Top European Agencies 1997: ITALY - Post-recession confidence is giving Italy’s PR consultancies the chance to expand

Public relations firms in Italy put in a healthy performance last year, signalling that the country is leaving the recession years behind.

Public relations firms in Italy put in a healthy performance last

year, signalling that the country is leaving the recession years


There appears to be renewed confidence in Italy’s economic and political

situation: there is a more stable government; inflation has dropped; and

serious efforts are being made to meet the demands of the Maastricht

Treaty, allowing Italy to re-enter the ERM.

The public relations association in Italy, Assorel, reports that 1996

was a very good year for its members. Assorel president, Giampaolo

Doveri, says that revenue for members grew by 16 per cent to L73 billion

(pounds 30 million) which accounts for around 30 per cent of the overall


’The economic recovery is justifying the role of PR,’ says Doveri. ’As

the market matures, there is an increased perception of the value of the

PR instrument. The recession years have pushed companies to spend more

carefully and they have reduced their investments in advertising while

continuing to grow PR.’

This increased investment in PR is felt by the agencies taking part in

the league table, the majority of which have registered healthy


The financial PR market continues to drive much of this growth, with a

raft of privatisations and flotations bringing in business to financial

PR firms. But the freshly-privatised and listed companies are beginning

to open up new streams of revenue for financial PR firms.

Independently-owned Barabino and Partners, for example, is still strong

in the financial PR market.

General director Federico Steiner says that the firm handled more than

half of the initial public offerings last year. But post-flotation is

opening up new areas of work - such as investor relations and issues


’The IR market is young in Italy, but companies new to the market

acknowledge the importance of establishing a continuing flow of

information to analysts,’ says Steiner. ’Other growth sectors are issue

management and internal communications, when companies need advice on

matters such as restructuring, or with industrial problems,’ he


Bruno Della Negra, managing director of Burson Marsteller Italy - which

has just overtaken Barabino at the top of the table - agrees that there

is more consultation work for financial firms. ’Financial specialists

have relaunched the idea of PR firms as advisers in integrated

communications programmes and strategic decision-making,’ he says.

B-M is also working on growing its international business under the new

practice management structure. ’We are cutting smaller clients and

focusing on clients which need a longer term partnership with us and

which can work with us in several markets around the world.’ It is

currently working on the privatisation of Rome’s airports, Ciampino and

Fiumicino, as well as continuing to work with retained clients such as

Philip Morris and Andersen Consulting.

One of the biggest growth areas in Italy is the IT industry. Image Time,

which specialises in hi-tech, grew by 52 per cent last year. ’The IT

environment is growing at a fast pace in a big market, as Italy moves

from being a second tier country into the first tier,’ explains founding

partner Myriam Koppel. The agency handles the entire Italian PR account

for IBM.

IT specialist Business Press has found that as the IT market matures

while the core business for consultancies still remains product PR,

there is a move towards corporate PR. At the same time, product PR is

becoming more specialised. Last year, for example, the agency set up a

new division specialising in the internet and multimedia to satisfy the

demands of clients.

’The internet is a hot issue in Italy,’ says Business Press’s Diego

Biasi, ’and PR companies are pitching against advertising agencies that

also offer internet capabilities.’

Furio Garbagnati, president of Shandwick Italia - which has moved up the

table to become the third-largest agency in Italy - agrees that there is

a move towards offering more specialised services. But he says that this

is due more to ’some uncertainty’ in the market. ’Clients are more

demanding. They tend to use agencies for specific projects and there is

a fall in the number of retained contracts. As a result of the

repositioning of the market, we need to be more flexible with our

operating structure.’

Ketchum Italy has also seen a boost in consumer PR activity, such as the

books and interactive divisions of Disney. And it has been working with

the Milan stock exchange on a project to analyse how far communications

impact on the performance of shares.


Rank Company          Fee income (pounds)    Location Status

                      96          95

1    Burson-

     Marsteller *     4,079,842   3,278,000  Rome/    Burson-Marsteller

                                             Milan    subs

2    Barabino &

     Partners *       3,855,000   3,060,500  Milan    Ind/Entente member

3    Shandwick

     Italia *         2,481,000   1,956,000  Milan    Shandwick


4    Edelman-

     Gruppo D’ *      2,077,000   1,366,000  Milan    Edelman net subs

5    Hill & Knowlton

     Italia *         1,986,000   2,317,000  Milan    H&K subsidiary

6    Mavellia RP*     1,741,546   1,234,525  Milan    Ind/MS&L affiliate

7    Ketchum Italy *  1,717,300   1,338,000  Milan    Ketchum subsidiary

8    Image Time       1,665,000   1,095,000  Milan    Europlus Net


9    EPR *            1,266,600   1,183,500  Rome     Independent

10   Chiappe

     Bellodi *        1,197,000   1,080,000  Milan    Ind/GCI affiliate

11   GAIA *           1,050,000     900,000  Roma     Independent

12   SEC*               913,356     465,811  Milan    Independent

13   Noesis *           910,000     800,000  Milan    Independent

14   Business Press     880,000     550,000  Milan    Ind/Worldcom net


15   EGG*               783,000     741,000  Rome/    Grayling Grp net

                                             Milan    mbr

16   Agenpress          747,000     454,000  Milan    Euro RSCG


17   INC*               712,750     689,251  Rome     Independent

18   I-Mage*            705,000     664,702  Rome     Independent

19   SPC Societa

     Piani di Com*      688,000     750,000  Milan    CBIC network mbr

20   Commark Com

     e Marketing        494,000     443,928  Rome     Independent

21   Cohn & Wolfe       487,108          **  Milan    Cohn & Wolfe net


22   SECI *             456,000          **  Milan    Independent

23   Homina*            442,300     415,161  Bologna  Independent

24   Fleishman-

     Hillard Italia     260,196          **  Milan    F-H subsidiary

25   BDP                200,000     200,000  Milan    Ecco network


Assorel - the Associazione Agenzie di Relazioni Pubbliche - does not

provide its own ranking of its 25 members, but all members of the

association must have fees of L500 million a year (pounds 200,000, a

minimum of five staff and eight active accounts.

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