Top 50 Consumer Consultancies 2008: Behind the brands

Joe Lepper meets some of the success stories of 2007 and asks them what the future holds.

Ed Staples
Ed Staples

THE BIG PARTNERSHIP
Rank 19 - Consumer fee income £1,870,374 - Growth 26%

Now the largest PR agency in Scotland, with consumer fee income approaching £2m, The BIG Partnership had an impressive year, increasing total fees by 22 per cent.

Top 50 Consumer Consultancies 2008
See a table of the top 50 consumer consultancies 2008

'After a tough 2006, we concentrated on targeting more profitable work and overhauled the way we manage the business,' says agency co-founder and director, Alex Barr.

The major catalyst behind this change was the departure of Graham Isdale, with whom Barr and Neil Gibson set up the firm in 2000. Having bought their former colleague out, the duo invested in a hard-nosed financial controller, revised administrative systems and handed more autonomy to individual account handlers.

'Account directors now have responsibilities in terms of recruitment, managing income and costs and we have instigated a series of team leader meetings so that people can raise issues and have greater awareness of what is happening across the business as a whole,' says Barr.

Alex BarrThis has helped cross-fertilization between the firm's offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Kirkcaldy.

The firm won a significant number of new clients last year, including Clydesdale Bank and its trading arm Yorkshire Bank, plus Scottish Water company Business Stream.

Further new business came from existing clients, including international premium spirits firm The Edrington Group, which handed BIG The Famous Grouse whisky account on a UK-wide remit.

At a local level, the agency beat off competition to land a Clean Glasgow campaign, aimed at reinforcing the city council's zero tolerance litter regime.

Barr says: 'I'm as proud of that work as any we've done since starting the business.'

A buoyant local economy boosted business for the firm's Aberdeen office, headed by Zoe Corsi. This included projects for Transport Scotland, while last month, the office won a brief from US tycoon Donald Trump.

According to Barr, the first three months of 2008 have been the busiest to date, with the agency picking up clients including Scottish airline Loganair.

AT A GLANCE
Three best campaigns of 2007 Vote Scotland for the Scottish Executive and the Electoral Commission; Clydesdale Bank - raising awareness of its corporate finance offering; Clean Glasgow for Glasgow City Council.

Significant hires of 2007 Former head of PR for KPMG in Scotland Allan Barr as account director.

Predicted fee income for 2008 In excess of £7.5m.

Plans for next 12 months To focus on key sectors including energy, property and the public sector and develop the young talent at various levels of the business.

 

PUBLICASITY
Rank 23 - Consumer fee income £1,691,000 - Growth 41%

After completing a partial management buyout of ICAS late in 2006, board directors Zoe Ward-Waring and Emma Wright were keen to take the agency to the next level.

Under the new name Publicasity, activity during 2007 far exceeded expectations.

Consumer fee income increased by 41 per cent and around a dozen new clients, such as McVitie's cakes and Danone, were added to its portfolio.

Zoe Ward-WaringThis improvement has helped the agency leap from 33rd in 2006's PRWeek's Top 50 Consumer Consultancies to 23rd this year.

'We knew we could take the agency further,' says deputy managing director Ward-Waring, who works alongside managing director Wright and executive chairman Carl Courtney.

'Gaining new clients was very much part of that. During 2007 just under half our consumer fee income was from new business,' she adds.

During 2008, Publicasity plans further inroads into sectors such as lifestyle and FMCG goods. Already this year the agency has taken on two new premium goods clients, although Ward-Waring declines to name them after signing six-month non-disclosure agreements with both.

Already in 2008 Ward-Waring says she has detected 'a degree of caution in spending by clients'.

'However, we have found it has really picked up going into the second quarter of 2008 and there has been a sense of greater confidence in the economic outlook.'

Digital communications is also a focus of 2008. The agency set up its digital arm, Digicasity, in 2007, which is headed by Bournemouth University PR and corporate affairs professor David Phillips.

Further hires are likely in 2008, with plans for around seven new staff, including graduate interns in both its Hertfordshire and Covent Garden offices.

'Getting the new office in London up and running is something that is very much on our minds at the moment. Ensuring that runs smoothly will really make 2008 something special for us,' adds Ward-Waring.

AT A GLANCE
Three best campaigns of 2007 Launching Kia Motors' Picanto using PR stunts, digital communications and media relations; promoting the National Boat Show, a campaign that helped raise £750,000 for London Air Ambulance to keep it running through the night.

Most senior hires of 2007 Former Bite director Bruce Dodworth as head of insight and planning; University of Bournemouth lecturer David Philips as head of digital.

Predicted fee income for 2008 £2m

Plans for the next 12 months Moving to a new larger office in Covent Garden and to continue new business wins, particularly in the FMCG and lifestyle sectors.

 

THE RED CONSULTANCY
Rank 1 - Consumer fee income £6,266,564 - Growth 4%

Among Red Consultancy consumer head Ed Staples' favourite campaigns of 2007 was the agency's organising of a computer games festival at Trafalgar Square for client EA Sports.

Called 'Be the One', Staples describes the campaign as 'an original and ambitious piece of promotional work, ensuring that a major event could be staged at this landmark'.

|Ed StaplesSuch campaigning for Red's best-known clients, also including B&Q and McDonald's, helped the agency increase consumer fee income by four per cent and jump from third to first place in this year's PRWeek Top 50 Consumer Consultancies.

Other significant client activity during the year for Staples included a campaign for McDonald's to encourage mums to become football coaches.

Called 'Mums on the Ball', Red drafted in mums of several well known footballers, including Rio Ferdinand and Theo Walcott, to spearhead the campaign.

Red also successfully re-pitched for energy firm E.ON's consumer account and won Nintendo's UK consumer PR account, ending the gaming outfit's nine-year relationship with rival agency Cake.

Looking ahead into 2008, Staples is aiming to boost the consumer team's broadcast expertise, particularly in television.

Already this year, it has brought in Neil Henderson as head of broadcast from The Wriglesworth Consultancy where he held the same role.

'Traditionally, consumer PR has been very print-focused with TV treated as an add on. That is now changing,' says Staples.

A key reason for this emphasis is a drop-off in traditional TV advertising budgets, as clients increasingly want to a wider range of marketing and communications techniques.

Red has started 2008 well, winning Heinz's sauces portfolio, including Heinz Tomato and HP Sauce brands. Other plans for 2008 include gaining a well-known automotive brand as a client.

Staples says: 'Getting a car brand has been a long-held desire for us. If we can achieve that in 2008 it will have been a very good year for us.'

AT A GLANCE
Three best campaigns of 2007 A campaign for client of 11 years, B&Q, repositioning it as a home improvement retailer rather than simply a DIY store; a campaign for McDonald's, surrounding its plans to turn chip fat into biofuel; EA Sports 'Be The One'

Most significant hire of 2007 Matt Buchanan was appointed as head of consumer brands from Lexis late in 2007 and joined in April this year.

Predicted fee income for 2008 £6.9m.

Plans for the next 12 months A greater use of integrated campaigning for clients, combining digital, blogging and broadcast activity. Winning an automotive client.

 

SHINE COMMUNICATIONS
Rank 9 - Consumer fee income £3,122,459 - Growth 12%

After treating its workforce to a trip to Morocco it is not hard to see why Shine's staff retention rate in 2007 was around 82 per cent.

The event was held to commemorate the agency's tenth anniversary and with a number of successes during 2007, the staff had much to celebrate.

Fee income increased 12 per cent, revenue was up 15 per cent and the agency moved into larger offices in London, all helping the agency leap from 11th to ninth in this year's PRWeek's Top 50 Consumer Consultancies list.

Rachel BellAmong Shine chairman and co-founder Rachel Bell's best campaigns of the year were a social networking campaign for Evian around London Fashion Week and promotion of DreamWorks' Shrek 3.

Other activity included promotion of EA Sport's Fifa 08 involving the band The Hoosiers, the Vodafone Live Music Awards and a campaign for new client eBay, involving the auctioning of a white Christmas.

Other new clients for 2007 included Bacardi, with work including promoting the drinks brand's sponsorship of the V, Isle of Wight and T in the Park festivals.

After carrying out work for Vodafone's live music activity in 2006 the agency consolidated its relationship with the mobile phone giant in 2007, taking on all consumer PR activity, including its UEFA Champions League sponsorship.

Bell is upbeat about 2008 and quick to scoff at talk of a recession in consumer PR. If anything, she says, budgets have increased as clients try to integrate digital marketing and traditional PR.

'Creating digital content is something clients increasingly look for agencies to provide and that is having a positive effect on budgets,' she says.

Even if the gloomiest of economic predictions do come true, consumer PR agencies such as Shine could benefit, adds Bell.

'Shine launched at the start of the last recession and fared well as traditional above the line spend moved below the line on a wave of belief that PR delivers. We are well placed if something similar were to happen.'

AT A GLANCE
Three best campaigns of 2007 The Drambuie Pursuit extreme sports race across Scotland, the Body Renewal campaign for Evian and launch of EA Sports' Fifa '08.

Most significant hires of 2007 Two new account directors: Emily Ewart Perks from Resonate and Claire Sparks from Slam.

Predicted fee income for 2008 £3.8m.

Plans for the next 12 months To further develop digital marketing and online content work; add more drinks clients; launch the agency's online guide to consumer trends, called 'Embrace the Chaos' and written by former editor of The Face Richard Benson.

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