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Edelman’s digital capabilities have always remained a notch above most of their rivals, and now account for around 14% of the firm’s revenues in Asia-Pacific, even if that number 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.
FleishmanHillard started its business in Japan in 1997 with one desk, one phone and one staff member, according to Shin Tanaka who serves as president of the FleishmanHillard Japan Group—a family of companies that includes not only FH but also BlueCurrent, which started life in Tokyo as a digital and influencer marketing specialist and has expanded both the scope of its operations and its geographic footprint, and public affairs brand Vox Global. All of that is supplemented now by the launch of a new Brand Journalism Center, fulfilling a growing demand for content.
Today, the firm is one of the strongest mutlinationals in the market, with expertise in consumer marketing and corporate communications, and vast experience in the technology and healthcare sectors. Honda leads a management team that includes Tetsuya Honda, managing director of Blue Current, and Nojiri Akihiro, managing director of Vox, that understands how to help multinational companies overcome the many cultural, linguistic and logistical hurdles that are still very much a part of doing business in Japan. They were joined in 2016 by Kuniyoshi Mabuchi, formerly of Ogilvy One and Tribal DDB, who will serve as head of digital.
The Japanese business grew by 15 percent last year, with Vox turning in a particularly impressive performance, and the Tokyo operations continue to drive more than 30 percent of FleishmanHillard’s overall Asia revenue. New business over the past 12 months included work from Crocs (Blue Current), Hiroyuki Shigemitsu (FH and Vox), Marriott International (FH), and Mitsubishi (FH and Blue Current).
While the Korean operations can’t (yet) match the size and scale of the firm’s Japanese business, they are growing at a very healthy 17 percent clip, with public affairs and issues management work on behalf of client such as Reckitt Benckiser, Johnson&Johnson, AugustaWestland and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power leading the way. Other new client additions over the past year included Alibaba, Crocs, and Fidelity Asset Management.—PH
Hill+Knowlton founded our Tokyo office in 1958, making it the first international public relations firm to enter the country, but whatever first mover advantage that may have delivered had been squandered in recent years, and until recently H+K was a minor player in the market, with a team of about 15 and a low profile.
MSL has been so busy in China and India—making acquisitions and establishing itself as a market leader—that it has been easy to ignore the success story in Japan, where the agency has established itself as a trusted advisor to clients such as P&G, Netflix, Cadillac, Mondelez, Fitbit, and Continental Tires while expanding its digital and social capabilities.
The agency’s i3 methodology starts with insight (there has been a significant investment in data and analytics), proceeds through integration (which means engaging consumers and other stakeholders through a wide range of digital and social content and non-traditional channels), and ends with impact. Increased integration with other Publicis agencies—under the “Power of One” banner—is providing an even broader range of strategic thinking and services and seems to be resonating with Japanese clients. Growth was in the mid-teens in 2015 and has been accelerating in 2016.
The more strategic, integrated approach is manifesting itself in the work too, from the “Find Your Fit” campaign—spanning PR, social, and experiential—that helped Fitbit boost sales in Japan to content-led communications for the International Olive Council to helping Mondelez overcome resistance to brands such as Oreo and Ritz being manufactured outside of Japan.
Managing director Eric Hess—a 35-year veteran of the Japanese market—and deputy Kiminori Takeuchi have been bringing in new talent too, including director of strategy and research Atsushi Kikugawa and digital consultant Sei Naganuma.—PH
Weber Shandwick’s Japanese operations can trace their roots back to 1959, when International PR—later acquired by what was then Shandwick—was first established. Its Korean presence is much more recent, with the office founded just six years ago, under the leadership of Edelman veteran Tyler Kim. But both of the North Asia offices have been on a similar trajectory over the past 12 months, enjoying solid growth (8% and 17% respectively) fueled by increasing demand for digital and social media expertise in both markets.
In Seoul, which Kim has taken from a one-man office to a team of 50, digital accounts for a little more than 50% of the firm’s business and the addition last year of Lucy Han—formerly of Edelman—as senior VP, digital, has further strengthened its credentials in that area. There was new business from Abbott, AIA, American Airlines, Boeing, Burger King, Dolby, Dole, Facebook, FedEx, Goldman Sachs, Instagram, Master Card, Ocean Spray, Sanpellegrino, SAP, Seagate, and Splunk, while the firm continues to expand its retainer relationships with the likes of Alba Chunguk, California Walnut Commission, Kayak, Pampers, Samsung Notebook, Samsung Pay, and Roche.
In Tokyo, the story is more about perseverance and the ability to thrive despite challenging economic conditions. Success has come from expanding digital and social capabilities in the local market, including the creation of an “engagement platforms” team focused on influencer marketing, and by broadening the range of service provided to existing clients: growing the Mattel relationship from one brand to seven, supplementing business-to-business assignments for Facebook and Instagram with new corporate work. One major win saw the firm engaged to help the Tokyo Metropolitan Government prepare for the 2020 Olympics.—PH
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