Low economic growth and limited consumer confidence meant a slow year for agencies

Low economic growth and limited consumer confidence meant a slow year

for agencies

The economic picture in Belgium is one of low growth and limited

consumer confidence. In order to meet the conditions for European

monetary union, the government has been raising taxes and looking to cut

public expenditure, notably in healthcare.

The Belgian government has also embarked on a programme of partial

privatisations, such as Sabena and Belgacom, as a means of increasing

revenue. But the generally poor state of the economy has put pressure on

companies selling to consumers, and there has been a spate of

redundancies and production facility closures.

The impact on an agency such as Burson-Marsteller, according to managing

director Belgium and Luxembourg Johan Ral, is that there has been less

consumer marketing work but more crisis preparedness and public

affairs/government relations business.

However, Belgian Public Relations Consultancies Association chairman

Jean-Luc Pleunes says there has not be so much crisis work this year as

last and that there are signs of more consumer pitches. But this has to

be set against a background of ongoing client and consumer caution.

‘Marketing managers in Belgium at the moment prefer to put their money

into short-term actions like advertising, sales promotion and direct

marketing instead of investing in longer term actions like PR,’ says

Pleunes. ‘The banks in Belgium are full of money, but consumers don’t

want to spend.’

The Belgian consultancy market is divided into full service agencies and

specialists in areas such as lobbying, internal communications and

events. There are Belgian names such as PRP and Interel among the top

players operating in the country as well as the likes of Hill and

Knowlton, B-M and Shandwick, which is known as Infopublic in Belgium.

Overall, income growth among agencies was much slower last year than in

1994 and there was a trend towards project work. But all is not doom and


‘The Belgian economy has had a recession, but like the German market

there are signs of life,’ says Hill and Knowlton managing director

Elaine Cruikshanks. ‘I’d say there was still a long way to go for pan-

European corporate business from companies who have set up their

headquarters here to be close to EU institutions.’

‘People are increasingly targeting Brussels,’ adds APCO Europe managing

director Mark Dober. ‘It has the biggest foreign press corps in the

world. People are using Brussels as their strategic communications base

for the rest of Europe.’ Last year was APCO’s first full year in

Belgium. It now employs 10 people.

Significant changes in the market include the merger of GPC and Market

Access in February. The combined lobbying specialist now has a staff of

over 30.

‘There is now really a firm commitment from business and trade

associations to have proper representation and to get plugged into the

system here,’ says GPC Market Access director Caroline Wunnerlich. ‘And

there’s a lot of life in a lot of policy areas at the moment.’

Other name changes in the market include Van Luyken (which numbers Coca-

Cola among its clients) becoming Van Luyken & Eeckman to reflect the

major shareholding of its managing director Edgard Eeckman; and Chantal

Watson PR renaming itself Attitudes PR this month.

Fleishman-Hillard flagged its decision to become a player in Brussels

when Michel Deurinck left his post as head of the European Advertising

Tripartite to become its managing director in March this year. Clients

include 3M offshoot Imation and the Flanders Government.

Edelman, meanwhile, has drafted in Constance Kann to head up its Belgian

business following the departure of Julian Oliver to Whirlpool in

January, and last autumn Shandwick transferred Louise Harvey from the

Hague to start up Shandwick Public Affairs, which runs autonomously from

its Belgian office, reporting direct to head of Europe Volker Stoltz.

Euro RSCG International Communications has also sought to boost its

public affairs capabilities in Brussels by signing an affiliate

agreement with lobbyist Euralia.

The Rowland Company has continued to lead the way in landing large EC

contracts to co-ordinate communication strategy for a large programme or

whole directorate. There are, says managing director Stephanie Molyneux,

‘more and more of these coming up’. Rowland’s recent wins in the area

have included the pounds 1.2 million contract for DGXVI, the

Commission’s regional policy wing and the massive three-year, pounds

18.6 million European Social Fund contract.

Beauchez meanwhile finally scooped up the domestic EC olive oil

promotion account, believed to be worth about pounds 1 million over

three years - a huge sum for a consumer account in Belgium. Other

important wins have seen Ine Marien and Partners land work from Nivea

brand owner Beiersdorf and courier DHL, and Infopublic connect up with

telecoms company Mobistar.

In response to what Pleunes refers to as ‘a cocktail of bad situations:

a bad economic position and a bad awareness of PR,’ the BPRCA has begun

a campaign to convince clients to use PR.

Finally, the growing sophistication of in-house communications teams in

Belgium has led to higher expectations of consultancies delivering added

value. ‘We are in the situation where clients ask our advice regarding

the possible impact on perceptions of a business decision before taking

that decision,’ says Ral.


Euro Consultancies: Belgium (part one)


Rank  Company                    Fee income (pounds)      Location

                                   95           94

 1    Rowland Company           3,411,392            *    Brussels

 2    Burson Marsteller/RLA     2,810,000    1,901,000    Brussels

 3    Hill and Knowlton         1,698,000    1,526,000    Brussels

 4    PRP                       1,569,000    1,503,000    Brussels

 5    Beauchez Benelux          1,473,260    1,395,379    Brussels

 6    Infopublic Shandwick      1,402,000            *    Brussels

 7    Interel                   1,395,300    1,264,000    Brussels

 8    Ellips Communication      1,065,000      848,000    Brussels

 9    GCI Belgium                 920,000      653,400    Brussels

10    Decitime                    750,000      750,000    Brussels

11    Ine Marien & Partners       710,000      625,000    Brussels

12    European Strategy           639,000      800,000    Brussels

13    Belgium Contact Trimedia    620,000            *    Brussels

14    Van Luyken & Eeckman        358,479      523,958    Brussels

15    Countrywide Comms Intl      321,000      351,000    Brussels

16    Grayling Belgium            320,000      165,000    Brussels

17    Pyramid PR                  320,000      249,000    Brussels

18    Communcation Partners       245,000      250,000    Brussels

19    Daniel J Edelman P A        212,738            *    Brussels

20    Fleishman-Hillard           130,495      106,115    Brussels



Euro Consultancies: Belgium (part two)


Rank  Company                        Status

 1    Rowland Company                Rowland Company

 2    Burson Marsteller/RLA          B-M subsidiary

 3    Hill and Knowlton              H&K subsidiary

 4    PRP                            Comms Int mbr

 5    Beauchez Benelux               Pinnacle member

 6    Infopublic Shandwick           Shandwick subsidiary

 7    Interel                        CBIC/PROI member1

 8    Ellips Communication           Independent

 9    GCI Belgium                    GCI subsidiary

10    Decitime                       IPRN member

11    Ine Marien & Partners          Independent

12    European Strategy              Grayling subsidiary

13    Belgium Contact Trimedia       Trimedia affiliate

14    Van Luyken & Eeckman           Entente member

15    Countrywide Comms Intl         Comms Intl subs

16    Grayling Belgium               Grayling associate

17    Pyramid PR                     ECCO member

18    Communcation Partners          Independent

19    Daniel J Edelman P A           Edelman network mbr

20    Fleishman-Hillard              F-H subsidiary


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