Top 150 - 2005: Outside London

This past year has proved that being based in the regions does not preclude winning national accounts. Robert Gray finds a confident industry outside London. There were plenty of solid performances among agencies based outside London in 2004 - only 16 per cent of those in our Top 50 saw fee income decrease. And while some also have offices in the capital, there is evidence that many clients are more than happy to trust regional businesses with national accounts.

Indeed, many regional agency heads say the proportion of national work is growing faster than local assignments. A lot of these businesses do not perceive themselves as regional, arguing that their location makes no difference to how a client can be serviced.

Last year's table topper, Beattie Media, did not enter this year, though its relocation from Scotland to London in 2004 meant it would no longer have figured in this table. 'In 2004, we opened offices in Manchester and Birmingham, and in August we bought our new head office in London,' says CEO Gordon Beattie.

Despite the move to London, Beattie says the agency's Leeds and Manchester offices are its best performers. So why the move down south? 'Regional agencies can make a good living, but they won't usually be considered for plum accounts,' Beattie responds. Others, however, will surely beg to differ.

It is now a Wales-based agency rather than a Scotland-based one that holds the top slot. Cardiff-based Golley Slater has witnessed fee income growth of 63 per cent to £4.2m, helped by its acquisition of NP in February last year. 'Our acquisition programme has been driven by a strategic vision to be the leading national PR brand with a network of regional offices, hence NP was a perfect fit,' says Golley Slater CEO Chris Lovell. Wins last year included Robert Dyas, Skinny Cow Ice Cream and Grainger Trust. Lovell adds that the agency continues to benefit from an integrated model, as many clients are seeking more than one discipline from a single source. The addition of a direct marketing capability has strengthened this model, he concludes.

'Last year was probably one of the best years we've ever had,' says Leeds-based Ptarmigan MD Gordon Forbes, whose agency saw fee income rise by 16 per cent over 2003. 'A lot of growth is coming from existing clients, so there's definitely been an easing up on budgets for comms. But gross margins are under pressure throughout the industry, as clients are using procurement more and getting tighter on margins.'

Last year, Ptarmigan made it onto the COI roster, and Forbes is optimistic that growth will continue throughout 2005, having forecast a 12 per cent rise at the start of the year. Meanwhile, Brahm, also Leeds-based, had 'a slightly steadier' year than the two before it, says joint MD Phil Reed. It still registered revenue growth of six per cent. Around 80 per cent of Brahm's work is now national, most of its clients are outside Yorkshire and two-thirds of its revenues come from consumer accounts.

Reading-based Green Issues Communications MD Tom Curtin is also pleased with a year of 'significant growth', achieving a 31 per cent increase in fee income. It is company policy to only take on project work, and Curtin is sure this is the way forward. Community liaison and consultation, especially with planning issues, was another growth area.

A positive mood is certainly discernible among agencies based outside the capital, but it will be interesting to see how the new trends will affect revenue in 2005.

AGENCIES OUTSIDE LONDON 1-20

RANK COMPANY FEE INCOME (pounds)

04 03 % change

1 Golley Slater

Public Relations*(1) 4,259,828 2,621,192 63

2 The Big Partnership 3,324,715 2,071,471 61

3 Ptarmigan

Consultants* 2,534,230 2,177,166 16

4 Brahm Public

Relations 2,360,634 2,218,268 6

5 Green Issues

Communications 2,109,837 1,613,966 31

6 Medicom Group 2,095,300 1,667,800 26

7 Atlas Media Group 1,916,629 1,551,020 24

8 EHPR* 1,881,599 2,029,581 -7

9 AD Communications* 1,682,391 1,588,231 6

10 B2B Communications 1,670,449 1,563,714 7

11 Haslimann Taylor* 1,631,688 1,404,431 16

12 The Whiteoaks

Consultancy* 1,607,375 1,356,593 18

13 Noiseworks 1,483,611 1,361,222 9

14 Companycare

Communications* 1,444,892 1,415,924 2

15 William Murray

Group(2) 1,425,077 792,295 80

16 Berkeley PR

International 1,376,578 1,007,283 37

17 Seal

Communications* 1,361,202 1,135,946 20

18 Virgo Health PR 1,308,443 - -

19 The ITPR Group 1,294,546 1,284,842 1

20 Midnight

Communications* 1,212,280 - -

RANK COMPANY TURNOVER 04 STAFF CLIENTS LOCATION

(pounds) 04 03 04 03

1 Golley Slater

Public Relations*(1) 5,027,436 83 43 271 150 Cardiff

2 The Big Partnership 4,237,926 66 36 121 55 Glasgow

3 Ptarmigan

Consultants* 3,826,350 52 46 38 36 Leeds

4 Brahm Public

Relations 4,959,417 24 22 57 47 Leeds

5 Green Issues

Communications 2,253,858 25 19 124 96 Reading

6 Medicom Group 3,250,000 21 20 12 21 Surrey

7 Atlas Media Group 4,086,574 26 29 78 89 Leeds

8 EHPR* 3,256,680 32 34 19 18 Berks

9 AD Communications* 2,525,349 16 16 45 41 Surrey

10 B2B Communications 4,463,117 21 20 13 12 Surrey

11 Haslimann Taylor* 2,088,528 30 25 32 31 West Mids

12 The Whiteoaks

Consultancy* 1,607,375 26 32 40 42 Surrey

13 Noiseworks 1,547,319 21 19 26 22 Berks

14 Companycare

Communications* 1,635,501 25 23 55 52 Reading

15 William Murray

Group(2) 1,684,807+ 20 21 39 25 Surrey

16 Berkeley PR

International 1,441,937 30 20 17 28 Berks

17 Seal

Communications* 3,028,423 34 30 42 34 B'ham

18 Virgo Health PR 1,981,430 18 9 14 - Surrey

19 The ITPR Group 1,493,933 20 20 34 33 Surrey

20 Midnight

Communications* 1,215,558 22 - 50 - Brighton

All figures relate to year ended December 2004.

Fee income = PR fees plus mark up.

* Denotes PRCA member.

+ Turnover given is global figure.

(1) Golley Slater acquired NP in February 2004.

(2) William Murray Group acquired What Matters in February 2004.

- The William Murray Group saw the biggest leap in fee income in the top 50, up 80 per cent over 2003

- EHPR was the sole agency in the top ten that saw fee income decrease over the previous 12 months

- The top two agencies broke the £3m barrier for the first time

The South-East has the largest concentration of regional agencies in the top 50

AGENCIES OUTSIDE LONDON 21-50

RANK COMPANY FEE INCOME (pounds)

04 03 % change

21 Myriad Public

Relations 1,188,652 1,297,431 -8

22 HSD Communications 1,184,212 704,288 68

23 Ashley

Communications 1,099,064 1,128,911 -3

24 Willoughby PR 1,094,894 1,115,804 -2

25 Citypress PR 1,094,191 745,084 47

26 Six Degrees*(3) 1,076,911 824,408 31

27 PFPR

Communications 1,037,865 847,312 22

28 Kavanagh

Communications* 1,027,856 950,458 8

29 Pegasus Public

Relations 1,006,256 859,788 17

30 Prowse & Company 1,001,770 944,482 6

31 Brazen 996,587 939,426 6

32 Wyatt

International 995,968 976,342 2

33 Quay West

Communications 994,750 1,184,300 -16

34 Splash

Communications 975,000 - -

35 BCLO Public

Relations 967,800 701,549 38

36 Primal PR(4) 951,312 683,680 39

37 JBP Public

Relations* 932,178 733,121 27

38 DTW 925,503 940,061 -2

39 Cohesive

Communications 916,312 769,611 19

40 Pinnacle Marketing

Communications 898,765 805,358 12

41 The Bright

Consultancy* 852,469 774,709 10

42 Strategic Alliance

International 842,263 755,555 11

43 Barrett Dixon Bell* 835,000 1,003,000 -17

44 Circle

Communications 830,045 801,585 4

45 Octopus 823,000 563,509 46

46 Freshwater UK*(5) 820,499 645,000 27

47 Lawton PR 583,000 594,000 -2

48 Leader

Communications 574,329 526,000 9

49 The Hoffman

Agency 555,000 388,000 43

50 Pagoda Public

Relations 544,372 512,808 6

RANK COMPANY TURNOVER 04 STAFF CLIENTS LOCATION

(pounds) 04 03 04 03

21 Myriad Public

Relations 1,603,754 18 22 46 51 Cambs

22 HSD Communications 1,828,393 20 15 26 24 Herts

23 Ashley

Communications 2,246,542 11 10 12 9 Herts

24 Willoughby PR 1,760,439 25 25 46 42 B'ham

25 Citypress PR 1,258,564 16 16 32 32 M'chester

26 Six Degrees*(3) 1,178,043 15 13 25 24 Bucks

27 PFPR

Communications 2,497,956 16 15 16 11 Kent

28 Kavanagh

Communications* 1,323,259 16 12 7 5 Surrey

29 Pegasus Public

Relations 1,161,836 21 17 33 32 W Sussex

30 Prowse & Company 1,134,333 17 17 31 30 Surrey

31 Brazen 1,488,586 27 25 35 28 M'chester

32 Wyatt

International 4,499,133 10 10 56 81 B'ham

33 Quay West

Communications 1,152,420 16 17 23 21 Essex

34 Splash

Communications 1,070,000 15 11 14 9 Bath

35 BCLO Public

Relations 1,194,522 17 14 22 17 Bristol

36 Primal PR(4) 933,109 11 - 22 - Bucks

37 JBP Public

Relations* 1,138,393 14 14 33 30 Bristol

38 DTW 1,502,327 30 26 49 42 Cleveland

39 Cohesive

Communications 1,306,763 14 13 34 38 Chepstow

40 Pinnacle Marketing

Communications 1,310,000 11 8 28 25 Pinner

41 The Bright

Consultancy* 1,069,373 15 13 24 19 Solihull

42 Strategic Alliance

International 896,026 13 13 27 24 Bucks

43 Barrett Dixon Bell* 2,000,000 21 23 19 19 Altrincham

44 Circle

Communications 1,305,830 12 8 12 8 Bucks

45 Octopus 823,000 15 11 37 24 Berks

46 Freshwater UK*(5) 2,115,000 21 12 48 38 Cardiff

47 Lawton PR 15,859,000 15 15 26 19 S'hampton

48 Leader

Communications 679,581 12 12 34 23 Warks

49 The Hoffman

Agency 639,000 7 7 5 - Surrey

50 Pagoda Public

Relations 588,347 11 11 43 41 Edinburgh

All figures relate to year ended December 2004.

Fee income = PR fees plus mark up.

* Denotes PRCA member.

(3) Six Degrees used to trade as Roger Staton Associates.

(4) UK turnover is January to October 2004.

(5) Freshwater UK used to trade as Howell Petersen and acquired Reekie

PR in November 2004.

- Manchester-based Citypress PR's client porfolio remains steady, yet

its fee income increased by 47 per cent

- Cleveland-based agency DTW added seven retainer clients to its

portfolio in 2004

- Just four of the top 50 agencies are based outside England.

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