Top 50 Tech Consultancies 2005: Tech challenge

While current figures point to a stable environment, the tech PR industry is always evolving. Stephanie Siegle looks at how agencies are changing with the times.

When tech specialists such as Firefly Communications and Spark Communications fail to appear in the PRWeek Top 50 Tech Consultancies, and when August.One Communications' traditionally strong tech billings slide by 16 per cent, you would be forgiven for thinking the sector is spiralling away from the bright outlook many predicted.

Thankfully, this is not the case. More than half of this year's entries reported a rise in fee income, and 80 per cent of the top ten agencies registered positive growth.

The top two, Lewis Communications and Write Image, recorded tech fee income growth of 13 per cent. In the second half of the table, Hoffman Europe and Spreckley Partners show a tech fee income rise of more than 50 per cent. Agencies, such as Noiseworks, that have not entered the tables for a couple of years, have reappeared, while many tech specialists do not feature as they were busy with pitches around the entry deadline.

A significant number didn't enter because of Sarbanes-Oxley.

But what has happened is that tech agencies are adapting to the challenges they face. August.One's drop, for example, is down to the consultancy's decision to move its Microsoft business and merge it with sister agency Inferno. Meanwhile, Tony Martin, joint MD at mid-table-positioned Portfolio Group, which recorded a 16 per cent tech fee income drop, says a weak US dollar meant it was hit hard by its American clients.

'We've been the victim of mergers and acquisitions,' adds Martin. 'Where clients have made acquisitions, they tend to stay with the larger agency; sometimes that's been us, sometimes it hasn't.'

Major consolidations in 2004 included Oracle and Peoplesoft, and it hasn't stopped there, says Firefly MD Mark Mellor. 'There is still lots of consolidation in the software applications market. This has affected and will continue to affect tech PR business,' he adds.

Furthermore, campaign methodology is also changing. When Firefly won the Casio account in 2004, it set about positioning the product more as a lifestyle brand, targeting the women's press, tabloids and lads' mags.

'It is about focusing on how a product can fit into a lifestyle rather than just explaining how the product works technically,' adds Mellor.

Fleishman-Hillard tech division director, UK and Europe, Annalise Coady agrees. Tech clients are looking for public affairs support and interactive elements to a campaign in addition to traditional media relations, so much so that F-H opened an interactive practice this year.

It is this widening that Weber Shandwick's Tech division has also seen, according to MD Michelle McGlocklin. Sarbanes-Oxley prevents it being listed, but it last year posted a 19 per cent rise in fee income with new wins from Toshiba, Electronic Arts and Plantronics. 'A move into consumer PR has fuelled this rise,' she says. 'Even companies with "heavy-tech" products - such as hard-disk drives - are moving into consumer storage-type stories.'

Corporate know-how is an area ninth-placed Text 100 International is becoming increasingly familiar with. While achieving a modest three per cent rise in tech fee income in 2004, re-evaluating its services will be crucial, as it looks to boost fee income.

'Our focus is still on the tech sector, but there's more emphasis on working with the senior executives and introducing elements such as branding awareness workshops,' says UK and Ireland MD Nick Giles. He joined Text in 2004 from Manning Selvage & Lee, where he was head of UK corporate and B2B practice. 'My appointment won't be the last senior one,' he adds.

While challenges remain, the figures and the consensus among agencies point to a stable environment. Security, voice-over-IP, e-learning and compliance are areas of huge opportunity. But the critical element for the tech sector will be how it handles the market and from where it recruits the people it needs.

TOP 50 TECH CONSULTANCIES 2005

With the exception of a few high-profile absentees and fallers, this

year's Top 50 tech table displays a stability of growth in an

ever-changing industry

TOP 50 1-25

Rank Company Technology PR fee Change

income (pounds)

04 03 %

1 Lewis Communications 6,260,305 5,534,339 13.1

2 Write Image 4,186,758 3,680,775 13.8

3 Citigate*1 3,095,194 2,957,258 5

4 Bite Communications* 2,994,319 3,054,924 -2

5 Nelson Bostock Communications* 2,907,161 2,364,193 23

6 Brands2Life 2,117,860 1,946,965 9

7 Hotwire* 2,097,109 1,603,624 31

8 Axicom* 2,011,326 1,994,836 0.8

9 Text 100 International* 1,963,689 1,896,042 3.6

10 August.One Communications* 1,962,707 2,347,774 -16.4

11 The Red Consultancy* 1,929,009 1,622,546 18.9

12 Edelman* 1,692,000 1,268,000 33.4

13 AD Communications* 1,682,391 1,588,231 5.9

14 The Whiteoaks Consultancy 1,527,006 1,288,763 18.5

15 Noiseworks 1,483,611 - -

16 Rainier PR 1,347,931 1,208,914 11.5

17 Johnson King* 1,324,220 1,320,391 0.3

18 The ITPR Group 1,294,546 1,284,842 0.8

19 Berkeley PR International 1,170,091 926,700 26.3

20 Six Degrees*2 1,076,911 - -

21 Companycare Communications 1,040,650 1,052,509 -1.1

22 Portfolio Group* 1,024,048 1,232,329 -16.9

23 Kaizo* 938,204 1,244,829 -24.6

24 Cohesive Communications 916,312 769,611 19.1

25 Pinnacle Marketing Communications 898,765 805,358 11.6

26 Strategic Alliance International 842,263 755,555 11.5

27 Octopus 823,000 - -

28 Fox Parrack Hirsch 822,290 1,050,000 -21.7

29 Ecco Public Relations 745,574 - -

30 Houston Associates* 733,064 513,855 42.7

31 Chameleon PR* 674,788 468,473 44

32 Spreckley Partners 674,533 444,729 51.7

33 Hoffman Europe 555,000 388,000 63

34 Midnight Communications 545,260 - -

35 Mulberry 463,637 245,251 89

36 Neesham Public Relations 417,399 342,669 21.8

37 Ruder Finn UK 390,164 322,814 20.9

38 Republic PR 230,734 178,825 29

39 Grayling 205,000 - -

40 COW PR 140,654 - -

41 Peppercom 139,770 - -

42 BCLO Public Relations 123,300 - -

43 Agility PR 91,525 - -

44 ICAS PR* 85,000 309,000 -72.5

45 Lawton PR 43,750 - -

46 Splash Communications 43,000 - -

47 The BIG Partnership 30,000 - -

48 Armadillo PR 24,930 - -

49 Edwards Harvey 12,088 - -

50 Wyatt International 12,025 - -

Rank Company Total PR Staff % of Location

fee income fee

(pounds) income

1 Lewis Communications 6,260,305 131 100 London

2 Write Image 5,509,182 126 76 London

3 Citigate*1 20,634,621 225 15 London

4 Bite Communications* 4,191,202 61 71.4 London

5 Nelson Bostock

Communications* 4,102,489 53 70.9 London

6 Brands2Life 2,267,357 35 93.41 London

7 Hotwire* 2,097,109 31 100 London

8 Axicom* 2,011,326 20 100 London

9 Text 100 International* 1,963,689 41 100 London

10 August.One Communications* 3,925,415 49 50 London

11 The Red Consultancy* 8,654,815 114 22.2 London

12 Edelman* 13,493,906 167 12.5 London

13 AD Communications* 1,682,391 16 100 Surrey

14 The Whiteoaks Consultancy 1,607,375 26 95 Surrey

15 Noiseworks 1,483,611 21 100 Berks

16 Rainier PR 1,347,931 14 100 London

17 Johnson King* 1,324,220 21 100 London

18 The ITPR Group 1,294,546 20 100 Surrey

19 Berkeley PR International 1,376,578 30 85 Berkshire

20 Six Degrees*2 1,076,911 15 100 Bucks

21 Companycare Communications 1,444,892 25 72 Reading

22 Portfolio Group* 4,461,781 58 23 London

23 Kaizo* 3,427,700 50 27.4 London

24 Cohesive Communications 916,312 14 100 Chepstow

25 Pinnacle Marketing

Communications 898,765 11 100 Pinner

26 Strategic Alliance

International 842,263 13 100 Bucks

27 Octopus 823,000 15 100 Berks

28 Fox Parrack Hirsch 822,290 9 100 London

29 Ecco Public Relations 1,655,002 26 45.5 London

30 Houston Associates* 765,446 15 95.8 London

31 Chameleon PR* 674,788 12 100 London

32 Spreckley Partners 1,322,615 19 51 London

33 Hoffman Europe 555,000 7 100 Surrey

34 Midnight Communications 1,212,280 22 45 Brighton

35 Mulberry 927275 9 50 London

36 Neesham Public Relations 417,399 9 100 Berkhamst'd

37 Ruder Finn UK 3,716,712 50 10.5 London

38 Republic PR 1,376,118 24 16.8 London

39 Grayling 6,854,700 84 2.99 London

40 COW PR 1,127,555 16 12.5 London

41 Peppercom 465,899 9 30 London

42 BCLO Public Relations 967,800 17 12.7 Bristol

43 Agility PR 91,525 3 100 Hertford-

shire

44 ICAS PR* 2,055,674 28 4.1 London

45 Lawton PR 583,000 15 7.5 S'hampton

46 Splash Communications 1,070,000 15 4.4 Bath

47 The BIG Partnership 3,324,715 66 0.9 Glasgow

48 Armadillo PR 498,597 19 5 Birmingham

49 Edwards Harvey 517,980 16 2.3 Kent

50 Wyatt International 995,968 10 1.2 Birmingham

All figures relate to year ended December 2004. Fee income equals PR

fees plus mark-up. *Denotes PRCA member. 1 Includes Citigate Dewe

Rogerson, Citigate Communications, Citigate Smarts, Citigate Northern

Ireland, Citigate Financial Intelligence. 2 Six Degrees, formerly listed

as Roger Staton Associates, merged with Marbles in May 2004. *Denotes

PRCA member.

WHO IS UP?

Lewis Communications leads the way, more than £2m clear of nearest

challenger Write Image

In the top 20, Hotwire, Edelman and Berkeley gained the most by fee

growth percentage

Six Degrees leaps into the top 20 after its first year of trading

WHO IS DOWN?

Kaizo and Fox Parrack Hirsch experienced falls of more than 20 per cent

in fee income

ICAS PR suffered most in percentage terms, down 72.5 per cent on last

year's income

August.One's drop of £385,000 represents the largest fall by

volume

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