The Netherlands is one of Europe's most stable nations, with low unemployment and a strong economy. In PR terms, it is a diverse market, with a mix of independent agencies, freelance practitioners, and large multinational organizations.
Joan Clements, managing director of Shandwick Netherlands, says it is also a hugely competitive market. 'We have to work hard for our business. It is a very small country, the population is only around 16 million, and all the large PR companies have an office here. We also have to compete against the many good, local agencies.'
Recent figures released by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce support Clements' view of a highly competitive market. The numbers reveal there are more than 2,200 companies working in the PR industry, with estimated annual revenues of dollars 120 million.
Over the past five years, the chamber reports that the number of PR agencies and freelance practitioners has grown by 80%, but that only 18% of the growth has been concentrated in the larger cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, and Rotterdam. It concludes that the bulk of the growth has been among small PR companies outside these areas.
Corien Niezing, associate director of Text 100, agrees: 'There are around 30 top agencies, then a lot of freelancers and smaller agencies. The Netherlands has always been an interesting location for foreign companies to set up in.' Niezing, who set up hi-tech agency Text 100 in Amsterdam four years ago, adds: 'PR is becoming more important for companies in the Netherlands, and it is being recognized as part of their strategy. As pricing and products grow more alike, hi-tech companies are realizing the only way they can compete is by sharing their vision through PR.'
Independent agency Bikker is the leader in the PR rankings, moving up from second place last year. It experienced the largest increase in fee income of any Dutch agency?a massive 49%. The agency is based in Rotterdam with offices in Utrecht, Haarlem and The Hague. Managing director Leendert Bikker says the agency implemented a number of structural changes last year, including a move away from being an all-purpose agency to one that offers expertise in fields including environmental affairs and finance.
Many of the agencies listed in the table are members of one of the two main PR associations in the Netherlands. Precom, which represents some of the larger agencies, increased its membership to 13 in March 1998 with the addition of Burson-Marsteller.
Precom chairman Gerard Boulogne says PR is playing a greater role at the heart of business. 'Most boards of management of companies now recognize the value of effective communications as a critical factor for the realization of their strategic and tactical objectives,' he says. Boulogne adds that financial PR is a particular growth sector, driven by the strong economic climate and the upward surge of the stock market. Moreover, many Dutch companies are repositioning themselves, according to Boulogne, to take into account international issues, such as the changeover to a European currency and the increasing globalization of markets.
Former Dutch PR association the VPRA folded in July 1997 and then reformed and merged with NPRC, which catered to smaller agencies. During 1998, membership of the new VPRA increased from 30 to 34, while Harry Mock retired as president to be replaced by general secretary Kes Wijdooge. Frank Lether, VP and secretary of VPRA, agrees it was a good year for his members: 'The economy is good, with unemployment and inflation still fairly low, and the PR industry is confident it will stay the same. PR costs are rising and there has been good growth.' He adds, 'I estimate fee income grew overall by 10%in the past.'
In May 1999, prime minister Wim Kok and his cabinet resigned following their failure to ratify a law giving the coalition government the right to call a referendum on major issues of the day. Most political observers believe an election will be avoided and, besides, the Dutch seem far more interested in the strong role they would like the Netherlands to play in Europe, the introduction of the euro, and the various infrastructure projects currently taking place in the country. These include the expansion of Schipol Airport and work on Rotterdam's main port, and the planned high-speed trains between Holland and Germany and Holland and France.
PR is helping to win public approval for these projects as well as assist in the continuing liberalization of the Dutch telecommunication market and the emergence of new technologies, such as the Internet and interactive media.
As in other markets, the growth of the Internet is expected to be a major economic factor. Analysts expect an influx of overseas companies to support the industry.
EUROPEAN AGENCIES: NETHERLANDS
Rank Company Fee income (dollars) Growth
98 98 97 %
1 Bikker 9,714,285 6,523,810 49
2 Winkelman & Van Hessen 8,701,016 6,788,704 28
3 Bennis Porter Novelli** 4,848,485 3,700,800 31
4 Van Sluis Communicatie 4,800,000 3,800,000 26
5 Schoep & Vander Toorn 3,835,200 2,977,600 29
6 Burson-Marsteller** 3,184,000 3,208,000 -1
7 Hill & Knowlton Nederland** 2,536,000 2,057,600 23
8 Van Rossum & Partners 2,400,000 3,040,000 -21
9 Van Dantzig & Lichtenweldt 2,080,000 1,600,000 30
10 Van Hulzen PR** 1,552,000 1,504,000 3
11 Bex van der Schans 1,499,442 1,193,650 26
12 Paul Kok Consultants 1,280,000 1,120,000 14
13 Hollander Van der Mey MS&L 1,211,680 1,231,680 -2
14 GCI Holland 1,168,000 1,040,000 12
15 Zwart & Partners 1,052,485 1,129,664 -7
16 Pauw & Van Spaendonck* 1,043,317 974,048 7
17 Bureau Broekman 969,696 N/A N/A
17 Huijskens & Glansbeek 969,696 702,400 38
19 Wisse Kommunikatie* 650,000 650,000 0
20 Shandwick Nederland 553,600 732,800 -24
21 Text 100 524,307 422,400 24
22 Lubbersde Jong & Partners 520,000 464,000 12
23 Beta PR* 488,000 456,000 7
24 Verkroost & Partners* 450,000 448,000 0
25 Hake Public Relations* 320,000 304,000 5
Rank Company Location Status
1 Bikker Rotterdam IPREX network
2 Winkelman & Van Hessen The Hague Independent
3 Bennis Porter Novelli** Amstelveen PN subsidiary
4 Van Sluis Communicatie Amsterdam InterPR
5 Schoep & Vander Toorn Amsterdam Brodeur network
6 Burson-Marsteller** The Hague B-M subsidiary
7 Hill & Knowlton Nederland** The Hague H&K subsidiary
8 Van Rossum & Partners Amsterdam Independent
9 Van Dantzig & Lichtenweldt Gouda Independent
10 Van Hulzen PR** Voorschoten F-H network
11 Bex van der Schans Eindhoven ECCO network
12 Paul Kok Consultants Wilhelminaweg Independent
13 Hollander Van der Mey MS&L The Hague MS&L subsidiary
14 GCI Holland Amsterdam GCI subsidiary
15 Zwart & Partners Alphen Independent
16 Pauw & Van Spaendonck* The Hague Spaendonck
17 Bureau Broekman Nijmegen Independent
17 Huijskens & Glansbeek Amsterdam Grayling Group
19 Wisse Kommunikatie* Arnhem Worldcom Group
20 Shandwick Nederland The Hague Shandwick subsidiary
21 Text 100 Amsterdam Text100 subsidiary
22 Lubbersde Jong & Partners Amsterdam Fireworks member
23 Beta PR* The Hague Independent
24 Verkroost & Partners* Bilthoven Independent. PR Network
25 Hake Public Relations* Veenendaal Independent
All figures relate to the year ended 31 December 1998;
Fee income= PR fees only;
* Denotes member of VPRA;
** Denotes member of Precom