TOP 50 CONSUMER PR: The rough ride - Mary Cowlett finds consumer agencies riding the waves of a tumultuous year

2001 was a roller-coaster year for consumer PR specialists, characterised by heady optimism at the start and more than a few headaches at the end. But this was against the backdrop of one of the strongest consumer booms in decades.

Spending on luxury items reached £110bn, while figures released in May this year reveal retail sales continue to boom, up by 6.9 per cent on the year before. Despite good indicators, however, the PR sector failed to reap equal rewards.

'Everybody started off very buoyant, possibly even a little fat, but by the time we got to the autumn, we were all working in an entirely different business environment,' says Sarah Muirhead, Biss Lancaster Corporate Communications consumer director.

This year's league table shows that while it was a tough year for everyone, overall, most agencies held fast throughout 2001, riding out the less favourable last quarter on the bounties of January to August. However, a handful of PR operators foundered, for example travel consumer agency Kable PR, which folded in November, after financial difficulties and client losses.

Indeed, while talk of economic gloom and the implications of the tragic events of 11 September were tough issues for most sectors, consumer PR faced particular challenges.

The first was a major hangover from 2000, as agencies experienced a reduced volumed business from dot.coms. Among the many losses, Jackie Cooper PR waved goodbye to, whose US parent went bust, while Biss Lancaster lost online banking firm Zefinance and ISP Liberty Surf. Hill & Knowlton also suffered, with travel agency and clothes retailer withdrawing their PR business.

Then came the foot-and-mouth epidemic, which affected some regional agencies and their local clients quite severely. In addition, food and drink specialists - including Nexus Communications which works with Burger King - found themselves issuing statements about product safety.

However national crises provided some work for consumer agencies. In the aftermath of foot-and-mouth, many agencies - including GCI London, which worked with the British Tourist Authority - helped those affected pick up the pieces.

'With potential visitors inundated with media images of burning carcasses, it was a case of damage limitation and repositioning the UK as a great place to come within the international market,' says GCI London CEO Sue Ryan.

However, these problems paled into insignificance when faced with 11 September. As many struggled to comprehend the human cost of the terrorist attacks on the US, consumer PR, with its closeness to pure marketing and - arguably - softer issues, was given a wake-up call.

'From a consumer PR point of view, 11 September was a harsh reminder of what's important and what's not in terms of selling stories to the press,' says JCPR founding partner Robert Phillips.

As the tragedy dominated the news agenda, campaigns using celebrity or brand marketing were wholly inappropriate. In the short-term, the tragedy also meant that some consumer activity had to be postponed or pulled, including the PR push for one alcoholic brand, poised to run an on-pack promotion offering free flights to New York.

'Business suffered terribly - anyone who says that they weren't affected is lying,' says Phillips.

However, some feel that those who use this period as a reason for a disappointing year are simply looking for excuses. 'The financial and tech sectors had justifiably bad years, but I don't think it washes to blame 11 September for any downturn in the consumer sector,' says Sally Ward, Weber Shandwick consumer practice MD.

Indeed, it could be argued that public uncertainty provided short-term benefits for some in the FMCG market, as consumers looked to cocoon themselves at home, or cast caution to the wind and live for the moment. In addition, some agencies - particularly those servicing destinations or airlines - found themselves on the receiving end of some substantial issues management and brand recovery business.

However, the prospect of a global war against terrorism did prove to be pivotal for clients. 'It was the catalyst that firmed up their plans one way or the other. Those that were thinking about pulling back did so, while the more enlightened clients decided to really go for it,' says Brandon Stockwell, a Cohn & Wolfe consumer division director.

Certainly in the airline sector there was a marked difference in response between the long-haul air carriers, many of whom off-loaded staff and routes, while low-cost airlines such as Go and Ryanair staged price-slashing programmes to persuade travellers back into the air.

And as many clients retrenched, there was a temptation for some agencies to offer more than they could afford. 'I think that had strong consequences for our industry, as once you're underselling, how do you get out of it?' says Stockwell.

However, while the individual disasters of 2001 hit some consumer sectors harder than others, the major theme throughout the year was economic downturn.

In the first six months, much of this was speculative, but in the last half reality hit home as clients looked to trim their marketing budgets.

'The scrap for new business got tougher and there was huge competition for the big pitches, which, in retrospect, was actually quite good for the industry,' says Ward.

Inevitably as things got leaner, clients also demanded greater relevance and accountability from their PR activities. While project work temporarily fell off, this improved the focus of clients' PR campaigns leading to a mood of pragmatism.

'Clients moved from straight-forward brand-building activities, to tie-in sales, looking to measure their PR investment not just in terms of attitudinal shift, but also behavioural changes,' says Gill Brown, Band & Brown group MD.

Budgetary concerns also drove clients' expecting their brand marketing agencies work as one.

A case in point is Bird's Eye Wall's, which has a reputation for briefing all its agencies together then asking them for a single group proposal.

And this trend for PR practitioners to join forces with other partner agencies had far-reaching implications in terms of consumer PR's role.

'We're increasingly taking our place at the top table and being seen as strategic partners as well as implementers,' says Hill & Knowlton head of marketing comms Wendy Mair. 'Instead of being invited in after the ad agency, we're now part of the overall decision process.'

But as PR increasingly fought it out with the ad sector in 2001, PR agencies themselves offered far more integrated services, in particular, embracing broader online activities - such as viral marketing - and took on greater sponsorship responsibilities.

Certainly, consumer PR got closer to its audiences in 2001, investing more widely in experiential marketing. For example Burson-Marsteller worked with Jim Beam Brands, to create the Jim Beam Real Long Weekend. A pan-European campaign, employing a 1950s classic Airstream camper vehicle that travelled between destination clubs and cities, offered young males the chance to win a two-day break with their friends.

'That was good for both media relations and as a bonding experience with the brand for young men,' says B-M director Emyr Williams.

However, while most consumer agencies held up in 2001, it was a relatively flat year for the sector, with the biggest players fairly hard hit. With no submission from either Freud Communications - last year's number two did not enter figures for this year following its MBO in June 2001 - or B-M, which doesn't feature in the table because of a policy not to breakdown its activity by sector, it is hard to make a direct comparison with 2000.

However, growth margins among the other big earners, at the top of the table, are slim.

Nevertheless, this predominantly steady performance didn't stop the consumer PR landscape from shifting. There was some market consolidation, most notably, Incepta acquired The Red Consultancy, hatch-group snapped up MacLaurin and Weber Shandwick and BSMG merged.

But while some were happy to join the conglomerates, there were those who struck out for independence. Over the summer, Freuds bought its business back from Omnicom-owned ad agency AMV, while Consolidated Communications' top team negotiated an MBO from agency founder and CEO Alastair Gornall (who has since left).

'It bucked the trend of agencies selling to networks and losing their independence, but this way we keep our independence and react when we need to,' says Consolidated board director Will Holt.

As the consumer boom continues, it remains to be seen if PR agencies will stage a similar boom.

                                Consumer                      Total PR
Rank      Agency                fee income (pnds)      %      fee income
2001 2000                       2001        2000       growth 2001

1    1    Hill & Knowlton UK*   9,291,954   9,056,342  2      28,857,000
2    3    Countrywide Porter
          Novelli*              5,367,892   5,435,716  -1     20,645,739
3    9    Weber Shandwick UK*1  5,366,699   3,831,480  40     41,282,302
4    5    Euro RCSG
          Corporate Comms       4,785,928   4,287,045  12     19,143,712
5    4    Ketchum*              4,189,012   4,439,468  -6     9,973,838
6    6    Jackie Cooper
          Public Relations      4,060,353   4,061,824  0      4,060,353
7    13   GCI/APCO UK*          3,525,000   2,442,300  44     17,625,000
8    10   The Red Consultancy*  3,502,319   3,045,889  15     6,608,149
9    7    Harrison Cowley*      3,495,498   4,039,112  -13    6,241,961
10   11   Nexus
          Communications*       3,175,200   2,851,520  11     4,410,000
11   12   Consolidated
          Communications*       2,966,020   2,598,579  14     4,943,366
12   14   Lexis Public
          Relations*            2,600,531   2,305,905  13     4,728,239
13   -    hatch-group*          2,504,683   -          -      4,587,332
14   26   Ogilvy PR Worldwide*  2,504,683   1,344,448  85     6,719,000
15   15   Edelman
          PR Worldwide*         2,384,519   2,196,086  9      12,550,100
16   39   Band & Brown
          Communications2       2,375,303   940,269    153    5,938,258
17   16   Cohn & Wolfe*         2,230,586   2,018,134  11     10,621,837
18   18   Grayling Group*3      2,196,000   1,951,026  12     9,106,900
19   30   Fleishman-Hillard*4   1,866,728   1,220,940  53     12,444,851
20   28   Staniforth
          Communications        1,677,272   1,309,909  28     3,727,271
21   25   Citigate
          Dewe Rogerson         1,562,156   1,454,000  7      31,243,119
22   46   Nelson Bostock
          Communications*       1,448,179   781,832    85     3,620,448
23   23   Manning
          Selvage & Lee*        1,427,760   1,510,320  -5     5,288,000
24   29   BMA Communications    1,418,720   1,297,267  9      2,086,353
25   31   Phipps PR*            1,366,787   1,168,583  17     1,366,787
26   33   Shire Health Group*   1,313,625   1,123,040  17     8,757,500
27   32   Camron Public
          Relations             1,254,230   1,156,588  8      1,254,230
28   19   Firefly
          Communications*       1,226,813   1,769,001  -31    7,216,545
29   38   Shine
          Communications*       1,191,580   962,590    24     1,191,580
30   35   BGB & Associates      1,133,656   1,067,545  6      2,061,192
31   17   Joe Public Relations  1,086,824   1,975,582  -45    1,752,942
32   44   EHPR                  1,082,406   823,891    31     1,615,531
33   36   Fishburn Hedges       1,079,976   1,060,554  2      8,307,510
34   -    Yellow Door Creative  1,032,000   -          -      1,032,000
35   41   Darwall
          Smith Associates      944,750     860,353    10     1,111,470
36   -    Counsel               938,630     -          -      1,771,000
37   43   Midas
          Public Relations      855,535     830,642    3      855,535
38   48   Colman Getty PR       848,660     767,859    11     1,131,546
39   -    Golley Slater PR*     836,590     -          -      2,390,258
40   37   Craigie Taylor
          International         804,667     980,678    -18    2,682,223
41   -    Le Fevre
          Communications        768,000     -          -      3,200,000
42   -    August.One
          Communications*       737,315     -          -      4,915,430
43   47   Ptarmigan
          Consultants*          697,887     776,423    -10    1,836,545
44   -    NP PR                 691,746     -          -      1,537,214
45   -    Haslimann Taylor*     684,721     -          -      866,736
46   -    Cairns &
          Associates UK         682,200     -          -      682,200
47   -    Lawson Dodd*          662,935     -          -      1,457,000
48   -    TTA
          Public Relations*     650,038     -          -      1,083,396
49   -    Haygarth PR           648,325     -          -      745,201
50   -    McCluskey
          International         595,402     -          -      595,402

Rank      Agency                         Staff  % fee income Location
2001 2000                                       2001
1    1    Hill & Knowlton UK*            320    32           London
2    3    Countrywide Porter Novelli*    241    26           Oxon
3    9    Weber Shandwick UK*1           576    13           London
4    5    Euro RCSG Corporate Comms      170    25           London
5    4    Ketchum*                       128    42           London
6    6    Jackie Cooper Public
          Relations                      65     100          London
7    13   GCI/APCO UK*                   175    20           Glas & Lon
8    10   The Red Consultancy*           98     53           London
9    7    Harrison Cowley*               111    56           Various
10   11   Nexus Communications*          74     72           London
11   12   Consolidated Communications*   67     60           London
12   14   Lexis Public Relations*        75     55           London
13   -    hatch-group*                   67     55           London
14   26   Ogilvy PR Worldwide*           69     37           London
15   15   Edelman PR Worldwide*          111    19           London
16   39   Band & Brown
          Communications2                81     40           London
17   16   Cohn & Wolfe*                  118    21           London
18   18   Grayling Group*3               102    11           London
19   30   Fleishman-Hillard*4            141    15           London
20   28   Staniforth Communications      56     45           Manchester
21   25   Citigate Dewe Rogerson         346    5            London
22   46   Nelson Bostock
          Communications*                50     40           London
23   23   Manning Selvage & Lee*         67     27           London
24   29   BMA Communications             18     68           London
25   31   Phipps PR*                     22     100          London
26   33   Shire Health Group*            104    15           London
27   32   Camron Public Relations        27     100          London
28   19   Firefly Communications*        92     17           London
29   38   Shine Communications*          23     100          London
30   35   BGB & Associates               41     55           London
31   17   Joe Public Relations           26     62           London
32   44   EHPR                           33     67           Berks
33   36   Fishburn Hedges                79     13           London
34   -    Yellow Door Creative           16     100          London
35   41   Darwall Smith Associates       22     85           London
36   -    Counsel                        18     53           London
37   43   Midas Public Relations         16     100          London
38   48   Colman Getty PR                19     75           London
39   -    Golley Slater PR*              46     35           Cardiff
40   37   Craigie Taylor
          International                  54     30           Surrey
41   -    Le Fevre Communications        45     24           Lon & Oxf'd
42   -    August.One Communications*     67     15           London
43   47   Ptarmigan Consultants*         41     38           Leeds
44   -    NP PR                          40     45           Newcastle
45   -    Haslimann Taylor*              21     79           Midlands
46   -    Cairns & Associates UK         12     100          London
47   -    Lawson Dodd*                   24     46           London
48   -    TTA Public Relations*          22     60           Surrey
49   -    Haygarth PR                    15     87           London
50   -    McCluskey International        18     100          London
All figures relate to the year end 31 December 2001. Fee income=PR fees
+ mark-up.* Denotes PRCA member

- 1 Hill & Knowlton UK, £9,291,954

With fee income growth of two per cent, Hill & Knowlton UK remains in a class of its own and claims the top spot for the third year running.

Sports sponsorship, headed by Alun James, was the agency's stellar practice area in 2001, growing by 150 per cent. Wins included the UBS Group's sailing portfolio, encompassing partnerships with the Volvo Ocean Race and the Americas Cup. The division also picked up work for the Rugby Football Union, the World Snooker Association and Gillette.

H&K also fared well on the beauty front, winning Boots's Pure Beauty range. Other key wins included the AA, Findus and further confectionery work for Nestle.

However, 2001 was not without its problems. The agency parted company with travel agency and clothes retailer

Likewise, the economic slowdown took its toll. 'Some people didn't put as much money behind their business as in previous years. In addition, at the back end of the year, our revenues pushed into January as clients took longer to decide,' says H&K head of marcoms Wendy Mair.

Like other multi-practice agencies, H&K's consumer healthcare arm held up well, winning work for Boots' baby-feeding product, Steribottle.

At the end of last year, former youth and consumer MD Jason Gallucci set up a sister H&K consumer agency - PiranhaKid - which aims to help brands such as Adidas, Right Guard, and alcoholic beverage After Shock become more 'aspirational and contemporary'.

This new venture also enables H&K to handle potential client conflicts. For instance, in March 2002, despite H&K's work for Vauxhall, PiranhaKid scooped work on the launch of Ford's new Fiesta and StreetKa models.

- 6 Jackie Cooper Public Relations, £4,060,353

Jackie Cooper PR, the top independent consumer PR agency in the table, had a stable year, with fee income holding steady. This zero growth was largely the result of market stalemate after 11 September.

'We had to put 50 per cent of our existing projects on hold for six weeks,' said JCPR founding partner Robert Phillips. 'Up to that point, we would have shown ten or 11 per cent growth for the year, but we lost that in the last quarter'.

The agency suffered at the start of 2001 with the loss of the account. In addition, in February Abbey National's online banking arm - Cahoot - took its business elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the first nine months of 2001 were buoyant, with work for Sara Lee Courtaulds - owners of the Pretty Polly brand - Whitbread's Costa and Sony's PlayStation 2. In addition, Coca-Cola hired JCPR for the spring launch of its non-carbonated fruit drink Alive, taking the agency's Coke portfolio to seven brands.

In August JCPR was appointed by Sara Lee Courtaulds and Marks & Spencer to launch their 'Ego Boost' bra, in a celebrity campaign fronted by former Brookside star, Claire Sweeney. While in the autumn, the number one 'teen and tween' brand in the US, Mary-Kate and Ashley, charged the agency with masterminding a campaign to steer their growth of market share of the UK's girls fashion and merchandising markets. In 2002 the celebrity twins visited the UK on a promotional tour in April. Originally set for Easter weekend, this visit had to be postponed for three weeks, following the Queen Mother's death.

In April JCPR was appointed by Mothercare as its retained consumer agency and, in May, it landed work for the Noble House pub/eaterie chain.

- 7 GCI/APCO UK, £3,525,000

The major change for GCI London in 2001 was the demerger of its corporate and marcoms arms, in a bid to build a structure around niche specialities.

In March, this resulted in Jane Howard being appointed as managing director of a marcoms practice covering consumer durables, FMCG, lifestyle, retail, leisure and travel.

This re-organisation also goes some way to explain GCI's strong showing in the table. While there was certainly healthy consumer PR growth, 44 per cent is a slightly misleading figure and reflects a shift in allocation of GCI's British Airways' business from corporate to consumer.

Nevertheless, the agency enjoyed success in the retail sector, with WHSmith and Scottish & Newcastle extending their business. The agency also gained clients such as Homebase, the Ealing Juice Company, Playtex Tampons and transactional TV channel, Home Shopping Europe.

Work continued for Procter & Gamble, Electrolux and its white goods brands Zanussi, AEG, Tricity Bendix and Parkinson Cowan, while Twinings put more work the agency's way to support its range of speciality teas and herbal/fruit infusions.

With fee income of almost £2m, leisure and travel was GCI's star earner last year, aided by a substantial new account in April from the British Tourist Authority, promoting the UK as a safer place than images of burning foot-and-mouth-diseased animal carcasses would indicate.

In February 2002, GCI London boosted its internal comms and change management offering by forging a strategic alliance with niche consultancy BeAsYouSay.

- 10 Nexus Communications, £3,175,200

2001 was also a year of structural change for Nexus, which dropped its Nexus Choat tag and separated out its consumer, healthcare and tech capabilities into three divisions.

By far the biggest of the three, the consumer and business unit employs 40 of the agency's 74 staff and provides around 70 per cent of its fee income. This mainly comes from food and drink work, with long-standing clients such as Tropicana, Muller, Burger King and the British Egg Industry Council.

Compared to others in the sector, Nexus weathered the downturn reasonably well, enjoying consumer fee income growth of 11 per cent. This came from additional project work for Tropicana and a number of new business wins, including Anchor Butter and Premier Foods International, which in October, hired the agency to raise awareness of its Typhoo Tea, London Fruit and Herb Company and Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate brands.

On the downside, however, in July the agency parted company with single malt Highland whisky brand, the Macallan, which decided to take its PR business in-house. In addition in May 2002, business and consumer division head Anna Hooper resigned, having only joined the agency from the now-defunct Kable PR in late autumn 2001.

'We're a very different firm now to a year ago,' said CEO Jim Horsley. 'We're looking at becoming a big player through organic and acquisitive growth and we want to have a role on a European level'.

The agency has also set up an in-house 'Brand Academy' - which provides training and access to the 'latest brand thinking' - that aims to give clients greater strategic PR input.

- 16 Band & Brown Communications, £2,375,303

With remarkable fee income growth of 153 per cent in 2001, Band & Brown has performed extraordinarily well. A significant factor in this success was the acquisition, in 2000, of consumer specialist Larkspur Communications, which bought brands such as Focus Do It All and the Virgin Cosmetics Company into the B&B fold.

Last October, Larkspur was formally merged into the business, bringing B&B's consumer offering - which comprises about 40 per cent of its business - under one roof. At the end of the year, this attracted Centrica-owned utility company British Gas to appoint the agency to handle a three- month regional consumer 'Shave and Save' PR push, which aimed to boost customer numbers and promoting energy efficiency.

In addition, some of B&B's long-standing consumer clients increased their spend. These included Burton Biscuits, which, on the back of the agency's Jammie Dodgers and Wagon Wheels work, handed over its Cadbury's Fingers and Maryland Cookies accounts. Likewise, British Bakeries built on its Nimble account, adding Mother's Pride V Force, its vitamin-enhanced bread.

However, the agency parted company with supermarket Somerfield last summer, while BBC Education decided to terminate the agency's project work. The biggest loss came in the aftermath of 11 September, when Thomson Holidays decided to take its PR in-house.

Nevertheless, in 2002, the agency is still looking to grow its consumer business and, according to group managing director Gill Brown, is in the process of hiring three more staff.

- 18 Grayling Group, £2,196,000

2001 was the year Grayling Group strengthened its consumer PR credentials in food and drink. This was aided by the acquisition of PR Connection in December 2000, which brought five new staff on board and a portfolio of luxury brands.

Most notably Paragon Vintners (owners of the Quinta do Noval port brand and Spanish sherry Manzanilla), AXA Miliesieme (AXA insurer's vineyard property arm) and the Honey Association joined the Grayling fold.

This complimented the agency's existing consumer client base, which includes the Glenfiddich Food & Drink Awards and French cookware manufacturer Le Creuset.

CEO Amanda Riddle said: 'We've remained very strong in food and drink, which is good news as media interest in this area has grown and cooking is now the third most popular hobby in the UK.'

Clients won through the year included Langans Restaurants, National Restaurant Week and the British Toy and Hobby Association.

In addition, Grayling's consumer healthcare team began the year by consolidating work for Bayer Consumer Care. In January, the practice won the pharma company's fungal infection treatment range, Canesten, antiseptic cream Germolene and haemorrhoid treatment Germoloids.

However, the year was not without its losses. An 18- month project for restaurant Six - 13, in London's Wigmore Street, came to an end and the economic impact of foot-and-mouth meant the agency parted company with pork pie and sausage maker Dickinson & Morris.

- 25 Phipps PR, £1,366,787

Food, drink and lifestyle specialist Phipps PR increased fee income by 17 per cent in 2001. This growth came from a number of client wins, including Finlandia Vodka, Latin American sauce manufacturer Latina and Jim Beam Brands' wine portfolio, Peak Wines.

Also on the food and drink front, the agency picked up The Sherry Institute of Spain, with a brief to rejuvenate the beverage's image among younger drinkers.

Other areas of growth included entertainment, with Phipps hired by Sony to promote its second-generation AIBO robot.

Columbia TriStar also increased its business with the agency. In March, following its success with box-office hit Stuart Little in 2000, Phipps picked up the launch of the film distributor's computer-animated film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

At the end of the year, the agency introduced a payment-by-performance system for clients. 'The benefits are enormous, ranging from improved quality and relevance of campaign objectives, to clarity over value of PR to client organisations, which enables us to address issues of relationship profitability,' says director Sara Tye.

In June 2002, Phipps was appointed by restaurant chain Nando's on a year-long 'creative news generation', plus crisis and issues management brief. The agency is charged with raising awareness for restaurant openings and it also worked on its PR surrounding football's World Cup.

- 32 EHPR, £1,082,406

Elizabeth Hindmarch PR - which rebranded as EHPR this year - is a specialist in the lifestyle, retail, home, beauty and personal care markets and earns two thirds of its business from consumer work.

With fee income surging by 31 per cent in 2001, the Windsor-based agency had a successful year, experiencing growth across the board.

Long-standing client Wella increased it business, handing EHPR its newly acquired celebrity-licensed hair treatments from Nicky Clarke and Daniel Galvin. Similarly, in March, the agency launched Wella's Vivality haircare range with a night out for 200 journalists in London.

High street retailer Comet remained a major client, as did top-of-the-range kitchen appliances specialist Miele, for which the agency organised a series of product launches.

New clients to join the EHPR fold in 2001, included Micromark, a home security CCTV specialist, and satellite provider Astra Marketing, which hired the agency to promote the benefits of digital TV to consumers.

In July, EHRP strengthened its management team, with the internal promotion of Leigh-ann Wilson to deputy managing director and Rikki Weir to associate director.

In addition, to service the celebrity requirements of its clients, the agency opened a small London office in Soho. Over the summer, EHPR revamped the interior of its Grade-II listed Windsor base. Interior designer Gerardine Hemingway reconfigured the reception to include cubist chairs and a wipe-clean graffiti wall for staff.

- 38 Colman Getty PR, £848,660

A market leader in PR for publishing and the arts, consumer PR constitutes 75 per cent of Colman Getty's fee income.

The agency handles an impressive list of authors and, in 2001, helped launched titles for Kathy Lette, Sebastian Faulks, Clement Freud and Nobel Prize-winning V S Naipaul.

Organic growth last year came from Nigella Lawson, who broadened the agency's remit from her books to include her public profile. In addition, profile management work for JK Rowling increased, as Harry Potter book fever hit a new high around the release of Warner Brothers' Harry Potter film in November.

Colman Getty CEO Dotti Irving said: 'We weren't too badly affected by the economic downturn - books carry on throughout the recession'.

Having handled World Book Day for five years and National Poetry Day for ten years, a major new project for the agency in 2001 was the first-ever Bedtime Reading Week, a campaign that won the Publishers Publicity Circle Best Generic Campaign of the year. In addition, the agency worked with the Department for Education and Skills on an adult literacy campaign.

Headed by Rebecca Salt, Colman Getty Scotland, which was set up in 1999, strengthened its position last year. The main point of contact for Edinburgh-based JK Rowling, the office launched a range of business guides for Virgin Books and worked on 'Year of the Artist', a festival organised by Scottish Cultural Enterprise.

Overall, losses were kept to a minimum, with Carlton Books departing in March to take its PR function in-house, followed by a mutual parting of the ways with retailer Waterstones, a client of six years.

- 44 NP PR, £691,746

A new entrant in the consumer league table, NP PR generates just under half of its fee income from consumer business.

Founded in Newcastle eight years ago, 2001 was the year when the agency finally achieved its aim of being a national agency with regional reach.

Having laid down roots in Manchester and Leeds last July, the agency established itself in London and changed its name from Northern Profile to NP PR.

With most of its long-term consumer clients regionally based, this move helped the agency attract some major brands, including The Army, which hired NP PR to undertake a major recruitment drive in 2001.

Throughout the year, NP PR picked up men's retailer The Officers Club and furniture retailer ScS, both of which ran aggressive customer, staff and outlet acquisition programmes last year. In addition, in November, health and fitness club operator Fitness First hired the agency for a national and regional media relations campaign, surrounding its £20m expansion programme.

The focus on a London presence also bore fruit with existing clients. Construction company Willmott Dixon increased the agency's brief to encompass its refurbishment business, Inspace, while food manufacturer Cranswick expanded on its Lazenby's sausages brief, to include its entire range of meat products.

The only loss came in September, when website agency Leighton, a small company servicing British Airways, resigned its business.

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