Waggener Edstrom spent 20 years building itself into the largest technology public relations specialist in the United States before turning its attention—belatedly, compared to some of its competitors—to international markets. In Asia, it has been expanding at an impressive pace since its acquisition of Shout—a 20-person Hong Kong-based tech specialist—in 2005. Shout came with an impressive client list (it represented Wagg Ed’s flagship client, Microsoft, among others) but perhaps its most significant asset was founder and chief executive David Ko, a veteran of the technology practices at Edelman and Hill & Knowlton, who over the past five years has been responsible for growing Waggener Edstrom into one of the region’s top technology networks, and for expanding the firm’s offer into consumer and corporate work.
Today, Waggener Edstrom has three equally strong practice areas, all supported by digital capabilities that are at least the equal of any of the giant full-service networks, and four offices (Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore) in the region, plus strong affiliates in Australia (Buchan Consulting), India (Adfactors PR), Japan (Actio), Korea (Shout Communications), and more recently Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia; and a team of more than 80 across the region.
Other significant contributors to the firm’s success in the region include Claire Lematta, most recently president of the firm’s EMEA operations, who has been responsible for building out the affiliate network and a regional management team that includes Matthew Lackie, vice president of the firm South Asia based in Singapore; Winnie Lai, vice president of the firm’s China operations; and Melvin Yuan, director of the increasingly critical digital strategies team. New additions in 2009 included Meilin Wong Sandberg as client development director for the region, based in Singapore; Venus Chan as regional consumer practice lead and deputy general manager for China; and two new directors in the Studio D digital practice: Taura Edgar in Hong Kong and Carolyn Camoens in Singapore.
Not surprisingly, the firm’s digital capabilities have been in high demand, with new retainers in 2009 from clients including CSL (1010 and one2free), ZUJI, HP, Asia Pacific Breweries, and new products including Twendz Pro (Twitter management), WExPulse (online influence monitoring), Hearts and Minds (consumer influence). Those new offers helped to fuel healthy single digit growth in 2009. There was new pan-regional business from BMC, Fujitsu and the Hong Kong International Film Festival; new Singapore assignments from Rolls Royce, HP, Asia-Pacific Breweries, and National Geographic; new Hong Kong work for Trayport, ZUJI, and Skagen Designs. In China, meanwhile, new clients included Optiled, Jebsen Group, Tenaris, the Shanghai Grand Golden Prix, Kaseya and Telling Telecom. The firm continues longstanding relationships with clients including Microsoft, EMC, RSA, GE Healthcare and National Semiconductor.
Among the highlights of the firm’s work was a campaign at the Singapore Air Show, a bi-annual trade event for the aviation and defense industries and one of the world’s largest, which coincided with the decision by British power systems giant Rolls-Royce to start construction of its $500 million campus at a former Royal Air Force base called Salutary. WE was tasked with arranging an event for some of the most important business people in Singapore, including the minister of state for Transport and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, to celebrate the start of construction. Says Jonathan Webster, head of communications, marine and Asia Pacific at Rolls-Royce: “In selecting an agency, we were looking for a partner rather than a supplier, one that would take time to understand our business needs and apply the appropriate communications solutions to them. Waggener Edstrom helps us develop communications strategies as well as implement them in the appropriate manner, which is an important element of our communications approach.”
Waggener Edstrom has more than 750 employees in 15 offices around the world, and 17 Global Alliance partners that expand the agency’s reach to 45 additional international markets.—PH