PR continues to grow in stature in Italy. With an improving economy
and a desire among the business community to embrace new technology, PR
agencies found their services in great demand during 1999. Financial PR
practitioners were kept busy by a stream of companies coming to market,
while hi-tech specialists benefited from the fact that many of these
companies were in the internet sector. ’There was a continuing process
of privatisation of public owned companies, and a strong growth of new
entries to the stock exchange, in particular web companies,’ says
Giampaolo Doveri of Italian PR association, Assorel.
The hi-tech sector is now the major contributor to PR business in
Assorel has recently commissioned the University of Milano-Bicocca to
carry out research on the impact of the internet on PR. This market was
almost unexplored in Italy until last year, but it has now brought a
host of new players - venture capitalists, incubators, business angels,
accelerators and consultants - requiring communication support.
Ketchum Italy has done well out of dot.com and technology business, but
MD Nicoletta Cerana sounds a note of caution: ’Italy is jumping into the
new economy, but net entrepreneurs are strongly conditioned by two major
elements - employment and fiscal policies that are not flexible enough,
and the lack of experts to support and manage such strong growth.’
Cerana is one of many agency people in Italy who point out how hard it
is to find well qualified staff, particularly in the hi-tech arena.
Despite this, the recovering economy is having a positive effect.
Adriana Mavellia, MD of Mavellia MS&L, says she has noticed the ’first
signs of a strong economic recovery’, including an economic renaissance
in parts of northern Italy in traditional sectors like automotive, food
The agency decided to split its marketing and corporate areas under
separate client directors. ’Marketing PR activities are now a basic tool
in communications,’ says Mavellia.
Eric Gerritsen at Burson-Marsteller in Italy says: ’The new economy is
booming and this means IPOs, and speed branding for numerous internet
start-ups.’ However, a booming new economy and political uncertainty
does not lead to an easy ride for agencies. ’It means we need to be
flexible and continuously adapt to changing scenarios,’ adds
Italy’s largest agency Barabino and Partners increased its revenues by a
startling 41 per cent. CEO Luca Barabino puts growth down to ’the
renewal of the Italian economy and the development of the new economy in
In 1999 Barabino was kept busy with a series of takeover battles and
companies coming to market, including acting as adviser to Olivetti on
its bid for Telecom Italia.
One of the trends noted by Franco Guzzi, CEO of Cohn and Wolfe in Milan,
is for clients in Italy to seek more strategic advice. ’Traditional
companies such as consumers, sports and finance are asking more and more
for communications consultancy. In Italy the business community is now
using communications as a strategic business tool,’ he says.
Shandwick Italia CEO Furio Garbagnati agrees that this development was
one of the drivers behind his agency’s good performance in the consumer
and corporate sectors: ’This was mainly due to the new perception of PR
as a real strategic issue by our clients,’ he says.
Massimo Benocci of independent agency EPR also notes a ’growing interest
from clients in a strategic partnership, and a remarkable shift from an
advertising-centred approach to communications to an integrated
Benocci says there has been an increased commitment to communication
from public administration bodies, and real competition in the utilities
market following the breaking up of former state-held monopolies.
Hill and Knowlton Italia president and CEO Cesare Valli adds: ’Most
Italian companies are now realising the importance of running proactive
and effective communication campaigns.’
The agency restructured to better meet client needs, introducing new
service lines, including a dot.com division. Crisis management and
marketing communication grew significantly, as did financial
communication. In July Carl Byoir and Associates, a hi-tech brand wholly
owned by Hill and Knowlton, acquired generalist agency SPC.
Italy’s largest hi-tech agency, Brodeur ImageTime, enjoyed a very
fruitful year. New business, mainly new internet companies and other
start-ups, grew at 60 per cent compared to the previous year. A second
office, called ImageTime One, opened in Milan in October 1999 to
overcome client conflict.
The one blot on the landscape for PR agencies is that political
instability in Italy. This hit a high this April when the centre-left
coalition was defeated in regional elections and this impacted on the
government very negatively. General elections are around the corner.
Government organisations are holding back on new campaigns, and work for
lobbyists slows down as the government focuses on elections.
- Assorel, the Italian trade body, requires its members to have minimum
fees of L500 million per annum, at least five employees, and eight
active accounts. It has 32 members.
- Chiappe Bellodi chose not to enter the table due to a restructure of
EURO CONSULTANCIES - Italy
Rank Company/Status Fee income (pounds) Growth Location
99 99 98 %
1 Barabino and Partners*/ 5,214,800 3,694,300 41 Milan
2 Ketchum PR*/ 3,107,945 1,988,886 56 Milan
3 Burson-Marsteller*/ 2,986,388 2,768,620 8 Milan
4 Shandwick Italia*/ 2,603,000 2,022,000 29 Milan
5 Edelman PR Worldwide*/ 2,577,092 2,037,205 27 Milan
6 Business Press/ 2,427,311 2,038,338 19 Milan
7 Mavellia MS&L*/ 2,421,024 2,243,105 8 Milan
8 Brodeur Imagetime*/ 2,115,000 1,868,574 13 Milan
Brodeur Worldwide subsid
9 Hill & Knowlton Italia*/ 1,953,559 1,594,498 23 Milan
10 Imageware/ 1,755,393 1,412,785 24 Milan
11 Cohn & Wolfe*/ 1,581,651 1,126,605 40 Milan
12 EPR*/ 1,577,650 1,457,240 8 Rome
13 Egg*/ 1,363,875 1,044,626 31 Milan
14 Noesis*/ 1,200,000 1,173,144 2 Milan
Euro PR member
15 SEC*/ 1,197,624 1,165,735 3 Milan
16 Gaia Public Relations*/ 1,150,000 1,050,000 10 Rome
17 HSL*/ 1,120,000 1,178,521 -5 Genoa
18 INC*/ 1,055,807 870,067 21 Rome
19 Klaus Davi and Co*/ 1,053,580 849,660 24 Milan
20 Fleishman-Hillard Italia/ 1,027,000 620,217 66 Milan
21 Errepi Comunicazione/ 844,563 509,767 66 Rome
22 PDC*/ 826,479 787,126 5 Milan
23 Homina*/ 706,578 815,000 -13 Bologna
24 GMPR*/ 513,691 611,756 -16 Bologna
25 Text 100/ 422,797 196,766 115 Milan
Text 100 subsidiary
25 SECI*/ 376,570 350,060 8 Milan
25 Nicole Schilling Comms/ 633,929 574,829 10 La
All figures relate to the year ended 31 December 1999
Fee income= PR fees only.