The Swedish PR market may be a late bloomer, but it is making up for lost time. All the major players agree that 1998 was the strongest year ever for the industry. Kaj Flick, secretary general of Swedish PR association Precis, says the average rise in fee income since the association formed in 1990 has been between 20% and 30%.
The association itself is growing: membership stands at 43 firms, and Flick expects it to top the 50 mark next year. 'The economic situation in Sweden is very favorable. Our customers have had good growth and they are plowing this into PR,' he says.
But solid growth is a European-wide trend. What makes the situation in Sweden unusual is that the Swedes were comparatively late starters in PR. Peje Emilsson, CEO of Sweden's largest agency, the Kreab Group, says that until the 1990s, PR was seen solely as a press relations function, not as a discipline that offered strategic advice.
Mikael Westmark, deputy managing director of Hill & Knowlton Sweden, says the Swedish PR market differs from that of the UK and US. 'Traditionally, there has been no crossover with marketing or advertising. But now we are seeing a trend toward a better understanding of how PR can be used in conjunction with other marketing disciplines.' H&K Sweden has experienced a massive 74% increase in fee income last year, securing its place in the top 15 largest agencies. The agency has big plans for the region as a whole. It already has majority-owned companies in Finland and Sweden, and affiliates in Norway, Denmark and the Baltic region. Major account wins of the year included Roche and the launch of anti-obesity drug Xenical.
Overall, the Scandinavian countries are among the most tight-knit in Europe. Westmark says, 'The larger agencies are developing a Nordic approach, it is not enough to have agencies just in Sweden.'
A good example of a strong Nordic platform is the one operated by Burson-Marsteller, ranked fourth. It has offices in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo and affiliates in Finland. Elisabeth Hulquist, managing director of BM Stockholm, says the agency has been strengthening its position in the region by building one organization with a unified Nordic leadership team headed by Thomas Blach in Copenhagen. 'In recent years, there have been a lot of mergers and acquisitions among Nordic companies in areas such as banking, insurance and forest pulp and paper,'says Hultquist, who replaced Per Erik Holmgren as managing director in March 1998. 'There is a need to manage perceptions that arise from these mergers.' BM Stockholm strengthened its resources by forming an alliance with three senior Swedish consultants/lobbyists: Rune Borg, Bengt Lindmark, and Sture Lindmark.
While foreign companies are happy to base their Nordic headquarters in Stockholm, Swedish companies are increasingly moving out of the capital.
Flick explains: 'They are moving to London, Brussels and cities in Germany. I recently read an article that said out of our top 500 companies, 164 had moved their headquarters out of Sweden.' As a recent example, Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra merged with Zeneca and relocated to London from Stockholm.
Emilsson, whose firm advised the Astra/Zeneca merger, says this trend is behind Kreab's decision to open an office in London this fall. 'Many of our leading Swedish companies have over 90% of their sales outside Sweden and over the last two years have been establishing their headquarters outside the country,' says Emilsson.
Sweden itself has established industrial regions. Stockholm is the industrial center of the country and most of the PR agencies in the top 25 are based there. Plans are also underway to construct a bridge over the sea, linking Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark. Ragnar Falck, managing director of independent medium-size agency Printa in Helsingborg, says the bridge will have a huge impact on the trade between the two countries, which is good news for PR.
Given the dynamic market, it is hardly surprising that there were a number of new start-ups in 1998. In March, Hoghuset 221 was established by freelance media consultant Fabien as Petersens.
The major growth sectors of 1998 were hi-tech and healthcare, according to Larserik Johansson, managing director of Shandwick affiliate Johansson & Co which, at number 14, had a 21% growth in fee income and won clients such as the Colgate Palmolive brand Ajax as well as Absolut vodka. 'Pharmaceutical companies were finding their marketing through advertising was limited, so media relations has been able to communicate better messages,' he says.
With many of the large-owned groups interested in Sweden's dynamic PR market, it is likely that the agencies will continue to show healthy growth in the coming year.
EUROPEAN AGENCIES: SWEDEN
Rank Company Fee income (dollars) Growth
98 98 97 %
1 Kreab 10,872,000 8,832,000 23
2 JKL 6,121,216 4,509,088 36
3 Rikta Communications* 5,101,963 2,945,454 73
4 Burson-Marsteller 4,089,600 4,628,800 -12
5 GCI Rinfo 3,856,000 2,352,000 64
6 Jerry Bergstrom 3,573,528 3,260,606 10
7 Wildell Gruppen* 3,563,840 3,563,637 0
8 Gramma* 3,142,982 1,236,363 154
9 CARTA Comms* 3,125,760 1,599,998 95
10 Andreasson* 2,314,182 2,472,726 -6
11 Journalistgruppen** 2,105,600 N/A N/A
12 Hill & Knowlton Sweden 1,846,851 1,063,803 74
13 Hallvarsson & Halvarsson* 1,819,054 1,030,302 77
14 Johansson & Co 1,612,096 1,333,280 21
15 Idetorget* 1,517,672 1,151,515 32
16 Gullers Grupp 1,503,030 1,381,818 9
17 Svenska PR Byrin 1,151,515 1,006,061 14
18 Segerfeldt and Partners 1,104,000 617,600 79
19 AB sagt:gjort* 1,065,600 654,544 63
20 Munz Alenius PR 893,382 981,818 -9
21 Rita Platzer PR 723,040 557,120 30
22 KAN Kommunikations* 656,582 484,848 35
23 Erichs Communications*** 645,818 N/A N/A
24 Infokraft Publishing*** 597,333 N/A N/A
25 PiRho Ogilvy PR 582,400 582,400 0
Rank Company Location Status
1 Kreab Stockholm Kreab Group
2 JKL Stockholm Grayling Group
3 Rikta Communications* Stockholm IPREX member
4 Burson-Marsteller Stockholm BM subsidiary
5 GCI Rinfo Stockholm GCI subsidiary
6 Jerry Bergstrom Stockholm Brodeur Worldwide
7 Wildell Gruppen* Stockholm F-H Europe
8 Gramma* Stockholm Ludgate network
9 CARTA Comms* Stockholm MS&L network
10 Andreasson* Stockholm Edelman Worldwide
11 Journalistgruppen** Stockholm Independent
12 Hill & Knowlton Sweden Stockholm H&K subsidiary
13 Hallvarsson & Halvarsson* Stockholm Independent
14 Johansson & Co Stockholm Shandwick affiliate
15 Idetorget* Stockholm Independent
16 Gullers Grupp Stockholm Independent
17 Svenska PR Byrin Stockholm PNI/GPC network
18 Segerfeldt and Partners Stockholm Brodeur Worldwide
19 AB sagt:gjort* Stockholm Independent
20 Munz Alenius PR Stockholm Independent
21 Rita Platzer PR Stockholm ECCO member
22 KAN Kommunikations* Stockholm Independent
23 Erichs Communications*** Linkoping Independent
24 Infokraft Publishing*** Stockholm Independent
25 PiRho Ogilvy PR Stockholm Ogilvy subsidiary
All figures relate to the year ended 31 December 1998;
Fee income = PR fees;
* Figures independently audited and supplied by Precis;
** No figures available for 1997