TOP 50 TECH PR: Under pressure - Alastair Ray examines how tech PR firms have coped with client belt-tightening

In 2001, the technology PR sector faced the consequences of the tech decline that began in 2000 with the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

Client company closures have not only left gaping holes in PR firms' rosters but also led to debts on the balance sheet. From the 40 agencies in the table that also appeared last year, only 20 posted positive growth, illustrating the extent of the tech PR downturn.

It is possible that this sector has been especially hard hit because it is a market that often uses PR as its primary communications tool ahead of options such as advertising. Even where clients do advertise, PR is likely to remain the favoured communications medium. 'Our experience is that clients won't necessarily cut PR - they cut everything else,' says Fleishman-Hilliard UK head of tech Jonathan Jordan.

But while clients may not be cutting PR spend, they are undoubtedly putting more pressure on their agencies on fees and performance.

The recession has made it harder for the media outlets that are key targets for tech PR professionals. Magazine closures and pressure on journalists mean agencies now have to work even harder get an idea into print or on air.

Each agency was naturally affected by the performance of each of their clients. Some, such as Brodeur, got hit right at the start of the year, while others staved off the crisis until the spring or even the third quarter.

Nonetheless, those with larger blue-chip clients were slightly shielded from the storm.

According to Bite Communications CEO Clive Armitage, 'the ones that suffered most were the agencies that grew very quickly off the back of some fairly speculative dotcoms.'

Competition for business has undoubtedly got fiercer with the result that fees have fallen.

'There wasn't much money around last year - the work we'd be doing for a £10,000-fee client would now be a £5,000-fee client,' says Midnight Communications CEO Caraline Brown.

Many believe that some good will come out of the poorer climate. 'I think it helps the reputation of the industry because during the boom the relationship between the money that clients were spending and the value they were getting got a bit blurred. Now it's become closer,' says Lewis Communications business development director Morgan McLintic.

But pushing for accountability has not been the only change in the tech market. Hill & Knowlton technologies MD Sally Costerton says clients are starting to become selective in which services they are prepared to invest.

'Clients are still prepared to pay a good rate for value-adding media relations skills, strategic counsel and ground-breaking creative ideas. But they increasingly seem to want to balance this with a much lower rate for things they perceive as commodity services,' she says.

Areas in which agencies have been able to sell-in extra services to clients have been analyst relations and booking speaker slots at events.

Although many agencies have previously offered such services on an ad hoc basis, in the past 18 months, it's been increasingly common that these skills have been formalised as separate practices.

A third field in which clients are spending on services is work that creates a market presence beyond mere product offerings. 'Product differentiation is getting harder and harder,' says Citigate Technology MD David Josephs. 'An increasing number of companies are looking to differentiate by seeking to become thought-leaders.'

As in previous recessions, there has been a rise in project work. 'It reflects the finance director getting more involved,' says Brodeur chairman Mike Copland. 'They know what they're getting and know when they'll get it.'

The downturn has also had a negative impact on the pitch process. In general, clients are seeing more agencies and taking longer to make a decision.

Costerton recalls a gap of more than six months between a pitch and hearing the company had successfully won some business, while Weber Group managing director Zoe Arden cites an original long list of more than 25 agencies for the EMC account in November.

'There's certainly more caution on the client side in terms of selecting an agency and more demands for services just to squeeze a bit more value from their spending,' says McLintic.

There are also concerns at some agencies that the cost-cutting has gone too far. 'At the moment we are often being undercut by people saying they will do twice as much for half the price,' says Firefly Communications director Mark Mellor.

The tough climate has also seen agencies cannibalising each others' clients in a more aggressive manner. 'Agencies are getting very good at identifying a competitor's Achilles' Heel and going after it,' says Miller/Shandwick Technologies MD Michelle McGlocklin.

Gnash Communications founder Narda Shirley agrees: 'Sometimes it's quite overt. If you've got people who are trying to buy market share by undercutting other people and over-servicing people it makes it very dangerous when things pick up again. It doesn't do the industry any good at all.'

Still, many agencies remain cautious about clients they take on and some may even opt for a project fee if they have any questions about a client's financial stability.

Text 100 International EMEA managing director Andy West says: 'When we go into new business today, we are much more cautious than we were 18 months ago.'

Not all sectors get a vote of approval.

Although telecom operators have suffered, the new generation of wireless and broadband communications applications and services is seen as a growth area.

'Certain areas of broadband are starting to be quite buoyant,' says King.

'It almost feels as if there's a whole new range of tech start-ups out there.'

Security, financial services and multimedia messaging are three other growth areas, although it may be early days for the latter. 'That's probably not going to become mainstream for another 12 months,' says Jordan.

Another potential growth area is the biotech business. Miller/Shandwick Technologies, for example, is planning to launch a specialist practice in conjunction with its public affairs, healthcare and financial divisions.

For the more mainstream areas of the tech business, such as systems integration, agencies are targeting fewer of the large corporates and switching to small and medium-sized businesses as the former have stamped down hard on anything approaching major investment.

Gaming specialists had a better year than usual, particularly as new consoles such as PlayStation2 and the Microsoft Xbox were launched, but budgets in this sector tend to be small and the growth associated with the new formats may not feed through until 2002.

Some agencies are targeting clients with less of a tech focus. Midnight Communications, for example, which did extremely well out of the digital economy, has spread its wings picking up clients such as the Notting Hill Carnival and Brighton University.

Argyll Group's Kaizo has bought Brook Public Relations, a food and leisure specialist, to reduce its dependence on the sector to below the 75 per cent mark.

The question now facing the whole marketing sector is: When will the recovery come?

Julian Tanner, managing director of AxiCom, which covers both consumer and B2B accounts, is seeing some signs of green shoots. 'I would say from a new business point of view we are feeling a hell of a lot more comfortable than we were nine months ago, both in terms of leads and people making decisions,' he says.

Talk of a recovery in the tech PR sector is still largely premature, though some green shoots are visible. But, at best, the recovery is unsteady and uneven.

TOP TECH CONSULTANCIES 1-25
                            Tech fee                        Total PR
Rnk      Agency             income (pounds)         %       fee income
01   00                     01          00          growth  01
1    1   Chime Online1      10,274,000  10,741,000  -4      10,274,000
2    8   Hill &
         Knowlton UK*       7,907,000   3,732,486   112     28,857,000
3    2   Weber Shandwick
         UK*2               7,843,637   9,259,410   -15     41,282,302
4    3   Firefly
         Communications     7,216,545   7,076,003   2       7,216,545
5    6   Lewis
         Communications     5,204,078   4,212,659   24      5,204,078
6    4   Citigate
         Technology         4,936,417   4,415,402   12      32,260,127
7    5   Brodeur
         Worldwide*         4,583,964   4,278,678   7       4,583,964
8    7   AxiCom*            4,229,234   3,811,934   11      4,229,234
9    9   Coutrywide
         Porter Novelli*    4,135,700   3,480,421   19      20,645,789
10   22  Bite
         Communications*    3,651,016   2,217,908   65      4,452,459
11   19  Fleishman-
         Hillard*3          3,609,007   2,313,360   56      12,444,851
12   17  Band & Brown
         Communications     3,586,393   2,368,098   51      5,977,321
13   10  Text 100
         International*     2,812,548   3,105,572   -9      2,812,548
14   21  Banner             2,389,285   2,247,830   6       2,389,285
15   27  Johnson King       2,305,229   1,881,992   22      2,305,229
16   42  Cohn & Wolfe*      2,230,586   1,093,156   104     10,621,837
17   12  Kaizo*4            2,195,700   2,643,775   -17     2,815,000
18   15  Grant Butler
         Coomber Group*     2,156,932   2,377,620   -9      2,765,298
19   16  Beattie Media      2,152,111   2,375,674   -9      6,725,347
20   26  DPA Corporate
         Communications     2,085,153   1,972,092   6       2,085,153
21   13  Edelman Public
         Relations
         Worldwide*         2,008,016   2,509,813   -20     12,550,100
22   -   College Hill
         Associates         1,994,179   -           -       8,090,390
23   18  Nelson
         Bostock
         Communications*    1,991,246   2,345,496   -15     3,620,448
24   23  AD
         Communications*    1,829,736   2,043,909   -10     1,829,736
25   20  Companycare
         Communications*    1,731,982   1,496,484   16      1,781,098
26   28  Strategic
         Alliance Intl      1,718,575   1,728,142   -1      1,718,575
27   -   The Shire
         Hall Group*        1,663,925   -           -       8,757,500
28   24  Roger Staton
         Associates*        1,634,094   1,913,466   -15     1,634,094
29   37  Portfolio Group*   1,555,959   1,224,010   27      2,992,229
30   -   hatch-group*4      1,555,105   -           -       4,587,332
31   38  The Whiteoaks
         Consultancy*       1,414,018   1,215,828   16      1,488,440
32   32  Midnight
         Communications*    1,357,607   1,614,090   -16     1,508,452
33   35  Berkeley
         Public Relations   1,279,704   1,429,107   -10     1,279,704
34   14  August.One
         Communications*    1,228,857   2,484,260   -51     4,915,430
35   -   The Red
         Consultancy*       1,118,467   -           -       6,608,149
36   43  Mantra
         Public Relations   1,115,532   1,035,700   8       1,859,220
37   36  Oast
         Communications     1,100,000   1,250,083   -12     1,368,527
38   -   EML                1,084,553   -           -       1,095,508
39   30  Ogilvy Public
         Relations
         Worldwide*         1,007,850   1,674,558   -40     6,719,000
40   46  Manning
         Selvage & Lee*     1,000,500   974,400     3       5,288,000
41   45  The Euro
         PR Group*          971,000     1,015,220   -4      1,571,000
42   40  Rainier            920,000     1,139,063   -19     1,150,000
43   -   Brands2Life        917,812     -           -       917,812.00
44   29  Grayling Group*    910,690     1,719,000   -47     9,106,900
45   31  GCI/APCO UK*       881,250     1,628,200   -46     17,625,000
46   50  The ITPR Group     864,484     744,839     16      864,484
47   -   Multimedia Public
         Relations & Mktg   806,510     -           -       806,510
48   -   Lighthouse PR      799,964     -           -       799,964
49   -   Kinross & Render*  778,693     -           -       1,854,030
50   -   Spreckley
         Partners           735,283     -           -       1,709,961


                                                     % fee
Rnk      Agency                               Staff  income  Location
01   00                                              01
1    1   Chime Online1                        122    100     London
2    8   Hill & Knowlton UK*                  320    14      London
3    2   Weber Shandwick UK*2                 576    19      London
4    3   Firefly Communications               92     100     London
5    6   Lewis Communications                 87     100     London
6    4   Citigate Technology                  346    15      London
7    5   Brodeur Worldwide*                   57     100     Berks
8    7   AxiCom*                              34     100     London
9    9   Coutrywide Porter Novelli*           241    20      Oxon
10   22  Bite Communications*                 68     82      London
11   19  Fleishman-Hillard*3                  141    29      London
12   17  Band & Brown Communications          81     60      London
13   10  Text 100 International*              50     100     London
14   21  Banner                               20     100     London
15   27  Johnson King                         22     100     London
16   42  Cohn & Wolfe*                        118    21      London
17   12  Kaizo*4                              39     78      London
18   15  Grant Butler Coomber Group*          24     78      Surrey
19   16  Beattie Media                        135    32      Glas/London
20   26  DPA Corporate Communications         28     100     Surrey
21   13  Edelman Public Relations Worldwide*  111    16      London
22   -   College Hill Associates              87     25      London
23   18  Nelson Bostock Communications*       50     55      London
24   23  AD Communications*                   25     100     Surrey
25   20  Companycare Communications*          23     97      Berks
26   28  Strategic Alliance International     19     100     Bucks
27   -   The Shire Hall Group*                104    19      London
28   24  Roger Staton Associates*             17     100     Bucks
29   37  Portfolio Group*                     42     52      London
30   -   hatch-group*4                        67     34      London
31   38  The Whiteoaks Consultancy*           21     95      Surrey
32   32  Midnight Communications*             43     90      Brighton
33   35  Berkeley Public Relations            24     100     Berks
34   14  August.One Communications*           67     25      London
35   -   The Red Consultancy*                 98     17      London
36   43  Mantra Public Relations              27     60      London
37   36  Oast Communications                  35     80      Kent
38   -   EML                                  23     99      Surrey
39   30  Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide*   69     15      London
40   46  Manning Selvage & Lee*               67     19      London
41   45  The Euro PR Group*                   22     62      London
42   40  Rainier                              10     80      London
43   -   Brands2Life                          16     100     London
44   29  Grayling Group*                      102    10      London
45   31  GCI/APCO UK*                         175    5       London
46   50  The ITPR Group                       15     100     Surrey
47   -   Multimedia Public Relations & Mktg   17     100     Monmouth
48   -   Lighthouse PR                        15     100     London
49   -   Kinross & Render*                    33     42      London
50   -   Spreckley Partners                   21     43      London
All figures relate to the year end 31 December 2001. Fee income=PR fees
+ mark-up. *Denotes PRCA member 4 Includes MacLaurin, acquired in May
2001

1 CHIME ONLINE - POUNDS 10,274,000

Chime Online's trio of agency brands retained the top spot in 2001, despite a four per cent fall in fee income to £10.2m.

The three tech brands, however, became a duo in October last year when Chime sold a majority shareholding in web agency Interactive Bureau to its management. Chime retains a 20 per cent stake in the business but the focus of its tech PR operations now lies with Harvard PR and Insight Marketing and Communications.

In contrast to the pervading market conditions, Insight claims that 2001 was its most successful year 'by streets'. It picked up eight months of project work for Logica at the start of 2001, won a brief from Digica as well as extending its relationship with existing clients.

According to MD Chris Warham, the tech slowdown only hit towards the end of the year. He puts the agency's resilience down to three factors, the first being sheer luck. 'You'll see very good agencies hurting like mad and it's not their fault,' he says.

Secondly, its infrastructure clients kept spending and, lastly, the agency started a new business drive earlier than most in September 2000. 'We took ten to 12 new clients as a result of a very big new business push,' he says.

Nonetheless, it hasn't been all plain sailing for the Macclesfield-headquartered agency. It lost Cognos in March and has also had to make a small number of redundancies. Sister agency Harvard also had some bad news as dotcom clients such as Aspinalls, Streetsonline and Club Sirius scrapped their PR spend. Peregrine Systems, Tiscali and Agfa found new advisers and seven people were made redundant in the middle of the year.

But while rivals started hurting in the second half of the year, Harvard started to put on clients. It landed auto-electronics company Live Devices, Tahoe Networks, SwissCom, RedDot and Convera. It also secured a brief from Computer Sciences Corporation and now works with its sister agency on the account, with Insight handling analyst relations.

This purple patch continued into 2002 with the agency securing Vodafone's B2B account in January, worth around £250,000. It also won work for the Afghan Wireless Communications Company, a project that saw the agency launch the war-torn country's first mobile network.

Chime made its first foray into the US during 2001, acquiring Boston-based tech specialist LNS Communications in February in a deal worth up to £11m.

2 HILL & KNOWLTON UK - POUNDS 7,907,000

Hill & Knowlton's UK tech outfit says it has outperformed the market thanks to a set of clients that have retained or boosted budgets. The agency pulled in £7.9m in fee income from the tech sector, representing 27 per cent of the agency's total business in 2001.

One client that contributed to this performance was Hewlett-Packard's imaging and printing group. It started working with the agency in June 2000 and has gradually increased the brief, adding some consumer printing work. Earlier this year, H&K also landed an analyst relations brief and extranet creation project for the printing and imaging giant.

Similarly, BT's wholesale broadband operation has bought training and more strategic services in addition to its media relations work. Others, such as Siebel, Interwoven and Microsoft Great Plains, have helped performance by retaining their spend.

Although H&K has previously taken on consumer tech work, it decided to create a dedicated practice in 2001. A team of six now attracts revenues of around £500,000 from clients such as HP and an online dating agency.

H&K managing director, technologies, Sally Costerton says the new team is seeing signs of 'little green shoots' in the market: 'Although the trend in the tech sector is clearly recessionary, I have seen more glimmers in the consumer tech side than I have on the B2B side.'

The agency is also opening a division in partnership with sister US tech agency Blanc & Otus. The new shop will target start-ups and high growth tech brands leaving H&K to take on larger brands.

The new team, which will have separate offices, will be headed by MD Zena Martin, who joined the agency from Firefly earlier this month.

It hasn't been all good news at the agency. It parted company with troubled telecoms company Marconi at the back end of 2001, while clients such as Buytel, Orygen and Xtempus, all of which had venture capital backing, also cut spend as market conditions got tougher. Dotcoms such as bepaid.com and domain-name registry firm afilias also left the company.

Seven staff were made redundant from the tech practice in 2001, two in June and the rest in October.

3 WEBER SHANDWICK UK - POUNDS 7,843,637

Weber Shandwick sits in third spot thanks to the contribution made by its two tech shops - Miller/Shandwick Technologies and The Weber Group - as well as the B2C work carried out on behalf of tech clients by the main agency. Tech work now accounts for around 19 per cent of total UK income. Around 40 per cent of this income came through Miller/Shandwick Technologies and 30 per cent from boutique The Weber Group. The rest of its tech billings come from the main consumer practice, which works for clients such as Siemens and T-Mobile.

Both specialist agencies are now under new management following the departure of Cathy Pittham towards the end of last year, with deputy managing directors Michelle McGlocklin and Zoe Arden stepping up at Miller/Shandwick Technologies and The Weber Group respectively.

This year Miller/Shandwick Technologies has landed work for Microsoft, Intel and Watchguard. It has also recently regained the Monster UK acccount, which it lost to August.One in June 2001. Losses during 2001 included Storm, Broadlogic and Breakaway Solutions.

But 2001 saw the agency diversify its tech offering in order to capture a broader client and services base, including interactive PR and strategic analyst relations products. Current expansion plans include a new biotech offering in partnership with Weber Shandwick's public affairs, healthcare and financial practices. McGlocklin says: 'I think biotech is probably a slow burn through this year and something will start to pick up next year.'

The Weber Group has added EMC and industry analysts ARM to its agency roster over the past 18 months. Although winning EMC involved beating off competition from 26 agencies, around half the ten wins this year have been non-competitive. The main emphasis has been on organic growth. Client budgets have grown at a 'phenomenal' rate thanks to research and events such as industry round tables, says Arden. It has also recently promoted Tim Simmons to head a new strategy group, providing market analysis to clients.

The Weber Group dropped its consumer tech brand Red Whistle following the BSMG merger in October but continues to work on consumer accounts such as Pioneer. It has also recently added Internet plc, which markets Britney Spears smartcards, to its consumer client roster.

Neither agency has been immune to the cutbacks that have hit the sector.Weber Group had to make two people redundant in September, while Miller has lost four people.

4 FIREFLY COMMUNICATIONS - POUNDS 7,216,545

Back in September 2001, Firefly's client list included Andersen, Enron and Compaq. Since then two of the three firms' contracts have hit the buffers thanks to auditing issues - Firefly stopped working for Enron in September and Andersen in July 2002.

Compaq has undergone an agreed merger with Hewlett Packard and, while the agency is still working on the account, the likelihood must be that at some stage its PR function will be consolidated, potentially a chance for further business or intense disappointment.

Despite these challenges, the agency - which gets 20 per cent of its business from the consumer side - ended the year on a high note beating four rivals to the third generation telephony company Hutchinson 3G account. The account includes media relations, speaker service, as well as a broadcast and interactive programme.

Fee income at the agency was stable in 2001, up two per cent to £7.2m, but director Mark Mellor says the agency has probably taken a 20 per cent hit. 'It's set us back around two years,' he says.

The impact of the tough climate would have been even harder had it not been for its new business drive in the first half of 2001. Wins from that period included BTG, MTV Europe, World Online and Softbank UK Ventures.

However, the downturn did bite as 11 London-based staff, including two account directors, were laid off in October after 16 clients cut back or ceased spending altogether.

The agency has landed two key accounts in the first half of 2002, pulling in media storage giant TDK's pan-European task and software house Global Continuity. Unlike some agencies, which seem slightly reluctant to talk about clients with .com or .co.uk after their names, Firefly remains committed to what it describes as a 'serious sector for us'.

The agency has recently lost associate director Alison Jeremy, who joined the BBC as head of press and PR at BBC Ventures.

5 LEWIS COMMUNICATIONS - POUNDS 5,204,078

Lewis Communications is planning to use the current downturn to build up its infrastructure ready for when the climate improves. Earlier this year the agency created a consumer tech division, Octane, initially to house its BT Openworld account but ultimately other consumer accounts could also migrate to the new division.

Other ventures include a new public affairs unit, headed by Clive Booth, who now works alongside new public affairs manager Josie Spiller. Lewis has also expanded its photography team, as well as building on its internet services offering. 'Clients are looking to their PR partner to do more for them so they can rationalise,' says business development director Morgan McLintic, of the agency's strategy to sell more services to clients.

The strategy appears to be paying off. European software giant SAP, which Lewis picked up at the start of 2001, has since widened its brief to include PA work in a bid to promote the firm's products to local authorities.

The value of these services has increased threefold to 15 per cent of revenue and the firm expects them to grow further. The consumer tech side has also grown significantly and now represents 15 per cent of revenues.

Lewis continues to work for WorldCom, which it picked up at the end of last year when the now-embattled telecoms operator was the seventh largest company in the world. Other wins have included Parity Group, software company Cognos, Computer Associates and a pan-European brief from TDK Systems, promoting its wireless tech products. Losses at the agency include Psion, which retreated from the handheld market last year, and CRM vendor Onyx Software and Mobility Electronics.

International expansion has also continued for the firm, with its new Sydney office, opened in 2001, recently landing the Lucent account and an office opening in Stockholm. The agency plans to open up in Spain and Italy, probably in the fourth quarter of this year.

6 CITIGATE TECHNOLOGY - POUNDS 4,936,417

Incepta Group's tech outfit comes in at sixth place in the rankings, with fee income growth of 12 per cent to just below £5m.

The agency says that as a predominantly B2B operation focused on software, IT services and enterprise solutions clients, it wasn't as exposed as some to the contractions in the digital economy.

However, the tech bomb didn't stop with the dotcoms and even 'backbone' companies have suffered. All this made the last quarter of 2001 particularly challenging as the company adjusted to the real new economy.

One area that has proved fruitful in the past 18 months has been financial sector clients, with wins from Cambista, DST International and Concise joining the roster.

Managing director David Josephs says specialist software and technical offerings for this market require solid financial market understanding. 'It's a difficult kind of PR for traditional tech firms,' he says.

Key wins include Dimension Data, for both the UK and Europe; Navision, a global account; and Sun, a global corporate PR brief. These accounts reflect the growing consolidation being required by clients, says Josephs, who adds that more than half of all of Citigate Technology's enquiries now include work outside the UK.

The agency says it offers a 'third way' for such clients, by treading a path between individual agencies in each territory and a single global offering.

In Italy, for example, the Citigate agency does carry the main brand but also retains the Gunpowder moniker that it traded under prior to purchase in August 2001. The claim is that the Incepta firm can provide a quality service without being tied to a fixed global network by linking up with both sister firms and 'best of breed' agencies in other territories.

Other new business wins include Cambridge-based analysis software firm i2 in June, and the launch of Technology Sales Leads and Consorte, a Norwegian network specialist, in November.

The agency made one member of staff redundant but generally staff numbers have remained constant. Not all leavers were replaced but the company has maintained its graduate recruitment programme, and is planning to bring in two newcomers in the autumn.

7 BRODEUR WORLDWIDE - POUNDS 4,583,964

Brodeur hit back at market conditions this year by bringing in marketing expert Simon Ward as managing director.

The arrival of the former Metis Marketing boss comes at a time when three new practices have made a significant contribution and helped the agency weather the tech storm.

An analyst relations service, a speaker bureau and a marketing division all helped propel the agency to a seven per cent growth in fee income in 2001. The three practices, which were all set up around the start of last year, now account for between 20-25 per cent of all business.

The ambition, according to chairman Mike Copland, is that the B2B-focused agency should not only to be able to offer a wider range of services but also that it should get more involved at a strategic level.

Despite these investments, Brodeur has lost around 40 per cent of its staff, due to job cuts and natural wastage. The agency was hit by the downturn early in 2001 and made two rounds of redundancies, cutting support services, much of the interactive team, as well as six PR staff last year.

Better news came when IBM decided to consolidate its PR requirements into global networks, as Brodeur was part of a successful consortium of sister Omnicom agencies in August that took part of the business. Together with Ketchum and Fleishman-Hillard, it formed a dedicated shop - One Blue - and landed the customer contract.

The UK operation has also benefited from the purchase of Boston-headquartered US tech agency FitzGerald in April 2002. The network has also acquired Swiss tech, healthcare and financial agency c-matrix.

Other gains include building its relationship with Cable & Wireless to encompass 12 countries, analyst work for mobile tech specialist Spatial Wireless, as well as the pan-European Concord comms account. It also retains the WorldCom internal comms business.

8 AXICOM - POUNDS 4,229,234

In an increasingly global industry, AxiCom is remaining resolutely pan-European. MD Julian Tanner is convinced that being dedicated to one continent is the way forward for the firm.

In recent pitches he says clients have specifically shirked the global agency model. 'The UK is too small, global is too big and Europe is the right size,' is how he describes such briefs.

In keeping with this philosophy, the agency has closed its small US office and opened in Spain. Having a European network still lets it benefit from client desire for the benefits of scale, it argues, pointing to its recent Cosine win, replacing a network of agencies.

The downside of this approach was illustrated when AxiCom was dropped from IBM's roster without a repitch, after IBM decided it wanted a global agency roster. It stopped working on the brief in autumn last year.

One area of improvement for the agency has been mobile wireless infrastructure with accounts from firms such as 3G Lab, Megisto, Sigma and Commtag. It has also won the UK Government's e-Skills initiative, driving the IT and e-commerce message to both business and consumers.

Although AxiCom has grown its fee income by 11 per cent to £4.2m, the firm remains keen to reduce its dependence on US-based clients. Work from clients such as Commtag and Aspective have helped it reduce the proportion of US business down from 80 per cent to half.

AxiCom says it downsized through natural wastage but has made one key appointment with the arrival of Lyle Cross. The former Ogilvy UK managing director has been charged with overseeing human resources, staff training and operational matters.

13 TEXT 100 - POUNDS 2,812,548

Winning the global IBM product account in August last year was a major event for Text 100. It was an impressive win and one that the agency claims was 'a defining moment' in terms of its global reputation.

The win has dominated 2001 and beyond as pitching started in May 2001, with the first work on the account beginning in October. The agency did pick up other accounts before May, including TeleCity and Directski.com but tempting the Big Blue to the agency restricted activity on the new business front for much of the rest of the year.

However, the good news also saw the departure of a number of clients. At the same time as it was bedding in IBM, the agency also had to resign a number of accounts including BEA and Sun because of client conflict.

There was a silver lining, however, as Sun moved to sister OneMonday agency Bite Communications.

For the year as a whole, Text 100 showed a nine per cent decline in revenues, down from £3.1m to £2.8m, as it lost a raft of business from clients that had to cut costs.

It has also retreated from the consumer market after six years. It decided that the moment was not right to invest the time and money required in that market, according to Text 100 International managing director EMEA Andy West.

The decision led to the departure of associate director and consumer tech specialist Simi Belo. West's predecessor Carlo Crighton also left in 2001 and there were eight voluntary redundancies earlier this year.

15 JOHNSON KING - POUNDS 2,305,229

The tech market was good to Johnson King in 2001. The B2B specialist saw fee income climb 22 per cent to £2.3m.

Any good fortune, however, was dented at the end of the year when two US companies - Terayon Communications and Quantum Bridge - decided to withdraw from the European marketing arena. As a result, two members of staff were made redundant at the start of this year.

Opportunities were created when the agency expanded its European presence, adding a Paris office to its network at the start of 2001 and growing the remit of its Munich office to cover Austria and Switzerland. The German office was also rebranded as Johnson King Central Europe. International wins included Mirapoint and Storm Telecommunications.

While it is possible to use affiliates or partners to cover the continent, Johnson King argues that there is no substitute for having owned offices.

'Clients prefer that it's one company because the quality of service is consistent,' says managing director Mike King.

The move is likely to help the agency continue its drive to broaden the geographical locale of its client base. In 2000, 60 per cent of clients came from across the Atlantic, last year it was just 40 per cent.

Johnson King says it never got caught up in the dotcom boom, adding that its stability was dependent on the fact that even its biggest clients don't dominate the roster. 'None of our clients would be bigger than eight per cent of turnover,' says King.

The agency added a speaker department with the hiring of conference specialist Clare Pickersgill. Other key appointments include the promotion of Emma McDevitt to account director.

New accounts in 2001, included BakBone Software in central Europe, Greenwoods Communications in the UK and Vanco in France. Foundry Networks and i2, however, were losses.

32 MIDNIGHT COMMUNICATIONS - POUNDS 1,357,607

Midnight Communications is proud of its claim that it hasn't laid anyone off despite the hit that its balance sheet took in 2001. Fee income slumped by 16 per cent to £1.3m as the Brighton-headquartered firm's reliance on the tech market and, in particular, the dotcom sector took its toll.

Despite three clients taking their PR in-house and six others going bust, CEO Caraline Brown says the agency survived by taking pay cuts and doing project work. It also helped that it never made any PR-for-equity deals.

The key event of the year was the decision to sell the agency to AIM-listed marketing services firm BV Group in August for £3.5m. Midnight then merged with rival tech agency Flapjack Communications in November to create a 52-strong consumer-tech firm.

Flapjack had also struggled with the new climate, downsizing from 28 to 13 staff in 2001. Midnight's three-strong London office relocated to the Flapjack site, giving the combined operation total billings of just over £2m (figures supplied to PRWeek only include one month of Flapjack's fee income). Former Flapjack MD Jacki Vause, who was initially charged with heading the merged London office, has recently left the company.

Even before the merger, Midnight says it was attempting to spread its mix away from the digital economy and focus on a range of different areas including telecoms, education, professional services and lifestyle, in addition to its digital and tech clients. Ninety per cent of its revenue in 2001 remains tech-focused but exposure to the digital economy is much reduced.

Account wins in 2001 included Penton Technology Media's events and online encyclopaedia iFinger, with educational software company Imparo, Internet World Show and IT trainer Learning Tree International joining in 2002.

Perhaps the most positive sign that the agency is making progress in its bid to wean itself off its tech dependency is work for the Notting Hill Carnival, ABN Amro's Venture Finance, Brighton& Hove Council's 2008 European City of Culture campaign and Brighton University.

43 BRANDS2LIFE - POUNDS 917,812

The middle of a tech meltdown may not be the best time to set up a specialist agency. But a digital economy focus - 'any company that's tech driven' - doesn't appear to be holding back Top 50 new entrant Brands2Life.

Founded in April 2000 by Sarah Scales and Giles Fraser, the agency enters the league table for the first time having pulled in fees of £917,812.

Key wins included BroadVision, software firm Commerce One and XPO Network.

It also picked up the campaign to support T-Motion's (since renamed T-Mobile) UK roll-out of WAP services. It also survived a pitch against fellow incumbent Firefly when Baltimore Technologies consolidated its UK roster.

Scales says the agency has benefited from the fact that clients are no longer considering only the biggest shops. 'Small agencies are now being seen on a par with the bigger agencies,' she says. 'I think a lot of people have been burnt. Having some integrity and saying what you're going to achieve and then achieving it (is the way to overcome this).'

The agency's 16 staff have a mix of corporate, B2B, consumer as well as tech experience. Senior staff appointments in the past 18 months include associate director Eileen Gallagher, who previously worked at Harvard, and account director Emma Flack, formerly at Profile PR.

It has launched an online service- www.marketingdesktop.com - listing tech speaking opportunities, and has invested in a 'thought leadership' service and created a central analyst bureau to help target this part of the market.

2002 has seen the arrival of new account wins in the shape of Kalido, a software integration specialist spun out of Royal Dutch/Shell, and Clearswift, a security specialist. Consumer tech briefs now account for around 25 per cent of the agency's business.

46 ITPR GROUP - POUNDS 864,484

Surrey-based ITPR Group is about to embark on an American adventure. Campaign management specialist Protagona Worldwide, which first appointed the agency in 2001, has just extended its brief to give it oversight into the US market.

The company has worked for US clients and with US PR agencies in the past but this marks a new departure for the B2B specialist. 'This is a new development in that we're managing the overall PR strategy for the company and then having the US agency work on our behalf,' says partner Bob Dearsley.

The agency was founded in 1990 by Dearsley, a former MD at European IT supplier Asystel and was originally based in Wimbledon. In 1999 Ashley Carr joined as a partner and the operation moved to Chertsey.

ITPR is also now recruiting staff, a sign that its niche of promoting the activities of smaller firms is proving attractive in a market often packed with start-ups looking for a spot in the limelight.

Last year the agency grew its fee income by 16 per cent from £744,839 to £864,484. New wins in 2001 included Eclipse Computing, a financial systems specialist. In the first six months of 2002, it has added further business including mobile company Opera Telecom. However, two internet pure-play clients, Zygon - a retail specialist - and 5GM manufacturing software vendor Made2Manage, plus inventory software firm Indus International, have dropped off the client list.

Dearsley says ITPR's growth is attributable to the fact that it has actively hunted for business in its specialist areas of software vendors, systems integrators and the reseller market. 'In our market there's always new business coming forward,' he says. 'Technology is not a dirty word. There's still a huge amount of technology that needs PR and marketing support.'

Nevertheless, he says the situation has not improved noticeably in 2002, describing market conditions as 'an extension of 2001'.

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