Top 150 PR consultancies 2006: Top 50 Outside London

Agencies do not have to be based in the capital to enjoy rich client pickings. Regional agencies are proving their worth with a strong set of figures for 2005

Revenue figures for the top 50 agencies outside London will provide plenty of cheer across the UK. Fee income for the non-London consultancies listed below totalled £77.3m, an increase of more than 13 per cent on last year. Collectively, fee income for the top 50 increased by more than 19 per cent – which is the highest growth rate of any of the top 50 breakdowns.

The fluctuating fortunes shown in the rankings demonstrate that this is a vibrant, fast-changing sector and one where there is much jostling for status. Of the top ten, eight remain from last year, but six of them are in different positions.

Bristol-based Harrison Cowley shot straight to number one in the table with fee income of more than £6m. This is the first time that figures have been submitted by the agency, which ranks its top three clients as Age Concern, the Central Office for Information and Land Rover. 'We've had an excellent run of business wins in the last 14 months, particularly in the public sector,' says CEO Paul Kelly, who believes the agency has 'finally got the basics right'.

Golley Slater, last year's number one, drops two places this time around as Scottish agency The Big Partnership (see profile p22), broke through the £5m fee-income barrier via acquisitions and growth across the UK. And the three aforementioned have forged ahead of their competitors, with fourth-placed Ptarmigan nearly £2m behind.

The continuing strong performance of virtually all of the top ten is reflected by fifth-placed Green Communications. According to its finance director, John Thompson, the company has had 'a fantastic year,' with 34 per cent growth. However, this is only good enough to maintain the same position as last year. 'It shows just how strong the other regional agencies are at this time,' he adds.

Only eight agencies posted lower fee income than the year before and some have turned their fortunes around. Myriad Public Relations has bounced back from an eight per cent fall last year to record a 22 per cent rise in fee income this year and Barrett Dixon Bell, has recovered from a 17 per cent drop to post a five per cent rise.

Myriad MD Steve Weaving says that while most of the agency's growth has come from the technology and charity sectors – with
account wins from the Christian Blind Mission and Haemophilia Society – gains from existing clients extending their activities into northern Europe have also helped.

Further down the table, four agencies have slipped under £1m in terms of fee income. Pegasus PR, hsd communications, Midnight Communications and Six Degrees all posted declines in their results for 2005 to drop under the benchmark figure.

However, Andrew Smith, director at 50-placed Target Public Relations (which had modest three per cent growth), argues that clients do not always look at agency turnover.

'Clients' perceptions tend to be influenced by the other brands we work for rather than knowing we have hit the "£1m mark",' he says. 'That's why we've followed a strategy of trying to get large, generalist clients rather than service clients on our doorstep, or specialise, which some agencies in this table choose to do.'

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