THE TOP EUROPEAN PR CONSULTANCIES 2001: Overview - PR's rising stock. Across the Continent, the profile of the industry has continued to rise, but agencies have been forced to become more selective as to which clients they take on

Dot.coms occupied the minds of many European PROs in 2000 with the

first quarter of the year described as 'crazy' by several agencies. But,

in sharp contrast to 1999, the main occupation in the latter half of the

year was spotting and avoiding failures rather than counting the money

from new accounts.

But the boom's legacy will remain long after ill-judged sites

have been forgotten. Roused by the example of internet companies, bricks

and mortar businesses have woken up to the advantages of PR in brand

building on a pan-European and global scale.

US marketing services groups continued to demonstrate their interest in

European PR agencies by parting with cash to buy them. Golin/Harris,

Cohn & Wolfe, Incepta and Edelman have all proved the depth of their

pockets during the past 12 months.

This was no great surprise, simply a function of basic business

development: US companies are going where the money is, because dot.bomb

or not, European agencies in general had another good year.

But not everyone sees the march towards international consultancy as

entirely positive. While most European agencies are upbeat about

prospects, Adrian Wheeler, GCI chief executive has noted some

disquieting trends. 'There are several threats attacking the quality of

client services. The frenzy of consolidation is having the effect of

bodging together companies that are not really bodgeable. It is

impossible for clients to get the same kind of untrammelled attention

and that is having an effect on the way clients view the industry.

There is a degree of scepticism I've never encountered before. The one

thing that worries me about pan-European business is the tendency for

clients to buy European PR by the kilo. That is a very bad thing for

clients and agencies in the long run. (Agencies') profit is secondary to

topline figures. It's quite insidious.'

Despite these concerns, the stock of PR continues to rise in European

countries that had traditionally been resistant, preferring advertising

to put messages across. Another reason for PR's change in status is an

issue familiar to people over the last two years from Seattle to

Trafalgar Square: globalisation.

Elaine Cruikshanks, Hill & Knowlton chairman and CEO (western

continental Europe), believes this phenomenon can be turned to the

advantage of agencies.

'Globalisation is pushing national or European players onto a world


Daimler Chrysler, for example, is still a very "German" company but it

is operating in an international market and is therefore coming up

against US majors with a history of communicating well.'

This represents something of a culture shock, especially for German and

French firms, she argues. 'These companies have formerly only

communicated by advertising. Now they find the need for communicating to

stakeholders.' The role of PR is becoming better understood, with

Germany in particular appearing increasingly comfortable with a

distinction between PR and advertising, which has not always been the


It is this sort of advance that has led UK-based Chime Communications

into the European owned groups league table this year. Its purchase of

Harvard gave it a foothold in continental Europe for the first time,

with Chime chairman Lord Bell predicting that the increasingly

deregulated German economy will offer attractive prospects for PR

agencies. M&As there are often handled by UK PR groups as it is and

Chime will shortly open a financial agency in the country, in

anticipation of a boom in the quantity of work.

Of all the countries in Europe, the and dot.bomb seem to have

done French PR agencies fewest favours, with spiralling salaries and

acute staff shortages followed by massive cuts in personnel. It is

remarkable, given this background, that trade association Syntec

reported an average 27 per cent income growth for its members.

But France, where large companies tend to be state-owned, remains more

or less tied to the notion of having PR and advertising under one roof.

In this environment, H&K has entered a joint venture with its sister

advertising agency, JWT - the sort of 'when in Rome' attitude which

indicates that 2001 may not be the year for PR firms alone to challenge

the dominance of native giants such as Publicis with any confidence.

But one area for general optimism for agencies is corporate social

responsibility (CSR), according to James Thellusson, Cohn & Wolfe MD

(Europe): 'CSR is growing at a pan-European level. It is a premium area,

and will dovetail there over the next five or six years with people who

have savings, shares and pensions.' Increased public scrutiny has

continued to force businesses to take reputation management seriously.

Jonathan Wootliff joined Edelman's Brussels office from Sweden-based

Kreab as MD (stakeholder strategies), a reflection in part of the

increasing importance of public opinion in clients' strategies.

'Everything is converging towards the consumer,' said Rosanna d'Antona,

Edelman president (Europe).

CSR is just one of several'microspecialisms' on which agencies are

concentrating, says Lutz Meyer, chief executive (Europe), Weber

Shandwick Worldwide.

Others include broadcast, litigation, and internal comms, he says, while

macro specialisation staples like IT, healthcare, corporate, public

affairs and IR continue to be developed on a pan-European basis. 'Global

players looked into synergies in 2000 and wanted more integration of

messages,' Meyer concludes.

Ketchum Europe MD James Maxwell agrees: 'Our strategy is to take global

practice groups like healthcare, corporate and technology and develop

them across Europe. French, German and Swiss companies, particularly in

pharmaceuticals, are for the first time not looking for a market by

market approach; they want effective programmes out of one location.'

Italy, a key maturing market, showed a growing trend on behalf of major

agencies to develop specialist practices.

PR companies found themselves pushed harder than before by clients in

2000 in terms of delivering quality, according to the head of one

agency.'It is not only dot.coms who have discovered money is a limited

resource,' he said wryly. Allied with this increasing pressure was the

view that the speed of clients' decision-making on pitches 'was slower

this year than last', according to one network head.

Elsewhere, individual countries reported strong performances with

Sweden's PR success story continuing during 2000. Although Kreab remains

pre-eminent, with fee income double that of its nearest rival, other

agencies reported outstanding years too. New entrant Havanna PR and

Information flourished on the back of the boom and reports that

IR, PA and lobbying work is also growing. Its growth, by more than 300

per cent in 2000, is unmatched but results from other agencies suggest

Sweden's reputation for high-tech PR expertise remains deserved.

Austria's second appearance in these tables confirms the growing

importance of the German-speaking region of Europe, with PR firms, the

majority of which are Vienna-based and independent, performing


The market is also geographically well-placed for campaigns in central

and eastern Europe, which is a major reason why Germany's number one

agency, Kohte Klewes, took a 40 per cent stake in Austria's number one,

the Weber Shandwick affiliate Publico. As in 1999, the ranking and

report were compiled with the help of PRWeek's sister magazine PR Report

and with Austria's marketing magazine, Bestseller.

Switzerland, on paper at least, remains the hardest country for foreign

agencies to penetrate, despite its commercial importance to a plethora

of multinationals. A logical strength in financial PR has been joined in

the last year by a concentration on dot.coms and other fast-growing

start-ups, with biotech a likely sector for future PR growth.

Spain is absent from this report because PR association Adecec is

required to present its members' figures to the Spanish ministry of

finance before making their income public in July. Figures will be

published later in the year.

Networks, for their own part, saw 2000 as the year they closed the gap

with owned groups in terms of service quality although Chime chairman

Tim Bell believes his approach renders the networks, at least for some

clients, obsolete. 'You don't need to be in every country,' he says.

'The battleground is about producing quality businesses in different


Networks are constructed on the principle that you have to open an

office everywhere and that's old-fashioned.'

The networks are unlikely to be impressed with this notion since they

see the flexibility of wide geographical reach as crucial to their

success. But whatever the disagreements between various schools of

thought on the provision of pan-European campaigns, the industry as a

whole should be encouraged. In 2000, European PR in all its forms

continued to be taken seriously by businesses.


The 2001 PRWeek Top European Agencies league tables rank owned groups,

networks and consultancies in leading European markets by calendar year

fee income. For the fifth year, PRWeek has enlisted the help of trade

associations in some of the main continental markets in order to produce

the most comprehensive cross-border league tables in Europe.

Gessellschaft Public Releations Agenturen (GPRA) in Germany,

Associazione delle Agenzie di Relazioni Pubbliche a Servizio Completo

(Assorel) in Italy, Bund der Public Relations Agenturen der Schweiz

(BPRA) in Switzerland, Precom and the VPRA in the Netherlands, the

BGPRA/ABCRP in Belgium, and Precis in Sweden all advised on definitions

of PRWeek's criteria to avoid misunderstandings in different


According to PRWeek's criteria, European income includes fees for public

relations work carried out in the EU and Switzerland. It does not

include income relating to non-PR activities such as advertising, direct

mail, design or exhibitions. To avoid possible misinterpretation of the

term mark-up in different markets, consultancies were asked to submit

fee income only. To avoid an imbalance in the tables caused by the use

of different exchange rates, consultancies were also asked to provide

sterling fee incomes for 2000 and 1999 according to average exchange

rates (see below).

Once PRWeek's tables had been compiled, the trade associations in the

relevant countries checked members' figures against their own records to

help ensure the accuracy of the PRWeek rankings. The German and Austrian

tables were provided by PRWeek's sister magazine in Frankfurt, PR

Report, and the Swiss table was put together as an independently-audited

ranking by the BPRA.

For the 2001 PRWeek Top European Agencies league tables, local currency

was converted to sterling as per the average Financial Times exchange

rates for 2000 quoted below. For comparison purposes, both 2000 and 1999

incomes were converted at the same rate.

France 10.3386

Germany 3.0827

Belgium 63.5809

Sweden 13.9205

Switzerland 2.3663

Italy 3051.8

Netherlands 3.4734

Austria 21.688

euro 1.5761

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