Consumer: Top performers

FREUD COMMUNICATIONS

Position: 1

Fees: £22,454,008

Growth: (new entry)

Freuds entered the consumer league tables for the first time this year and shot straight to first place. PRWeek may not have year-on-year comparison figures, but Freuds is still head and shoulders above any of its competitors with a staggering £22.5m fee income.

Consumer practice MD Nick Mulholland says the impressive figures are a result of having clients that respect the value of PR: 'We are fortune enough to have brave clients who aren't afraid to invest in our discipline; they see our position around the table as critical. Our clients recognise that reputation management is a firewall around a brand. As such, our job is about aggressively defending and promoting their interests.'

Freuds did not make any significant hires in 2009, but did have some big wins. The first was working with Saatchi & Saatchi on T-Mobile's advert in which 300 people burst into simultaneous dance in Liverpool Street station to the surprise of commuters. This achieved more than 16 million hits on YouTube. Freuds also worked on Guinness' 250th anniversary celebrations, which saw 60 artists perform in 33 venues with 150 international media in attendance. It was beamed worldwide, reaching 33 million households.

The agency also launched the Government's Change4Life anti-obesity campaign in January 2009 and a year on, there are 413,000 families signed up. Mulholland notes the highlights of this ongoing activity as a healthy living campaign with GMTV and Mr Motivator, with Britain's Got Talent group Diversity fronting a dance campaign that engaged more than 100,000 children, and branding in EastEnders, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks.

Mulholland says the real change in consumer PR last year was that the big idea could genuinely come from any marketing discipline. 'More and more clients are saying the best idea wins, rather than simply running with the ideas that fall out of the ad agency's creative department. For many of our clients, we are now the lead strategic or creative partner,' he says.

His campaign high point was the creation and delivery of Walkers Do Us A Flavour. 'It's being heralded as one of the most successful consumer-facing campaigns of 2009,' he says.

And the low points? 'Please refer to my airmiles statement,' he quips.

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- Walkers Do Us A Flavour campaign

- Working on T-Mobile's flash dance advert

- Launch of Change4Life campaign

Low points

- Less international travel

FRANK PR

Position: 5

Fees: £6,459,831

Growth: 22%

'You have to do two things to grow your business: you have to keep hold of existing clients and grow them organically; and you have to be reasonably successful at new business,' says Frank PR co-founder Graham Goodkind. Frank PR managed both and has seen fee income rise 22 per cent in 2009. This is no mean feat considering the rollercoaster nature of the 2009 consumer PR table, in which agencies are as likely to have seen double-digit decline as double-digit growth.

The argument goes that the combination of the recession and the explosion in digital has seen PR take bigger slices of marketing budgets, at the expense of other marketing disciplines such as advertising, and Frank's experience backs this up. 'Drink Aware was a significant win for us as we were up against ad agencies and digital agencies, as well as other PR agencies,' says co-founder Andrew Bloch.

'Clients are not just talking about PR being at the top table; they are putting their money where their mouths are.'

Goodkind says Frank's trademark campaigns that combine experiential activity with media angles have contributed to the agency's success, citing The Big Knit campaign for Innocent as a prime example. The agency also enjoyed success with campaigns for Hovis and Compare the Market, both of which complemented and amplified advertising. 'More and more clients are thinking about maximising value for their adverts,' Goodkind notes. New clients in 2009 included Aviva, BeatBullying and Premier Inn.

One trend the agency noticed in 2009 was clients pulling away from retainer contracts and investing money in project-based work. This makes staffing more of a challenge and Bloch says the agency has used more freelancers in recent months to cope with the fluctuating workload. 'There is a lot of talent around as there are people out there who have found them- selves out of a job,' he says.

Elsewhere, 2009 saw Frank open an office in Australia, which now has seven members of staff, with plans to open a New York office. Goodkind says the agency's growth in 2009 far exceeded its target of ten per cent, and adds: 'If we grow by ten per cent this year, I will be over the moon'.

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- Numerous new client wins and successful campaigns, opening an Australian office, and increasing work with charities and social organisations

Low points

- A more cautious climate, difficult conversations with procurement

FOCUS PR

Position: 14

Fees: £2,673,428

Growth: 61%

Focus PR MD Hilary Meacham says 2009 was tough, despite her agency's impressive growth figures. The year certainly did not get off to a good start. The agency bought consumer tech agency Trilogy in August 2008, but in the third week of January 2009, Meacham took five phone calls in four days from Trilogy's clients saying they had to pull their campaigns. 'It was horrendous,' she says. In October 2009, the agency also saw client Wine Rack go into administration.

With too many staff, and too few clients, redundancies were only avoided by director Sara Balme's 'inspired' idea: incentivised sabbaticals. Focus paid eight staff a notional monthly sum and helped them with flights abroad.

That solved the staffing problem, but new business was still, as many in the industry found, very hard to win. 'There were plenty of time wasters,' says Meacham. 'Getting a written brief out of people with a budget attached to it was a rarity and five briefs that we pitched for last year resulted in no agency being appointed. You had to be really careful,' she says.

But Focus did win new clients. Meacham's highlight of the year was winning the Courvoisier Cognac account from Beam Global following a competitive pitch. Not only was it a big financial boost, it also showed the drinks firm had confidence in the agency it had inherited when it bought Maker's Mark, Cobans and Harveys. 'This was a critical win financially and for team morale. It showed that when the firm had a choice, it still selected us,' she says.

Key campaign highlights include the Cadbury Creme Egg Twisted campaign, which won a European Excellence Award for use of social media. Meacham also enjoyed working for false eyelash brand Eylure, when it persuaded members of Girls Aloud to create their own signature lashes. Millions have now been sold.

Meacham says Focus' acquisitive nature helped to secure growth. She believes when done well, this is a good way of adding new clients and talent. In 2010, Focus will continue to shop, with Meacham particularly interested in the travel and homes sector.

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- Winning the European Excellence Award

- Winning Courvoisier Cognac

Low points

- Losing five clients at the beginning of January

- Losing Wine Rack when it went into administration in October

3 MONKEYS

Position: 16

Fees: £2,156,976

Growth: 29%

In January 2009, Microsoft handed 3 Monkeys its seven-figure consumer account, snubbing its larger rivals. The agency has not looked back.

As well as managing the high- profile launch of Windows 7 for Microsoft, it added to its client list Gumtree (its tenth anniversary campaign), Sharp UK (launching new TV) and Miele (promoting domestic appliances).

3 Monkeys also made a raft of senior hires including Stuart Yeardsley, as board director from The Red Consultancy, Bill Jones, founder of Lexis PR as a non-executive director, and the ex-MD of Midnight Communications Sarah Ogden as associate director.

Angie Moxham, CEO at 3 Monkeys, believes the agency's growth was down to its passion, tenacity, entrepreneurial spirit and its blend of strategic and creative thinking. 'We win one in every two pitches we participate in and have built a reputation for being a great challenger brand. We have a fresh perspective for brands looking for real cut-through,' she says.

Moxham added that the agency did not forget its existing clients and said most of these invested more money with the agency last year.

She says her agency's biggest campaigns in 2009 were the launch of Windows 7 and Bing for Microsoft, the Terminate the Rate campaign with 3 Mobile and its other agencies, and the Stay Insured campaign for the Motor Insurance Bureau. She is also proud of its work for the Office of Fair Trading, which included campaigns on doorstep selling and lottery scams.

The biggest trend in consumer PR through 2009, says Moxham, was more desire for social media. 'There is now recognition that this cannot sit to one side as an add-on, but has to be red-dyed through the consultancy,' she says. To this end, the agency is currently investing heavily in its social media capabilities.

Moxham's main concern for 2010 is to continue to deliver quality work for all clients while running a happy ship. But if the year continues as it has, with the agency close to hitting its annual target for new business in the first quarter, then she may be smiling again this time next year.

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- Winning Microsoft's seven-figure account

Low points

- The usual day-to-day frustrations and not winning PRWeek's Consultancy of the Year award'

SPLENDID COMMUNICATIONS

Position: 21

Fees: £2,052,224

Growth: 43%

Splendid's founder Alec Samways was pleasantly surprised by 2009. 'At the end of 2008, we totally battened down the hatches to prepare ourselves for a bumpy ride, including shelving our plan to move from our current London office to new premises. But it wasn't as bad as we expected,' he said.

He puts this down to the agency's new business strategy: focusing on current clients and not chasing every brief on the market. 'About 80 per cent of our new business comes from direct referrals. It's always been our strategy and we are proud to be associated with a number of long-term clients,' he said. The agency won new work from clients including GlaxoSmithKline's Macleans toothpaste, Unilever's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and worked on Diageo brand Guinness' 250th anniversary celebrations.

One of the agency's most exciting moments last year was winning the global PR account for Diageo's vodka brand Smirnoff. The agency already worked on the brand in the UK, won the Australian business following a pitch process and then had the brief expanded to a global remit. At the end of the year, a group of staff was sent to New York - where the global Smirnoff team is based - to set up an office. A few months on, this is now fully operational.

Samways says digital was the buzz-word for consumer PR last year.

The agency ran a search engine optimisation campaign for Big Yellow Self Storage. He believes the measurability of SEO and online PR work counters the idea that PR is fluffy or of limited value. 'Now we can really demonstrate what we're delivering for the bottom line. It validates our role,' he says.

In 2010, the agency is keen to consolidate the relationship between its different offices. It is making the most of having offices in Sydney, New York and London by offering staff opportunities to move around through job swaps and secondments. It is also arranging global meetings and set up a video link between the offices during its Christmas party. It is pushing for similar growth to 2009. And the London office move is back on.

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- Winning Smirnoff's global PR account and sending a team to New York to set up offices

Low points

- Shelving the London office move

EULOGY

Position: 27

Fees: £1,712K

Growth: 80%

With a storming 80 per cent increase in fee income compared with 2008, Eulogy posted the best growth in the entire consumer top 50.

Consumer income accounted for 47 per cent of the agency's fees in 2009. MD Adrian Brady says this is a result of several years spent developing the agency's consumer offering, and building up relationships with key clients.

The increase has come both organically and from winning new clients.

Big accounts won by the agency in the past two years include Santander and Moneysupermarket.com. 'We continue to expand the work we do with these clients,' says Brady. 'Having big names helps us to attract other big names, and we are also doing a lot of work with clients such as Royal Mail.'

But Brady does not claim the market in 2009 was easy. 'We have managed because of the work that has been going on for the past four or five years trying to build our reputation within the consumer space, and we have reaped the rewards.

'The team is delivering great creative work at a time some long-term relationships have come to fruition.'

The focus now for Brady and his team is to retain the relationships it has built up with key brands.

'We also want to continue to try to attract the best talent. Hopefully, the awards we have won recently will make people think of Eulogy when considering their next career move,' he says.

These awards include PRCA Agency of the Year 2009. The agency was also commended in PRWeek's Best Places to Work survey 2010 (PRWeek, 21 May).

'Our other priority is to continue to show clients how we can collaborate traditional PR activity with online activity,' adds Brady. 'As an industry, we have a big job to do to communicating that PR can deliver in that space, and that clients do not have to go to a media or advertising agency instead.'

2009 AT A GLANCE

High points

- Winning PRCA Agency of the Year, the Royal Mail album covers stamp launch, getting through 2009 without having to make any team members redundant

Low points

- The tough economic climate.

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