THE TOP EUROPEAN PR CONSULTANCIES 2000: SWITZERLAND - Switzerland is one of the few European PR markets to be dominated by independents

After a seven year period of stagnation, the Swiss economy has picked up in the past year. Recent forecasts predict Swiss GNP is set to grow by 2.5 per cent, while unemployment is at two per cent - well below the European average. Jean-Marc Hensch, vice-president of trade body the BPRA and board member of Farner PR says: ’The economic conditions in all sectors of the Swiss economy are very good right now and unemployment is low.

After a seven year period of stagnation, the Swiss economy has

picked up in the past year. Recent forecasts predict Swiss GNP is set to

grow by 2.5 per cent, while unemployment is at two per cent - well below

the European average. Jean-Marc Hensch, vice-president of trade body the

BPRA and board member of Farner PR says: ’The economic conditions in all

sectors of the Swiss economy are very good right now and unemployment is


Our problem is the lack of skilled people.’ Hensch joined Farner after

he and the other founders of number six agency Lauffer, Hensch and

Partner went their separate ways and wound down the agency last


Unprecedented growth in the hi-tech industry is behind the

revitalisation of the Swiss economy, and one of the most exciting new

developments was the opening of the SWX last year, the Swiss version of

the Nasdaq. The SWX operates under its own rules and is most suited to

younger companies wanting to float. The launch coincides with an

increased awareness among the Swiss people of share prices and their

relevance to pension schemes.

Last year there was a continuation of the trend towards the

liberalisation of the telecoms market, and this has acted as a gigantic

’motor’ for the entire communication services industry, including public

relations, advertising and event marketing.

In line with the growth in the economy, the Swiss PR industry performed

well last year. Financial PR and marketing communications were

particularly strong, and Hensch says: ’There is the deregulation of the

electricity market still to look forward to and this will be an exciting

time for PR, since we can expect lots of marketing programmes to follow

on the back of it.’

The Swiss PR market stands out in Europe in that it is almost wholly

independent. With the exception of Burson-Marsteller, the big

international players have yet to make an impact on the market in terms

of acquisitions.

Many big players work closely with local agencies, while others use ad

hoc relationships on a project basis. In July B-M acquired the remaining

shares in its partly-owned Swiss partner Jaggi Burson-Marsteller.

Dr Peter P Knobel joined the Hill and Knowlton network in August 1999 as

its exclusive Swiss associate. Knobel, head of the eponymous agency,

explains the small size of the majority of Swiss agencies encourages

specialisation.’Of the BPRA members, only five consultancies employ up

to 50 staff. Seven consultancies employ between ten and 15 employees and

the reminder of the industry have less than eight employees. This

encourages small agencies to specialise.’

Small-sized agency cR Kommunikation sees specialisation as the way


The agency’s strengths lie in the financial and IT telecom market, and

in the past year it has opened an office in Bern, and set up a new

company, The Portal Experience, specialising in internet portal


Few in the Swiss PR industry believe global players will gain an

increased foothold in the market. However the problem is, according to

Knobel, that many clients are asking for an international service. In

order to offer this, it is essential to have access to an international

network. ’The big players tend to overlook our market because it is

small,’ says Knobel.

’What they fail to see is the respectable size and sophistication of the

PR industry in Switzerland.’

Alfred Koecher, managing partner and co-founder of Aloha Communications

agrees it is harder for the large networks to gain a foothold in smaller

countries like Belgium and Luxemburg. ’In Switzerland, where we speak

four languages and where we are required to provide at least two

languages, you have to ask whether it is worth the larger networks

investing in such a small market.’

The political landscape in Switzerland remained stable. Few were

surprised that the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) emerged as the big winner

in last autumn’s elections. The four main political parties account for

85 per cent of seats in the Swiss parliament, meaning it is business as

usual for Switzerland and its coalition government. While the SVP

opposes membership of the EU, it is clear that the Swiss people are in

favour of greater co-operation. These contracts come into effect on 1

January 2001, and it is not yet clear what the implications are for the

PR industry.

On 21 May, 2000 a referendum was held to decide whether Switzerland

should adopt a series of bilateral contracts with the EU, in areas such

as free circulation of goods and services and closer co-operation over

air traffic control. Around 70 per cent of the electorate voted in

favour of adopting the contracts, sending a clear signal that the Swiss

are less isolationist than was thought. Koecher says the Swiss business

community is broadly supportive of the bilateral contract and looks

forward to the day when Switzerland is a full member of the EU. One of

the areas that could benefit from this is healthcare PR. He explains:

’When a new pharmaceutical product is launched it has to be approved in

all 26 districts of Switzerland, which can often take longer than EU

approval. As a result, many products are unavailable in


Whether or not Switzerland eventually joins the EU does not alter the

fact that Switzerland has built up an enviable international reputation

on its own. Zurich is synonymous with banking, Geneva with international

diplomacy and Neuchatel with the watch industry. In addition, Basel is

the headquarters of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry, Lucerne is famous

for tourism and the capital Bern is the seat of government. Few

countries of Switzerland’s size can boast such diversity and it is

hardly surprising that many Swiss feel they can do without EU


- Swiss PR association BPRA comissions an independently-audited annual

ranking of national agencies. It has 19 members, who must have been in

the market for at least five years.


Rank Company/Status                Fee income (pounds)   Grth   Location

99                                      99          98      %

1    Trimedia Groupe Suisse*/    4,571,605   3,963,786     15       Bern

     Trimedia subsidiary

2    Peter Butikofer/            4,384,362   3,456,790     27     Zurich

     Shire Hall subsidiary

3    Farner PR*/                 3,770,825   3,539,095      7     Zurich

     GPC member

4    Wirz PR Gruppe*1/           3,647,737   3,559,671      2     Zurich

     Shandwick affiliate

5    Burson-Marsteller*/         2,873,615   2,551,440     13       Bern

     B-M subsidiary

6    Mediapolis/                 1,481,481   1,193,416     24  St Gallen

     EAPC member

7    Lauffer, Hensch & Partner*/ 1,393,416   1,234,568     13     Zurich


8    Alhoa Communications*2/     1,297,531   1,234,568      5       Baar

     IPRN member

9    F&P Frei & Partner Comms*/  1,269,931   1,111,111     14     Zurich

     PNI affiliate

10   cR Kommunikation*/          1,093,944     823,045     33     Zurich


11   Hugo Schmidt*/                989,300     946,502      5     Luzern


12   Wenger Kommunikations*/       935,802     905,350      3       Bern

     ECCO member

13   apr AG fur PR*/               855,967   1,028,807    -17     Zurich


14   Dr Peter P Knobel*/           822,963     711,720     16        Zug

     H&K affiliate

15   Rubeli Hausermann PR/         781,893     699,588     12     Zurich


16   BPR Communications*/          770,038     699,588     10 St. Gallen


17   Shandwick Switzerland/        763,000           -      -     Geneva

     IPR subsidiary

18 AG

     Offentlichkeitsarbeit*/       748,560     576,132     30     Zurich


19   MACH AG COMM/                 603,010     781,893    -23      Baden


20   Rochat & Partners/            570,609     561,526      2       Genf

     IPAN member

21   Forum der Wirtschaft/         538,278     493,827      9       Bern


22   Senarclens, Leu & Partner/    527,466     534,979     -1     Zurich


23   PRW PR & Werbe*/              494,352     576,132    -14     Zurich

     Europe On Line

24   Pielken & Partners*/          450,584     411,523      9      Gland


25   Marcel Bernet PR/             431,408     493,827    -13     Zurich

     Ansdell member

All figures relate to the year ended 31 December 1999

Fee income= PR fees only

*Denotes BPRA member

1 includes figures for Wirz PR, Investor Relations, Frontpage, Homepage

and Target

2 includes figures for Rohner Communications.

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