TOP EUROPEAN AGENCIES 1998: FRANCE - With an end to recession the French market has seen healthy growth in consumer PR Photograph (Omitted)

The past year has seen the French economy finally emerge from a long, drawn out recession. This upturn in the country’s economic fortunes - worth a 3.2 per cent year increase in GDP over 1997 and driven partly by a vigorous recovery in household consumption - has by all accounts affected the PR industry, which is more buoyant now than it has been in a long time. ’The main change over the past year is a return to economic growth,’ says Jean-Pierre Beaudoin, director of leading independent agency Information et Entreprise, which has this year won clients including computer disk and tape manufacturer Iomega and mobile phone firm Motorola.

The past year has seen the French economy finally emerge from a

long, drawn out recession. This upturn in the country’s economic

fortunes - worth a 3.2 per cent year increase in GDP over 1997 and

driven partly by a vigorous recovery in household consumption - has by

all accounts affected the PR industry, which is more buoyant now than it

has been in a long time. ’The main change over the past year is a return

to economic growth,’ says Jean-Pierre Beaudoin, director of leading

independent agency Information et Entreprise, which has this year won

clients including computer disk and tape manufacturer Iomega and mobile

phone firm Motorola.



This increase in activity has manifested itself in most sectors,

although some are thriving more than others. Consumer PR is more than

ever a stalwart of the French PR industry. A survey conducted by the

French PR association, Syntec, among over 200 in-house communications

directors at the end of last year shows that, of the 55 per cent of

companies across France which employ outside agencies, 80 per cent do so

for product PR.



However consumer PR in France has become more multi-faceted than it was

even a year ago, particularly in relation to healthcare issues. While

American-style healthcare PR remains relatively undeveloped in France -

largely because of the structure of the country’s healthcare system

itself - the health benefits of different products and services are

increasingly highlighted by agencies as part of consumer campaigns aimed

at an increasingly health-literate public.



Claude Tourault, director of Beaufixe, uses one of his clients, tinned

food manufacturer Saupiquet, as an example: ’The health component of

food products is increasingly important. For the relaunch of Saupiquet,

we had to talk to journalists about the health benefits of eating fish,’

he says.



Brigitte Broca, PR and events manager at DDB Hintzy Heymann echoes this,

seeing as its root cause food scares like BSE which have heightened

public awareness of a product’s impact on health, but also on the

environment.



The sector which has most benefited from the end of the recession is

undoubtedly the hi-tech and information technology industry - more than

ever a favourite among a nation hungry for the latest in computers and

telephones. Whereas even a year ago hi-tech PR was largely limited to

trade and technical communications, demand for these products has led to

wider consumer-based campaigns. In the last six months, companies

including France Telecom, software company Adobe, internet provider

UUNet, computer network company Digi International and scanner

manufacturer Storm Technology have appointed agencies in France.



Last May, no doubt realising the goldmine potential for IT in France,

specialist agency AxiCom set up a Paris office to service its European

client portfolio, which includes computerised special effects company

Microsoft Softimage, network group Citrix systems and electronics

company Cirrus Logic.



A further sign of this rush to capitalise on France’s technology PR

potential is the fact that several full service agencies established in

France are known to be actively seeking to acquire any remaining

independent specialist IT or hi-tech agencies. Sophie Renard, director

of specialist agency SRRP which has won accounts this year including

Adobe, and UUNet, admits: ’The big British and American groups are

looking to acquire hi-tech agencies but there are relatively few which

are available: either they are already part of worldwide networks or

they are doing so well that they don’t want to be bought up.’



The potential for acquisitions or mergers in the French PR market is not

limited to the hi-tech and IT sectors. Last April, corporate

communications agency DDB & Co, part of the DDB Communication Group,

merged with Hintzy Heymann and Associes and in the same month, Porter

Novelli International bought a majority share in Paris-based Parmenide

Group, thereby establishing its first office in France. Two months

previously, luxury goods specialist FB Conseil was bought up by PR

International, a mainly healthcare-based agency wanting to diversify

into the consumer market.



By contrast, lobbying and public affairs remain under-developed in

France compared to the plethora of specialist agencies which flourish in

London, Washington DC and Brussels. There are signs that this may be

slowly changing, though. French agencies are increasingly tagging an

element of national, but also local and regional, parliamentary lobbying

on to wider corporate communications programmes.



The political swing in government from right to left, which came with

the legislative elections last summer, has made relatively little impact

on the PR scene. While some PR professionals point to the plainer, less

glitzy image of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and his Socialist cabinet,

compared to their right-wing predecessors, the number of government

communications tenders seems to have remained constant.



Broca, whose agency DDB Hintzy Heymann was this year selected by the

economy and finance ministry to promote the European single currency,

says: ’The Socialist Government needs to explain things like the single

currency to the public just as much as its predecessors did.’



In the past few months, the culture ministry has appointed Grayling to

promote France’s historic monuments, the economy and finance ministry

has sought an agency to promote state investment bonds and the transport

and housing ministry issued a tender for counsel on all its PR

campaigns.



One effect of the Socialist victory is that the new government has

succeeded in slowing down the previous administration’s rush to

privatise state companies like Air France, La Poste and France Telecom.

However, several of these remain sufficiently PR-aware to have appointed

outside agencies - Euro RSCG won a four-way pitch for France Telecom

last March.



Despite relative buoyancy, the picture is not all rosy for French

PR.



The long-running Gallic love affair with advertising continues to

dominate PR to a degree. Beaudoin admits: ’The reflex for most companies

remains to communicate through advertising. France lags behind in this

respect.’



The Syntec survey showed that a stunning 63 per cent of companies based

outside Paris do not use PR agencies at all, compared with 37 per cent

of Parisian companies. And in contrast to the booming consumer PR

sector, the survey showed a mere 55 per cent of companies which use

outside agencies having recourse to financial PR and only 50 per cent to

crisis PR.



Nonetheless, both these sectors may be about to undergo a gradual, but

definite growth. Explaining the potential for financial PR in France,

Alasdair Sutherland, chairman of Manning Selvage and Lee, which set up a

Paris operation just over a year ago and handles clients including

Western Union, the Government of Sri Lanka and UK agency Historic Royal

Palaces, says: ’The lemming-like rush for mergers and acquisitions which

we’ve seen in the UK is definitely happening here as well.’



As for crisis PR, Broca says: ’More and more companies are frightened at

the idea of unforeseen problems which might arise, especially having

seen the effects of the mad cow disease crisis.’



Financial PR and crisis management, along with lobbying, remain sectors

which, if the economy continues on its upward cycle, may follow the

trail blazed by hi-tech and consumer PR in France.



EURO CONSULTANCIES - FRANCE

Rank Company                              Fee income (pounds)

97                                         97             96

1    Euro RSCG Int Comms               28,068,000     24,697,000

2    Information et Entreprise*         5,761,562      4,485,000

3    GCI Moreau Lascombe*               2,460,000      2,388,000

4    Edelman                            2,000,000      1,000,000

5    DDB Hintzy Heymann*                1,991,670      1,291,250

6    Beaufixe                           1,502,335      1,352,732

7    Hill and Knowlton*                 1,172,000      1,384,000

8    Herald Communication               1,010,454        878,656

9    SRRP*                                960,000        855,000

10   Shandwick France*                    872,000        948,000

11   Nicole Schilling Comm*               791,405        707,661

12   Wellcom                              670,000        862,300

13   Ketchum PR*                          667,200        862,300

14   AKKA                                 650,000        500,000

15   ADOCOM                               649,662        521,859

16   Self Image*                          535,417        427,813

17   Acdm Conseil*                        461,851        559,370

18   Aromates*                            450,000        380,000

19   CJR Communication                    200,000        180,000

Rank Company                         Location     Status

97

1    Euro RSCG Int Comms             Paris        Euro RSCG subsidiary

2    Information et Entreprise*      Paris        Independent

3    GCI Moreau Lascombe*            Paris        GCI Group subsidiary

4    Edelman                         Paris        Edelman subsidiary

5    DDB Hintzy Heymann*             Paris        Independent/DDB subs

6    Beaufixe                        Paris        Independent

7    Hill and Knowlton*              Paris        H&K subsidary

8    Herald Communication            Paris        Herald Comms subs

9    SRRP*                           Paris        Ind/Brodeur net com

10   Shandwick France*               Paris        Shandwick Int subs

11   Nicole Schilling Comm*          La Rochelle  Independent

12   Wellcom                         Paris        Independent

13   Ketchum PR*                     Paris        Ketchum subsidiary

14   AKKA                            Paris        Independent

15   ADOCOM                          Paris        Independent

16   Self Image*                     Paris        Ind/Pinnacle net

17   Acdm Conseil*                   Paris        Cider Sante subsidiary

18   Aromates*                       Boulogne     Ind/Pinnacle network

19   CJR Communication               Paris        Independent



- The French trade association Syntec Public Relations requires its

members to have been operating for two years and show profit for the

last two years of operation



- Euro RSCG includes fee income for Euro RSCG Futurs, Euro RSCG Vitesse,

Kendo, Leaders and Opinions, Unedite and Jour J, all based in Paris;

Martine Flinois and Associes, based in Roubaix; and Passerelles, based

in Bordeaux. Paris-based independent corporate communications agency SDE

merged into Euro RSCG Omnium in January 1998, while Institutionnel,

Hieux Reus and Edifi merged under the Euro RSCG Corporate umbrella in

June 1998.



- Advertising continues to play a dominating role over public relations.

A Syntec survey showed that 63 per cent of companies based outside Paris

do not use PR agencies at all, compared with 37 per cent of Parisian

companies. And of the companies which use outside agencies, only 55 per

cent have recourse to financial PR and 50 per cent to crisis PR.



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