Top European Agencies 1997: SWITZERLAND - Lobbying looks like being the area with the most growth potential in the Swiss market

Switzerland has historically proved an extremely difficult market for the major international owned groups to break into. Remaining adamantly outside the EU, with its own business culture and ways of doing things, it had seemed rather inaccessible to PR groups headquartered overseas.

Switzerland has historically proved an extremely difficult market

for the major international owned groups to break into. Remaining

adamantly outside the EU, with its own business culture and ways of

doing things, it had seemed rather inaccessible to PR groups

headquartered overseas.

Local players had dominated, by and large to the exclusion of


However, on 15 April this year Burson-Marsteller entered the Swiss

market through the acquisition of a majority stake in leading

consultancy Agenturgruppe Jaggi, now renamed Jaggi Burson-Marsteller,

which employs 35 staff in Zurich and Berne.

’Our main market will still be the domestic one,’ says Jaggi

Burson-Marsteller chief executive Dieter Jaggi. ’But we are now the only

agency which has such a network worldwide. Here in Switzerland we have

lots of international clients and the information tasks don’t stop at

the border.’

The acquisition comes during a protracted period of under-performance

for the Swiss economy. ’It’s been really tough,’ admits Trimedia Zurich

president Werner Madre. ’Switzerland has one of the lowest growth rates

of any OECD country in recent years.’

’We have now had a stagnation in the economy for seven years,’ adds Frei

und Lienert joint managing partner Urs Lienert. ’At the moment there are

some signals that it can get a little bit better. Companies seem to be

spending a little more money but I don’t think there will be a boom this


Jean-Marc Hensch, vice-president of the Swiss consultancies association

the BPRA, says that despite the tough economic conditions PR budgets

have risen seven per cent. However, clients are expecting ever more for

their franc, forcing agencies to trim away any fat. The upshot has been

a five per cent increase in productivity among BPRA members.

Traditional Swiss success stories have found the going tough. Even

banking, for which the Swiss are of course renowned worldwide: several

banks have sought to cut overheads by closing local branches.

Manufacturing industry likewise has felt the pressure of the


However, in common with much of the rest of Europe, IT, telecoms and

healthcare are all vibrant sectors from which consultancies are picking

up valuable business. The financial sector is likewise growing, as

companies face pressure both to communicate with their stakeholders and

to avoid allegations of money-laundering.

Another trend, as discerned by Madre, is the number of experienced

communications practitioners taking in-house jobs. This has increased

the sophistication of many client communications departments and may

mark the beginning of a polarisation in the Swiss consultancy market

that has already been seen elsewhere on the Continent. As clients

develop their own skills they will not require agencies for every PR

task. Instead they will rely on agencies either for low level

implementation work or, at the other end of the scale, to provide

specialist or strategic input. In keeping with this pattern, there is a

shift towards more project work. And crisis management briefs are

growing in frequency and importance.

Arguably the most impressive new business win for Trimedia last year was

US fast food giant McDonald’s. On the debit side for the agency, in

January this year its founder and president Aloys Hirzel sold his

remaining equity stake in the company and left to set up his own

strategic consultancy, Hirzel Rasi Schmid. Hirzel’s new venture is in

partnership with Roland Rasi, a former board member at Swiss Bank

Corporation and one-time head of its Swiss operations, and with Victor

Schmid, erstwhile head of communications at the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

’We develop strategies and concepts and we work with leaders in the

economy and politics,’ says Hirzel

Urs Lienert believes there will be a growth in lobbying. As an example

of the latter he gives Interpharma, a bio-technology client picked up by

Frei und Lienert last year. The consultancy is helping Interpharma lobby

the government with a view to safeguarding its research and development

activities as the debate on genetic issues grows.

Toby E Rodes Consultants founder and chairman Toby Rodes thinks there

will be growing opportunities for Swiss-based consultancies to represent

businesses in nearby Eastern European countries. While Wenger

Kommunications proprietor Walter Wenger expects a need for further

’policy transparency’ to spark an increase in government PR


However, Wenger thinks difficulties lie ahead for some agencies in the

Swiss market. ’The big agencies will survive and the very little


But the agencies of between five and 15 people will have problems

because costs are going up.’

The Swiss PR consultancies association Bund der PR-Agenturen der Schweiz

(BPRA) commissions an independently audited annual ranking of national

agencies rididly adhering to the fee income only rule. All Swiss

agencies, including its own 18 members, are invited to submit figures.

To join the BPRA an agency must have been a player in the market for at

least five years, have a minimum staff of five and be able to

demonstrate full service capability. Hugo Schmidt which ranks number 5

in the BPRA table failed to submit figures to PR Week.


Rank Company          Fee income (pounds)    Location     Status

                             96          95

1    Trimedia

     Communications*  4,420,000   4,310,000  Zurich       Trimedia


2    Farner PR*       3,700,000   3,950,000  Zurich       Ind/GFC net


3    Wirz Corporate

     Comm*1           3,400,000   2,700,000  Zurich       Shandwick


4    Jaggi Burson-

     Marsteller*      3,200,000   3,100,000  Zurich/Berne B-M subsidiary

5    Peter Butikofer  2,800,000   2,300,000  Zurich       Independent

6    Dr Hans Balmer   1,960,000   1,870,000  Zurich       Independent

7    Frei und Lienert

     Comm*            1,074,448     879,121  Zurich       Porter Novelli

                                                          Int ass

8    Rochat,

     Delacretaz&Ptnrs 1,052,000     842,105  Geneva       Ind/IPRN


9    Aloha

     Communications     947,368     789,474  Baar/Zug     Independent

10   apr Ab fur PR*     947,000     579,000  Zurich       Independent

11   cR

     Kommunikation*     946,997     541,248  Zurich       Siler DDB cR W


12   Lauffer, Hensch

     & Partner*         936,200     893,600  Zurich       Independent

13   Rubeli

     Hausermann PR      900,000     950,000  Zurich       Independent

14   BPR

     Communications*    894,750   1,052,650  St Gallen    Independent

15   Wenger

     Kommunikations*    870,000     695,000  Rumligen     Independent

16 *            578,947     578,947  Zurich       Independent

17   PRW PR + Werbe*    566,000     522,000  Zurich       Independent

18   Eurocom PR/CBR     514,000     684,000  Zurich       Euro RSCG


19   Marcel Bernet

     PR                 340,000     270,000  Zurich       Independent

20   Karl F.

     Schneider          330,000     310,000  Zurich       Independent

21   Syntagme/MS&L      320,000     220,000  Geneva       MS&L net mbr

22   Toby E Rhodes

     Consltns*          315,789     195,147  Basel        Independent

23   Int/ext

     Communications     306,900     209,500  Basel        Independent

24   CadenceConseil     210,000     316,000  Lausanne     Ind/Worldcom

                                                          net mbr

25   GCI Dialog          80,000      65,000  Zurich       GCI group


*Denotes BPRA membership

1 Includes figures for Wirz Public Relations, Wirz Investor Relations

and Front Page

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