TOP 150 PR CONSULTANCIES 2003: Top 50 Outside London

PR agencies outside the capital saw stark contrasts in fortune during 2002. PRWeek's survey of fee income for the top 50 agencies based outside the M25 shows that while some operators blossomed - most notably the SNS Group at number 22 - others floundered.

As with the main Top 150 report, this year's table takes on a different complexion with the absence of Omnicom-owned PR brands Countrywide Porter Novelli and Brodeur Worldwide, which declined to submit fee income figures for fear of violating the US Security and Exchange Commission's new disclosure rules. Others, such as Oxford-based Le Fevre Communications, Grant Butler Coomber and Gem Europe (including the former Craigie Taylor), simply failed to enter.

However, the absence of last year's top two means that, for the first time, Scotland's Beattie Media heads the table with fee income growth of five per cent. Compared to many, the agency had a solid year.

Agency founder and chief executive Gordon Beattie says that business in 2002 was supported by a strong commitment to internal communication programmes for clients, and the development of new services in interactive PR. In addition, the agency bolstered it's Aberdeen operation with the acquisition of Odyssey Communications last June. However, the start of 2003 has been unsettling. New business wins, including Clydesdale Bank and Napier University in Edinburgh, have been counterbalanced by losing Hewlett Packard in the wake of the IT giant's decision to consolidate its PR into three global agencies.

At number two, Harrison Cowley's UK network lost Marks & Spencer, but had a boost in activity for Camelot's National Lottery relaunch. Agency chairman and chief executive David Heal says: '2002 was a bit of a rollercoaster. But we have a reasonable spread across corporate, consumer and B2B, so the risk is always diluted.'

This year kicked off with the loss of HC's consumer head Alan Twigg to Nexus Communications. But Paul Kelly and Loretta Tobin have been promoted to deputy chairman and managing director respectively.

In third place, Harvard Communications - which covers Chime-owned Harvard PR and Harvard Health - endured a difficult 2002, dropping fee income by 38 per cent and shedding 26 staff. Healthcare business was hit by budget restrictions in the second half of the year, while, despite winning Vodafone's B2B work, Harvard's tech arm lost software firm Computer Associates in a competitive pitch, plus a further six clients to liquidation or receivership.

This negative picture is perhaps unsurprising in a year when life for consultancies focusing purely on tech and telecoms was grim. Brighton-based Midnight Communications held steady, but ninth-placed Insight Marketing and Communications (IMC), as well as AD Communications, Companycare Communications, Strategic Alliance and Roger Staton Associates all experienced a slump in fee income.

IMC managing director Chris Warham claims his agency's performance is somewhat skewed compared to 2001, owing to parent company Chime's decision to reallocate some of its analyst work away from PR income. 'But we still had a diabolical year,' he concedes.

A major blow to IMC, was Hewlett Packard's decision to take tech analyst relations work in-house, following its acquisition of Compaq. Like others, the agency also suffered as US firms pulled out of Europe.

But despite tough times for the ITC specialists, those focused on the consumer marketplace enjoyed a healthy 2002, with sixth-placed EHPR growing fee income by 21 per cent, and Pegasus PR in Worthing achieving 38 per cent growth.

The table also reveals some strong individual performers, including the SNS Group, which achieved phenomenal growth of 95 per cent and strengthened its electronics credentials following acquisition of Cambridge-based B2B specialist Warman & Bannister last March. This brought a number of international accounts into the SNS fold, including Philips Semiconductors, Philips Medical Systems and Lynx Printing Technologies.

Similarly, Bristol-based Strategy PR grew fee income by 60 per cent in 2002. 'We've got a clear medium-term strategy in place where we've focused on key business areas, including the public sector and property,' says agency chief executive Ian Muir. As a result, his firm picked up work from the NHS Information Authority, while also taking responsibility for some of the UK's largest development and regeneration sites, including Kent Thameside.

This year's table also shows some strong regional PR hubs. While Birmingham and Manchester have always had vigorous PR communities, competition in Leeds is hotting up, with Ptarmigan, Brahm PR, Sinclair Mason and Atlas PR all featuring in the top 20 outside London.

Likewise, at number ten, new table entrant The Big Partnership is laying siege to the Scottish PR scene. Set up three years ago by former Beattie Media executives Alex Barr, Graham Isdale and Neil Gibson, the agency opened an Edinburgh office 18 months ago, launched an Aberdeen bureau in April 2002, and this year is looking to establish a presence in London.

'We've not noticed any signs of recession and have had a very exciting start to 2003,' says Isdale. New wins this year include a contract to promote Fife, Forth Valley, Grampian and Tayside for Scottish Enterprise.

This year's table seems to indicate that 2002 may have brought the harsh realities of tightening budgets and job cuts for some, but overall, agencies outside the M25 are alive and well.

AGENCIES OUTSIDE LONDON

Rank Company Fee income (pounds)

02 01 % growth

1 Beattie Media 7,058,467 6,725,347 5

2 Harrison Cowley 6,432,030 6,241,961 3

3 Harvard Communications 4,229,000 6,872,000 -38

4 Golley Slater Public

Relations* 2,427,667 2,390,258 2

5 Ptarmigan Consultants 1,993,901 1,836,545 9

6 EH PR* 1,988,788 1,650,204 21

7 Brahm Public Relations 1,956,038 1,435,567 36

8 NP 1,893,351 1,537,214 23

9 Insight Marketing and

Communications 1,880,000 3,402,000 -45

10 The Big Partnership 1,550,747 - -

11 Midnight Communications* 1,525,156 1,508,452 1

12 AD Communications* 1,506,091 1,829,736 -18

13 Sinclair Mason 1,453,980 1,493,898 -3

14 B2B Communications 1,450,013 1,148,697 26

15 The Whiteoaks

Consultancy* 1,430,682 1,488,440 -4

16 Companycare

Communications* 1,421,603 1,781,098 -20

17 Oast Communications 1,361,926 1,368,527 0

18 Atlas PR 1,318,567 1,006,966 31

19 Quay West Communications 1,235,475 1,410,170 -12

20 TTA Public Relations* 1,234,656 1,083,396 14

21 Myriad Public Relations 1,187,404 1,186,431 0

22 SNS Group 1,132,400 581,985 95

23 Haslimann Taylor* 1,127,308 866,736 30

24 Strategic Alliance

International 1,123,153 1,718,575 -35

25 Berkeley PR Intl 1,118,068 1,279,704 -13

26 Seal Public Relations 1,021,539 961,332 6

27 Strategy PR* 1,008,063 628,185 60

28 Roger Staton Associates* 973,580 1,634,094 -40

29 EML 966,382 1,095,508 -12

30 Wyatt International 951,694 894,290 6

31 Willoughby PR 922,251 971,238 -5

32 DTW 885,476 862,967 3

33 The ITPR Group 881,489 864,484 2

34 Barrett Dixon Bell* 867,000 897,000 -3

35 Pegasus Public Relations 790,187 574,118 38

36 Kavanagh Communications* 775,001 633,024 22

37 Multimedia PRM 754,082 806,510 -7

38 eclat Marketing 747,520 1,291,744 -42

39 BCLO Public Relations 745,311 680,808 9

40 Prowse & Company 725,782 816,894 -11

41 JBP Public Relations* 710,162 970,076 -27

42 Proteus Public Relations 704,418 734,993 -4

43 Corixa Communications 689,859 610,994 13

44 Citypress PR 632,681 630,165 0

45 Leader Communications* 560,991 620,073 -10

46 Pagoda Public Relations 504,230 502,640 0

47 Spin Media 498,355 541,597 -8

48 Market Engineering 472,500 402,000 18

49 The Bright Consultancy 464,000 191,000 143

50 Chaz Brooks

Communications 347,144 421,342 -12

Rank Company Turnover 2002 Staff Location

(pounds) 02 01

1 Beattie Media 7,794,044 126 135 Glasgow

2 Harrison Cowley 9,194,276 95 111 Various

3 Harvard Communications 5,631,000 55 81 Middlesex

4 Golley Slater Public

Relations* 3,162,398 41 46 Cardiff

5 Ptarmigan Consultants 2,724,114 44 41 Leeds

6 EH PR* 3,676,611 36 33 Berkshire

7 Brahm Public Relations 4,415,436 19 17 Leeds

8 NP 1,942,669 42 40 Newcastle

9 Insight Marketing and

Communications 2,099,000 34 41 Cheshire

10 The Big Partnership 1,550,747 26 12 Glasgow

11 Midnight Communications* 1,698,677 34 43 Brighton

12 AD Communications* 2,521,008 20 25 Surrey

13 Sinclair Mason 1,982,316 17 16 Leeds

14 B2B Communications 4,031,394 16 14 Surrey

15 The Whiteoaks

Consultancy* 1,430,682 34 21 Surrey

16 Companycare

Communications* 1,640,576 25 23 Reading

17 Oast Communications 1,845,749 28 35 Kent

18 Atlas PR 2,060,878 24 19 Leeds

19 Quay West Communications 1,445,000 19 21 Essex

20 TTA Public Relations* 1,500,182 26 22 Sutton

21 Myriad Public Relations 1,621,824 21 20 Cambs

22 SNS Group 3,202,554 12 6 Cambs

23 Haslimann Taylor* 1,553,100 24 21 West Midlands

24 Strategic Alliance

International 1,211,625 15 19 Bucks

25 Berkeley PR Intl 1,193,457 24 24 Berkshire

26 Seal Public Relations 2,474,411 24 26 Birmingham

27 Strategy PR* 1,226,036 21 19 Bristol

28 Roger Staton Associates* 1,112,436 15 17 Bucks

29 EML 1,219,051 19 23 Surrey

30 Wyatt International 4,324,607 10 10 Birmingham

31 Willoughby PR 1,794,296 22 26 Birmingham

32 DTW 1,600,220 26 28 Cleveland

33 The ITPR Group 1,154,651 15 15 Surrey

34 Barrett Dixon Bell* 1,700,000 22 20 Cheshire

35 Pegasus Public Relations 877,881 15 13 West Sussex

36 Kavanagh Communications* 919,302 11 9 Surrey

37 Multimedia PRM 1,062,963 14 17 Mons

38 eclat Marketing 747,520 9 12 Berkshire

39 BCLO Public Relations 750,311 13 14 Bristol

40 Prowse & Company 988,102 14 14 Surrey

41 JBP Public Relations* 812,971 16 16 Bristol

42 Proteus Public Relations 1,021,280 10 13 Oxon

43 Corixa Communications 1,121,833 16 14 Bristol

44 Citypress PR 731,691 15 14 Manchester

45 Leader Communications* 723,556 15 17 Warks

46 Pagoda Public Relations 551,641 10 12 Edinburgh

47 Spin Media 681,703 14 15 Manchester

48 Market Engineering 510,500 7 8 Oxon

49 The Bright Consultancy 724,000 9 5 Midlands

50 Chaz Brooks

Communications 370,831 9 9 Surrey

All figures relate to the year ended 31 December 2002.

Fee income = PR fees + mark-up.

*Denotes PRCA member.

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