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Responding to the ways in which digital and social media are transforming the public relations profession, MSL is increasingly focused on the conversation economy, and on the ways in which it can make its clients’ voices matter in such an environment. As a result, the firm has developed its i3 methodology (Insights. Integration. Impact) and its iQube planning process, which takes a scientific approach to consumer and stakeholder engagement.
MSL has made major investments in the two areas that are most critical to digital excellence: data and analytic insights (led by Benjamin Koe, who joined last year from Tribal and has established centers of excellence across the region), and content creation (Narendra Nag, regional director, digital and integrated planning, has developed content-centric, story-driven campaigns across the region). The firm is now just as comfortable using paid search as it is using traditional earned and owned channels, using data intelligently to address specific content to specific audiences.
The payoff is that digital revenue as of June 2015 is up 52% over the previous year, with almost all of the firm’s major clients—P&G, Huawei, IKEA, Coca-Cola, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—drawing on those capabilities. The firm has been recognized for content creation on behalf of clients ranging from Dongfeng Citroën to P&G’s Head & Shoulders shampoo brand, to Sony India, to Invista’s Lycra brand.—PH
BlueDigital (China, Blue Focus Communications Group)
China’s BlueFocus Communication Group reorganized its public relations operations under the BlueDigital brand in 2013, reflecting the decision by founder and CEO Oscar Zhao to ensure that digital—and in particular a major commitment to data and analytics—is at the center of the firm’s business model. The impressive track record, which has seen a firm founded in 1996 grow to become the world’s 14th largest public relations group, continued apace last year, with fee income up by about 40 percent to around $200 million. From offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Xi’an (now supplemented by strong consumer and digital and social capabilities in the US and Europe following acquisitions such as Citizen Relations and We Are Social), a team of 1,500 serves clients such as Lenovo, Baidu, JD, Cisco, Canon, Haier, TCL, LG, Skyworth, Jaguar Land Rover, Infiniti, MeadJohnson, Pepsi, and SPD Bank, with key additions last year including Volkswagen Audi, Toyota and Microsoft. The work—almost all of which is driven by the firm’s proficiency on channels such as SinaWeibo, Renren, and WeChat as well as its expertise in mobile marketing—included two In2 SABRE-winning campaigns for work in content creation, as well as 14 Asia-Pacific SABRE nominations for work ranging from youth marketing for P&G to corporate reputation work for Lenovo (as it celebrates its 30th anniversary) to CSR work for Baidu.—PH
Edelman’s digital practice contributes about 12 percent of its revenues across the Asia-Pacific region, a number that is slightly misleading because that’s only the firm’s pure-play digital activity—the content creation, digital design, and community management work delivered by a specialist team. But last year’s Asia-Pacific Digital Agency of the Year now sees digital and social elements—and expanding data and analytics capabilities—integrated into almost all of its work in the region, including campaigns for the likes of longstanding clients such as Samsung, HP, Shell, Microsoft, Mars, eBay, and Unilever. Edelman’s digital team is led by Gavin Coombes, who joined in 2013 having held leadership positions at Profero and FutureBrand, supported by Max Hegerman in Australia and new addition Kunal Arora—formerly of Hungama Digital Services—in India. Other additions over the past 12 months came from related disciplines: Julien Courant as digital managing director in Indonesia joined from Ogilvy One; Deepak Agarwal as creative director in India from M&C Saatchi; Catriona Muspratt-Williams, former head of insights for Mediacom, as head of the Edelman Berland research operation in Singapore. Highlights of the work included “The Full Picture” social media campaign for Symantec; the Samsung “LifeLIVE” initiative in Australia; an Adobe Photoshop April Fools’ program in Japan; and the “Power Up Your Life” campaign for Bosch in China.—PH
Ogilvy Public Relations (WPP)
With fee income estimated at around $130 million, Ogilvy Public Relations is still the number one multinational in the Asia-Pacific region, and Asia is still the number one region for the WPP-owned agency. To continue growing at a decent pace (12 percent last year) on such a large base, an agency needs to expand its offering, and digital and social media—under the [email protected] banner—has been the biggest growth driver over the past five years, up by better than 20 percent again last year and now contributing to about two-thirds of the firm’s business in the region. Thomas Crampton, who presided over the social practice in Asia for five years, relocated to London in 2014, but the senior leadership team is still impressive, with six-year Ogilvy veteran Jeremy Webb heading a team that includes Phat Song in Beijing and Riki Sharma in Singapore, as well as newcomers Craig Page in Sydney (formerly of Havas) and Sean Shi, who joined from Ogilvy One as digital creative director. The firm’s thought leadership has continued too, with increased interest in the BrandShares methodology led by Marion McDonald, and new research into the drivers of online influence. Major digital clients in the region include (IBM, Unilever, Nestle, Ford, Canon, Intel, Diageo, Shangri-La, Dell and Singtel, and major campaigns range from the “Great Chinese Names for Great Britain” campaign for Visit Britain in China to the “Driving Skills for Life” program for Ford in Indonesia.—PH
Waggener Edstrom Communications (Hong Kong, Independent)
Last year marked a decade since US-based Waggener Edstrom opened its first Asia-Pacific office in Hong Kong, and the firm has since grown to the point that it has offices in 11 cities (including wholly-owned offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Singapore, and investments in Buchan Waggener Edstrom in Melbourne and Sydney and Shout Waggener Edstrom in Seoul), offering consumer, corporate, and healthcare communications in addition to its core technology expertise. But what really sets Wagg Ed apart in Asia is its Studio D team, a digital and content creation capability that focuses on “what’s next” in public relations, having added data analysts and content strategists in recent years. Under the continuing leadership of Matthew Lackie, growth was 9 percent across the region, with double-digit increases in India, China and Singapore—and 40 percent at Studio D. Just as notable was an impressive increase in the amount of network business. The firm has been handling regional digital marketing across 13 markets for The Body Shop, and it has worked with Skype to help launch Skype Translator and its Mandarin version to China.—PH
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