THE TOP EUROPEAN PR CONSULTANCIES 2001: Italy - Corporate and financial PR practitioners face a shift in their work and market share

Like the rest of Europe, Italy's PR industry is learning its

lessons from last year's boom. As Luca Barabino, CEO of Italy's

leading independent agency Barabino & Partners,notes: 'Last year there

were jobs for all - whether the clients were good or bad. This year we

are being more selective since too many clients in the internet economy

and IT have not been able to invest in communications. Agencies are

coming back to traditional PR sectors after their experience with the

illusions of the internet, and the market is more realistic than a year


At Chiappe Bellodi, back in the Italian league after a company

restructure last year, agency head Guido Bellodi agrees: 'We are coming

back to solid traditional PR now the technology drunkenness is over. We

are going back to a more professional approach, and looking at long-term

relationships with clients rather than having these bits of business

that come in and then disappear.'

Leading players remain optimistic that 2001 can still be a good one for

the industry, but apart from the more grounded attitude,

other issues are beginning to have an impact. Not least of these is


On 13 May the Italian political scene changed completely, as after seven

years of centre-left government the country now has a centre-right

government led by the controversial Silvio Berlusconi. This change had

the immediate effect of a freeze on many initiatives, especially

investment in infrastructure.

Mavellia MS&L managing director, and president of consultancy trade

association Assorel, Adriana Mavellia says there is now a 'wait and see


Combined with an uncertain economy, the industry fears that the new

government 'could perform economic manoeuvres whose effect could

discourage Italian entrepreneurs,' although it has promised to favour


Mavellia says the 'rose-coloured prospects' for GDP - which was standing

at three per cent - have been hit hard by the downturn in the new

economy, and the standstill in the US. 'Now, optimistic Italians foresee

a 2.3 per cent growth of GDP. This standstill has directly affected PR

consultancies as new business has slowed down and clients have reduced

their activities,' she says.

Corporate and financial PR practitioners are facing a shift in their

work, after a fantastic couple of years of IPOs and privatisations. M&As

contributed to the growth of the PR industry, particularly in leading

sectors such as telecoms and energy. This led to an increase in

strategic work in IR, crisis management and change management. Crisis

management has been provided with exceptional stimulus over the last two

years by the strong fluctuation of many stocks on the Italian exchange

and frequent profit warnings during periods of incipient recession.

IPO activity has now slowed down. Bellodi says: 'The financial sector is

flat as there are no big privatisations coming up, and not so many

companies are listing on the stock exchange. That's not a bad thing for

corporate PR, though, since many companies went public just for the sake

of being listed, without any experience of corporate comms. Now there is

more understanding of the need for consolidating your image in the


There is a growing trend towards specialisation. Ketchum Italia MD

Nicoletta Cerana says: 'The Italian market is very fragmented and highly


This very crowded market generates confusion in the client's perception

of PR service quality, so the major companies are trying to


Ketchum Italia has set up six practices covering communications in the

areas of corporate and financial, workplace, brand marketing, food and

nutrition communication, healthcare and technology.

So corporate and financial PR is where it's at in Italy, but Diego

Lifonti, the MD of Burson-Marsteller's Italian financial communications

division B-M Financial, says consolidation of this young sector is

inevitable, not least because of the lack of professionalism: 'Most

agencies jumped into this industry with almost no clue of how

professional work must be done, and thus clients have been badly

serviced and lost an opportunity to understand fully the value of

professional work in this area. In the near future, we'll see a

concentration of work on three or four agencies.'

Lifonti would like to see Stock Exchange regulation of those who work

in this area, and adds that if the Italian industry really wants

investor relations to become more professional and transparent, a

legally responsible IR consultant should be made mandatory for small and

medium-sized listed companies.

B-M carries out annual research on the quality of financial comms in

Italy, and this year has found that while big companies keep improving,

SMEs 'simply refrained from communicating, or did so in a confused and

untimely way'.

Barabino & Partners took a controlling interest in three small

e-commerce firms - EOS, New Red and New Photo - last October. Hill &

Knowlton bought leading environmental communications firm Gaia, based in

Rome, in December, while Weber Shandwick Worldwide bought two financial

agencies, Massmedia Partners and Bridge Editore, last October. These are

clear signs that global operators see Italy's maturing market as

increasingly important.


Rank Company Fee income (pounds) Growth

2000 2000 1999 %

1 Barabino & Partners * 6,613,146 5,027,850 32

2 Shandwick Italia* 5,413,000 2,603,000 108

3 Hill & Knowlton*(1) 3,630,000 1,807,000 101

4 Burson-Marsteller* 3,289,859 2,656,000 24

5 Edelman PR W'ide* 3,014,516 2,577,092 17

6 Business Press** 2,957,946 2,427,311 22

7 Noesis* 2,949,079 1,200,000 146

8 Brodeur Imagetime* 2,667,000 1,991,939 34

9 Mavellia MS&L* ** 2,360,000 2,421,024 -3

10 Ketchum* 2,270,690 1,971,891 15

11 Imageware** 1,979,453 1,755,393 13

12 Cohn & Wolfe* 1,967,619 1,581,651 24

13 SEC * 1,775,801 1,154,673 54

14 EPR* ** 1,521,677 1,577,949 -4

15 PDC* 1464702 796838 84

16 Egg * 1,381,534 1,414,855 -2

17 Fleishman-Hillard Italy 1,370,000 1,027,000 33

18 Chiappe Bellodi* 1,311,358 - -

19 Klaus Davi &Co* 1,212,399 1,146,864 6

20 INC* 1,189,770 1,017,942 17

21 Text 100 1,023,694 422,797 142

22 Homina* ** 930,810 706,578 32

23 HSL* ** 878,000 1,120,000 -22

24 GMPR* 662,988 608,316 9

25 ad Mirabilia* 488,261 367,347 33

Rank Company Location Status


1 Barabino & Partners * Milan Independent

2 Shandwick Italia* Milan WS subsidiary

3 Hill & Knowlton*(1) Mil/Rm H&K subsidiary

4 Burson-Marsteller* Milan B-M subsidiary

5 Edelman PR W'ide* Milan Edelman subsidiary

6 Business Press** Milan Worldcom member

7 Noesis* Milan Euro PR member

8 Brodeur Imagetime* Milan Brodeur network

9 Mavellia MS&L* ** Milan MS&L subsidiary

10 Ketchum* Milan Ketchum affiliate

11 Imageware** Milan Independent

12 Cohn & Wolfe* Milan C&W subsidiary

13 SEC * Milan Independent

14 EPR* ** Rome Independent

15 PDC* Milan Independent

16 Egg * Milan Grayling affiliate

17 Fleishman-Hillard Italy Milan F-H subsidiary

18 Chiappe Bellodi* Milan GCI affiliate

19 Klaus Davi &Co* Milan Independent

20 INC* Rome Independent

21 Text 100 Milan Text 100 subsidiary

22 Homina* ** Bologna Independent

23 HSL* ** Genoa Independent

24 GMPR* Bologna Independent

25 ad Mirabilia* Milan Independent

All figures relate to the year ended December 31 2000.

Fee income = PR fees only.

* denotes member of Assorel

(1) includes figures from date of H&K's acquisition of Gaia in December


** 1999 fee income as submitted for 2000 European Consultancies tables

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