HONG KONG—The Holmes Report has named Edelman its Asia-Pacific Consultancy of the Year for 2012, with numerous other firms winning regional and specialist consultancy of the year honors. All winning firms will be presented with their trophies at the second annual Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards dinner, to be held at the Shangri-La in Hong Kong on September 26.
Asia-Pacific Consultancy of the Year: Edelman
In a region where growth among the best-performing firms regularly exceeds 30 percent, how exactly are we to determine the best-performing PR consultancy of the past 12 months? In the case of our 2012 winner, Edelman, three factors in particular stood out. The first is its geographic coverage, which has developed to the extent that Edelman can now credibly claim to have the most rounded offering across Asia-Pacific, led by standout operations in Australia, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore; and significant improvement in China and Japan. Second, the development of its geographic footprint has been accompanied by an impressive commitment to the full scope of public relations services, covering market-leading strength in corporate and crisis, consumer marketing, digital and social media, healthcare, technology and public affairs. And third is some eye-catching campaign work, including the 2011 Platinum SABRE for a BlackBerry programme. Edelman’s Asia-Pacific revenue now stands at upwards of $60 million after a year of 30 percent growth. Asia-Pacific CEO David Brain (pictured), just 18 months into his role, deserves plenty of credit for his work to date; equally, his predecessor Alan VanderMolen’s efforts to construct the foundation for this success should not be overlooked.—AS
Australian Consultancy of the Year: n2nCommunications
Originally focused on Australia’s well-developed information technology and telecommunications sectors, n2n communications embarked on a strategy of diversification several years ago, expanding into new sectors ranging from consumer products to government to corporate and into the digital and social media. The strategy triggered a period of healthy growth for the firm: it has more than doubled in size over the past five years, and 2011 saw a very healthy 15 percent increase in fees, thanks to new business from GE Capital, GE Energy, Experian Credit Bureau, Cisco and IPscape, while it continues to work with big names including the National Broadband Network, the Digital Switchover Taskforce, Facebook, FetchTV, Experian Marketing Services, group buying site Our Deal, Infor, BT, IPscape, and Upstream Print Solutions.—PH
China Consultancy of the Year: MSLGroup
The acquisition of well-respected local agency Eastwei in the fourth quarter of 2010 transformed the former Manning Selvage & Lee from an interesting alternative to the big boys to a serious competitor in the world’s fastest-growing PR market, and the past 12 months have seen the firm build on that acquisition to become a market leader. Last year, it acquired Genedigi, a 400-person public relations and marketing communications shop as well as Taiwanese firm Interactive Communications. The combination of Eastwei’s thought leadership and corporate reputation capabilities, Genedigi’s local media contacts and geographic footprint, and MSL’s impressive digital and social media capabilities is a winning combination, and the client roster—Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, sanofi-Aventis, Nestle, Pernod Ricard, the World Gold Council—is impressive.—PH
Indian Consultancy of the Year: Edelman
As little as three years ago, when Edelman was still attempting to resolve the convoluted acquisition of Indian independent R&PM, it was difficult to see the firm rising to the top of the country’s fiercely competitive public relations market. That it has done so is testimony to the clear-headed strategy which has taken root since then. Overseen by Edelman (and India) veteran Robert Holdheim, the firm has hired some of India’s highest-rated PR talent, winning plenty of new business, and upsetting many of its rivals. The watershed moment arrived last year, when the firm dramatically swooped for Tata Group’s mammoth PR business following the dissolution of Vaishnavi PR. After doubling its size in the preceding two years, almost overnight, Edelman repeated the trick again, growing to 270 people, and expanding geographically to now cover seven cities in the country. There have been high-profile market-entry campaigns for brands such as Harley-Davidson, LinkedIn, Oreo and Tang, and new business from Avaya, Business Software Alliance, British Airways, F1 India, Monsanto, Nikon and Red Bull. With a strong senior leadership team that includes digital and public affairs expertise, it is unsurprising that Edelman is now considering a second brand launch as it eyes further growth in India. —AS
Japanese Consultancy of the Year: PRAP
Many industry observers believe PRAP to be the second or third largest public relations firm in all of the Asia-Pacific region, lagging only Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide—with which it enjoys a strategic partnership—and Japanese ad agency-owned rival Dentsu in fees. It easily beats out most of the multinational firms with a pan-regional presence despite the fact that it focuses more or less exclusively on the Japanese market. Today it has 257 employees in its Tokyo headquarters and in a Chinese subsidiary that works primarily with Japanese companies seeking to do business in China. That’s enough to generate billings of around 4.063 billion yen ($50 million), a slight increase in its 2010 performance, accomplished against tough economic conditions. Under CEO Satoshi Sugita, the firm has benefited from increasing demand for strategic public relations, rather than just publicity, along with strong capabilities in issues management—particularly related to government regulation—and crisis preparedness. Publicly identified clients include some of the biggest names in international business - Boeing, Cisco, Federal Express, Gartner, Hitachi Maxell, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss, Mattel, Max Factor, McDonald’s - and PRAP has been recognised by P&G as being its best Japanese partner, for two years in a row.—AS
Korean Consultancy of the Year: Weber Shandwick
Until three years ago, Korea was a glaring gap in Weber Shandwick’s otherwise extremely impressive Asia-Pacific coverage. But the decision to hire Tyler Km, who led Edelman’s market leading 50-person office, suggested that Weber Shandwick was serious about establishing itself in the market and the past two years have seen the firm shake up the local competition so that now Weber Shandwick has 20 people in the market and is a serious contender in corporate, consumer marketing, healthcare, issues and crisis management, and digital communications. Korea was the firm’s top-performing Asian office in 2011, working with clients ranging from Goldman Sachs to the US Meat Federation—PH
South-East Asia Consultancy of the Year: Fortune PR
One of the oldest PR agencies in Indonesia, Fortune PR is also one of the fastest-growing independent Asia-Pacific firms, with headcount increasing from 20 to more than 80 over the past couple of years as it has added clients such as Tupperware, The Body Shop, Askes (Indonesian National Health Insurance), Dulux, Rolls Royce, and Merck to a roster that includes market leaders including Citilink, the Indonesian national low cost airline; Piaggio, the Italian scooter that recently re-entered the Indonesian market; the Indonesian Infrastructure Initiative; and Bank BTN. After a restructuring last year, the firm has units including Headline!, which provides media relations and media monitoring services; Mocca, which provides advertising and brand activation services; DiBe, which provides digital communications services; Prodev, which focuses on CSR communications and community relations services; and Verbrand, which provides marketing research and brand communication strategy services.
Consumer Consultancy of the Year: Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
As the established public relations leader in the Asia-Pacific region, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide has impressive depth in almost every industry sector and practice, but its consumer capabilities stand out, particularly in Australia—where it operates specialist consumer brand Pulse Communications—and in China, where its 100-strong Shanghai office is particularly well-known for its work with luxury brands and in the fashion and beauty category. It has particular strength in digital and social media (it was our Digital Consultancy of the Year last year) and in corporate responsibility and cause-related marketing, and picked up SABRE Awards in 2011 for its work with Goodyear China (a social media campaign for the company’s ubiquitous blimp), Carlton Draught in Australia, and Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong. More recent highlights range from cause-related marketing for Unilever to a Transformers movie tie-in for Lenovo.
Corporate Consultancy of the Year: KREAB Gavin Anderson
The merger in 2009 of Omnicom-owned Gavin Anderson & Company and European corporate specialist KREAB brought together one of the most established financial PR brands in the Asia-Pacific region with an firm relatively new to this part of the world to create an operation with a substantial regional footprint: branded offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, as well as six cities in Australia and New Zealand and strong affiliates in other key markets. The firm has about 120 people in the region, with about 50 in Australasia, 25 in Tokyo, and 15 each in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore, and a leadership team includes Hong Kong-based Richard Barton, a 12-year veteran of the region and Tokyo managing partner Deborah Hayden, a 25-year company veteran and one of the most respected westerners in the Japanese PR market. The past year saw the expansion of its broader corporate and public affairs business, while the Hong Kong office advised on deals with a value of more than $10 billion and the Tokyo office held on to its local leadership position, working on transactions worth $5 billion. Highlights included a SABRE Award-winning campaign for Meat & Livestock Australia in Japan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
Digital Consultancy of the Year: Text 100
Text 100 was one of the first firms to position itself as a leader in Asia’s fast-growing social media arena, launching a sophisticated range of services in 2008. And, unlike many of its global peers, many of the network’s digital efforts are led by the region, under the oversight of global social media lead Jeremy Woolf. In 2011 the firm broadened its capabilities, launching a dedicated design and digital support hub in Malaysia, expanding its digital headcount, and stepping up a digital training programme that is as advanced as any in the region. All of those efforts paid off, as its Cisco ‘Flip Your Profile’ programme landed the Global and Asia-Pacific SABRE Award recognition in the social media category, and Text grew its digital mandate for numerous clients, including IBM, Lenovo, Yahoo, Cisco and Nokia.—AS
Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year: Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Since taking over as president and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Asia, James Heimowitz has focused on developing centers of excellence for each of its core capabilities, and the firm’s Beijing operation has taken the lead on public and government affairs, one of the firm’s three fastest growing areas over the past 12 months. H+K was the first international public relations firm to enter China in 1984, which means it has almost three decades of experience helping US and other multinationals with market access challenges, and its close working relationship with national and local government is reflected in its recent work for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games and the Beijing Municipal Government, and the firm is equally adept working for government agencies (in Guangzhou and Singapore, for example) or for corporate clients seeking to understand government policy and influence public opinion (HSBC, PetroChina, Vale). Heimowitz himself has a public affairs background, as does Beijing managing director Ye Yu, who also leads the regional government affairs practice.—PH
Technology Consultancy of the Year: Waggener Edstrom
These days, Waggener Edstrom does not like to be pigeon-holed as a technology specialist, yet it is exactly that diversification that invites recognition in this category. More than half of the firm’s clients hail from the technology sector, but it has evolved beyond its B2B origins to grow credible offerings in consumer, lifestyle, healthcare and digital - reflecting the convergence at play in the tech PR arena. All of this added up to something of a breakthrough year for Wag-Ed in 2011, with revenue growth reaching 27 percent and profits up by 13 percent. The firm’s new digital analytics services were taken up by a number of clients, including CSL, Sony, Pirelli, Toyota and the Health Promotion Board, and its impressive new business record - a hallmark of CEO David Ko’s leadership - shows no signs of abating, with a stellar haul in recent months. Among the highlights of the firm’s work was the Singapore HPB’s use of Wag-Ed’s analytics assets to create a dashboard, monitoring the impact and influence of its campaigns online. The agency has also been able to move away from the typical digital remits of online listening and influencer engagement to multi-faceted regional campaigns, such as the award-winning Sony Ericsson Extra Time campaign (which was recognised as the Best Digital Campaign of the Year at the Asia Pacific Sabre Awards 2011) and the innovative use of platforms such as LinkedIn for professional consulting firm Mercer. —AS
Boutique Consultancy of the Year: Wolf Group Asia
Wolf Group Asia has grown into a boutique firm that punches well above its weight in the thought leadership stakes, while founder David Wolf—a veteran of Burson-Marsteller, has established himself as one of China’s more articulate and outspoken commentators. WGA has office in Beijing, Hong Kong and Los Angeles, and serves clients in China, the US and Europe, focusing on providing senior-level counsel to companies in creative and innovative industries, including online, mobile telecoms, entertainment, IT and aerospace. The firm’s core strategic counsel offer is underpinned by a commitment to research and analysis and supplemented by a unique campaigning approach, with an emphasis on thought leadership and executive positioning. The majority of WGA’s client relationships remain confidential, but some in the public domain include Motorola Mobility, Burson-Marsteller and Irdeto Access.—PH