a huge number of

decisions - both commercial and political - are still being made at a

local level.



By their very nature, the networks have accepted that Europe is not a

uniform bloc. If it were, the euro would not have encountered anything

like the turbulence it has experienced. ’We have a euro bank account and

by now I would have expected us to have used it,’ says Price. ’But

there’s been no call for it. Maybe this will happen in the next two or

three years.’



Its day may yet come, however, as the force of business sweeps away

national barriers. In this the technology sector has undoubtedly taken a

lead.



’The main trend has been a massive demand for technology and internet

capability. There’s been an enormous wave from west to east which has

intensified in recent years,’ says Jan Stannard, joint managing director

of Marbles, part of the Pinnacle network.



That wave is powering growth. According to Copland, across the offices

in the Brodeur network in which the group has a stake, revenues have

grown 30 per cent. Moreover, he says that there are now 25 clients

engaged in multi-country activity within the EMEA region. He adds that

networks are well placed to tap into a demand for services beyond

traditional PR such as viral marketing, e-commerce consultancy and web

site development.



Times are good, but most networks are expanding cautiously. Geographical

reach is important for ever more clients, but more important still is

quality and consistency of service. Pinnacle, for instance, has expanded

into Greece by adding Athens-based agency Connective Communications to

its network. But it is treading carefully in Eastern Europe. With

clients often demanding best of breed, networks cannot afford to take on

weak links.





- Ecco is in the process of restructuring, switching its administrative

headquarters from Brussels to London and transforming itself into what

O’Brien describes as a ’hybrid’ between a network and an owned group.

Member agencies will become shareholders in a new comp-any, which will

be promoted under the Ecco brand.





- IPREX, last year’s number three network, declined to enter this year’s

ranking, but vice-president Lionel Chouchan is currently re-examining

the network model and is looking to establish partnerships in areas

including crisis management and consumer PR.





- Agencies seeking to join IPRN must be supported by at least two-thirds

of the organisation’s existing membership in order to be accepted.





EURO CONSULTANCIES - Networks


Rank  COMPANY/HEADQUARTERS   Fee income (pounds)  Growth  Staff  Clients

99                               99           98       %     99       99

1     Worldcom/London    36,941,048   45,676,603     -19    582        -

2     Entente Intl/      23,000,000   31,200,000     -26    341      439

      Brussels

3     Pinnacle/          19,867,550   14,686,000      35    376        -

      Minneapolis

4     Intl PR Network/   18,846,000   17,283,150       9    210      400

      London

5     Fireworks/London   18,357,395   13,408,587      37    302      430

6     PROI/Montreal      17,461,843   16,287,524       7    356      316

7     GPC Europe/London  16,869,352   13,809,873      22    254      610

8     Brodeur Worldwide/ 15,851,000   15,005,000       6    285      412

      Berkshire

9     Inter PR/Surrey    11,980,343    9,977,575      20    178      209

10    JKL/Stockholm       9,561,000    7,244,000      32     98        -

11    Embrace1/Surrey     8,765,000    5,882,710      49    150      159

12    ECCO/Brussels       8,023,448    7,275,000      10    177      369

13    Euro PR/London      4,849,054    3,730,543      30     87      137


All figures relate to the year ended 31 December 1999

Fee income= PR fees

1 Formerly listed as Tiger International.



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