With a population of just seven million, Switzerland is an
important centre of international business - particularly for large US
Philip Morris has plans to move into the market and Adecco is said to be
moving its headquarters there in June 2001. These kinds of ventures are
added bonuses for the largely independently owned Swiss PR industry, in
what is one of the most stable economies in the world.
The PR industry in Switzerland has been around for the past 50 years and
the Top 5 agencies, all with an annual fee income of more than pounds
21m, continue to dominate the market. The leading agency, Trimedia
Communications Suisse, enjoyed a 44 per cent increase in fee income in
2000 through organic growth at all its locations - which include all of
German-speaking Europe - as well as through the acquisition of ikp,
The gap between the big five and the mid-sized agencies is substantial,
with the latter bringing in average annual fee income of between pounds
2.1m and pounds 2.5m. Although things have slowed down since the Swiss
PR boom of the 1980s, overall growth in the industry is still
According to Swiss PR association BPRA chairman and Burson-Marsteller
CEO Ulrich Bollmann, it 'doubled from nine per cent in 1998 to 18 per
cent in 2000'.
The outlook is positive across the board. Industry leaders confirm that,
although there has been talk of an economic downturn, few have felt it.
APR AG fur Public Relations board and executive committee member Walter
Lutz says: 'The first quarter of this year indicated a downturn, but the
second half of 2001 and, especially, 2002 look much stronger.'
The agency, which is in the Top 10, saw 52 per cent growth in fee income
For international agencies, however, Switzerland is not an easy market
to penetrate. The Swiss PR industry is extremely territorial and most
agencies are Swiss-owned companies that want to stay that way.
In such a market, the trend for acquisitions hasn't really taken off,
although Bollman believes that international agencies are increasingly
trying to break in to the market because of the high profitability of
the economy. Burson-Marsteller is one of very few international players
that has been able to infiltrate the complex environment of Swiss
politics, culture and geography.
The country can be split into three distinct PR areas. Zurich represents
the financial sector and the PR hub in Switzerland. Seventy per cent of
PR business is conducted out of the city, with seven out of the ten
leading agencies based there, all of them boasting networks that span
the entire country, Europe and abroad. Bern is the political centre and
has a huge influence on the industry because of the structure of the
Geneva is the seat of most foreign companies.
However, because Switzerland is a small country with many regional
differences and a range of different target groups, there is better
business potential for small firms with a good understanding of their
local neighbourhood than for the international agencies.
INT/TEX Communications CEO Peter Felder, whose clients include Novartis,
Clariant (investor relations) and Syngenta (a merger between Novartis
agrobusiness and Zeneca agrochemicals in November 2000), sees the Swiss
industry as unique. 'The Swiss approach to PR,' he says, 'is to have
dialogue-based public relations.
You are up against a lot of referenda so it's not enough just to get
through to the big shots in parliament. You have to go out on to the
streets and have a dialogue with people and opinion leaders.'
And because influential politicians often sit on the boards of
influential companies, the political and economic arenas become blurred.
Farner PR and Consulting is one of Switzerland's oldest PR agencies.
Board and executive team member Jean-Marc Hensch says: 'In the past few
years, the public affairs arena has slowed down, but we have seen an
overlap of similar needs on a corporate level. Companies are becoming
increasingly political entities, with a greater need for image profiling
and so on. Consequently, we have become more focused on corporate and
marketing communication.' Farners' confidential client base includes 70
per cent of those companies listed on the SMI (Swiss Market Index).
Internal communications are also becoming increasingly important.
'Companies are drowning in the possibilities of technology such as
corporate TV, intranet and employee newspapers,' says Hensch. 'The
demands of a fast-changing environment mean companies increasingly need
The biggest sector in the Swiss industry is still financial, but even in
this conservative marketplace, changes are afoot. The industry is now
talking about the 'new market', a special segment of the stock exchange
reserved for dot.coms and other fast-growing start-ups. Because people
in the country are economically cautious, the dot.com crash during the
latter half of 2000 had little impact on the Swiss industry at
The BPRA, however, is currently in talks to decide whether it should
allow into membership the new types of consultancy that work within the
It is nevertheless characteristic of the Swiss market that venture
capitalists are keeping their windows of opportunity open by focusing on
other emerging markets, such as the biotech industry, which is a key
area of growth. And the PR magnates, no doubt, will follow suit.
EURO CONSULTANCIES - SWITZERLAND
Rank Company Fee income (pounds) Growth
2000 2000 1999 %
1 Trimedia Comms Suisse* 6,052,064 4,694,671 29
2 Farner PR und Consulting* 5,197,988 3,872,290 34
3 Wirz Corporate Comms* 4,986,688 3,745,932 33
4 Peter Butikofer 4,796,940 4,502,388 7
5 Burson-Marsteller* 4,171,069 2,951,021 41
6 Shandwick Switzerland** 2,434,000 763,000 219
7 Mediapolis* 1,796,053 1,521,362 18
8 c-matrix group* 1,695,897 1,332,460 27
9 F & P Frei & Partner* 1,360,774 1,304,146 4
10 apr AG fur PR* 1,335,418 879,009 52
11 cr Kommunikation* 1,322,318 1,123,273 18
12 pi.ar AG fur
Offentlichkeitsarbeit* 1,182,859 768,711 54
13 Dr Peter P Knobel* 1,096,226 844,779 30
14 Hugo Schmidt* 1,000,296 1,015,932 -2
15 Wenger Kommunikations* 957,191 960,994 0
16 Rochat & Partners 894,646 586,147 53
17 L&W MarCom 826,184 584,034 41
18 MACH COMMS* 693,910 619,110 12
19 BPR Comms* 665,596 790,686 -16
20 Senarclens Leu + Partner 625,026 541,774 15
21 GCI Switzerland 591,641 371,889 59
22 PRW PR + Werbe* 538,393 507,543 6
23 Jenni Kommunikation 498,669 393,019 27
24 INT/TEX Comms* 488,949 381,186 28
25 Marcel Bernet 464,861 442,886 5
Rank Company Location Status
1 Trimedia Comms Suisse* Gen/Zur Trimedia subsidiary
2 Farner PR und Consulting* Zurich GPC member
3 Wirz Corporate Comms* Zurich Weber Shandwick affiliate
4 Peter Butikofer Zurich Shire Hall subsidiary
5 Burson-Marsteller* Zurich B-M subsidiary
6 Shandwick Switzerland** Geneva WS subsidiary
7 Mediapolis* St. Gallen EAPC member
8 c-matrix group* Baar IPRN network member
9 F & P Frei & Partner* Zurich Porter Novelli affiliate
10 apr AG fur PR* Zurich Independent
11 cr Kommunikation* Zurich Pinnacle member
12 pi.ar AG fur
Offentlichkeitsarbeit* Zurich Independent
13 Dr Peter P Knobel* Zug H&K affiliate
14 Hugo Schmidt* Luzern Independent
15 Wenger Kommunikations* Bern ECCO member
16 Rochat & Partners Genf IPAN member
17 L&W MarCom Zurich Worldcom member
18 MACH COMMS* Baden Independent
19 BPR Comms* St, Gallen Independent
20 Senarclens Leu + Partner Zurich Independent
21 GCI Switzerland Zurich GCI subsidiary
22 PRW PR + Werbe* Zurich Europe On Line
23 Jenni Kommunikation Zurich Independent
24 INT/TEX Comms* Basel PROI member
25 Marcel Bernet Zurich Andsell member
All figures relate to the year end 31 December 2000.
Fee income = PR fees only.
* Denotes BPRA member. Figures are supplied by BPRA
** 1999 fee income as submitted for 2000 European Consultancies tables