So, the sixth consultancy - in alphabetical order - on our shortlist… W Communications.
Neatly enough, W Communications started up ten years ago, right at the end of the previous decade. Founded by the relentless Warren Johnson, a former director at Freuds, W’s fee income after one year of operation just topped £1m, putting the agency at 141 in PRWeek’s UK league table in 2011.
By the end of last year, however, W had climbed to 42 in the division thanks to annual fee income approaching £8.4m.
The incredible revenue growth (26 per cent last year alone) has principally been organic – thanks to a client list graced by British Airways and Unilever - although recent years have seen Johnson on the specialist acquisition and expansion trail.
Late in 2016 he bought House PR; a year later a stake in jewellery PR specialist Facets; and, in 2018, travel specialist Lotus. The London-based agency has opened a Newcastle office, a branch in Amsterdam and developed a sizeable operation in Singapore.
W founder Warren Johnson with Ginny Paton of House PR, post-acquisition
The work has been outstanding, too. By 2011 W was highly commended as PRWeek’s New Consultancy of the Year, and in 2015 won Mid-sized Consultancy of the Year, also collecting many Best Campaign gongs along the way. In 2017 Johnson hired Mark Perkins, a respected creative at Engine Group, to be W’s chief creative officer.
And in 2018, the consultancy won seven Cannes Lions for the Project 84 male suicide prevention work (below) with adam&eveDDB for mental health charity CALM.
For some in the industry Johnson is overly competitive but there’s little doubt he is always interesting, always entrepreneurial and innovative – he set up social enterprise WX this autumn – and W is one of a handful of agencies that can genuinely claim to have shaken up the PR industry in the past decade.
Who else is on the shortlist?