Asia-Pacific Consumer PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
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2017 Asia-Pacific Consumer PR Consultancies of the Year

The 2017 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 100 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the region. Consultancy of the Year winners are announced and honoured at the 2017 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, taking place on 14 September in Hong Kong. Analysis of all Finalists (and Winners from 15 September) can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:

Eleven (Australia/TBWA)
Last year’s Australasian Consultancy of the Year, continues its reign as one of the most creative agencies in one of the world’s most creative PR regions. Indeed, Eleven actually managed to take things up a notch in 2016, winning every single one its pitches, including major consumer accounts such as McDonald’s Australia, Campari Group, Crown Resorts and David Jones.

All of that helped power revenue, profits and headcount to record levels, with revenue and profit more than doubling. The firm retains a core belief in the power of public relations to drive conversations and cultural relevance, and continues to develop cutting-edge products and campaigns to support this vision, in particular the Disruption Live methodology of insights mining, open briefing and audience planning  that has helped return some tremendous work for Lastminute.com.au, ANZ and MJ Bale. The agency also launched a Back\slash cultural capability that focuses on Instagram and daily video, powered by culture spotters from the broader TBWA global network.

Other new business included Australia Turf Club, Carousell, Schweppes and Lastminute, joining a client roster that features Tourism New Zealand, MJ Bale, Gatorade, ANZ, Philips and Krispy Kreme. 
Roberto Pace has served as MD of Australia since mid-2015, helping to renew the firm’s reputation for innovation, alongside new Melbourne-based MD Fee Townshend and GM Fiona Milliken. There is a strong focus on training and development, to immerse staff in relevant cultural trends, while a trainer was hired to shape bespoke programmes for individual staffers.

All of that paid off with some inspiring work. Lastminute.com.au’s ‘Cards of Spontaneity’ gamified the travel experience via a bespoke card game and generated a significant uplift in web traffic. ANZ’s #HoldTight, meanwhile, won two Bronze Lions at Cannes, designing a custom wearable tech wristband to promote inclusion and diversity. — AS

Finalists

DeVries Global (IPG)
The DeVries brand may be just five years old in Asia, but it launched with advantages few of its competitors have—the backing of global network Interpublic; a name that is among the leaders in consumer and lifestyle PR in the US (especially in fashion and beauty); a team of 40 professionals transferred from sister agency Weber Shandwick; and a large slice of P&G business.
 
If all of that enabled DeVries to hit the ground running in Asia, the momentum it has built since then is still very impressive. Under the leadership of regional managing director Andrew Vejarano, DeVries now has 80 people in the Greater China market (including Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei) supplemented by a smaller operation in Singapore. The leadership team was broadened this year with the addition of Lydia Shen (formerly of Cohn & Wolfe) as China MD, with Beijing VP Zoe Wu elevated to a newly-created role as regional VP of operations and business strategy across Asian markets.
 
The firm has also diversified its client base considerably. In addition to Olay, Pantene, Head & Shoulders and other P&G brands, DeVries now represents Lane Crawford and Zippo in the fashion and lifestyle space; China Telecom and Orange Financial in the consumer tech arena; New Balance, Nestle and Johnson’s Baby in the broader consumer realm—with new business over the past 12 months from Audi, Scoot and Excelsior Beauty, among others. It has been picking up awards too, for its SK-II “Dream Again” campaign strengthening the beauty brand’s bond with female consumers, for the New Balance Luxe launch, and for its social media issues management campaign for Orange Financial.— PH

History Will Be Kind (Australia/Independent)
With the lofty aspiration of “creating moments in history for clients,” Australia's History Will Be Kind is a new player (the firm is only three years old) with a curiously ambitious selling proposition. Founder (and former Weber Shandwick Australia chief) EJ Granleese started the firm to manage reputations, raise profiles, launch products, and most interestingly, to start movements. 

The people-first culture has resulted in growing the team by almost 50% to support more than 18 new business wins – standout new accounts include Google, YouTube, Randstad, Solotel Group and Village Roadshow. The firm’s healthy margins indicates HWBK has set the foundation to become a major consumer player for years to come.

Of course, the firm has already made a mark. The client portfolio includes new wins Brown-Forman, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Flordis, Fox Home Entertainment, Football Federation Australia, Loans.com.au, Mindbox, Tom & Teddy, Southern Phone, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, in addition to existing clients Aspen Pharmacare, Cheapflights, Deepend, International Convention Centre Sydney, Maille - Unilever, Merlin Entertainments Group among others.

Notable work includes launching one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects for ICC Sydney by creating a phased programme to reconfigure ICC Sydney’s communications ecosystem, and drove integrated communications using core story platforms which aligned with business objectives, engaged stakeholders and resonated across channels. Results included 1,200 media hits,  4.9% average engagement rate on social content and 150+ stakeholders activated. For Fox Home Entertainment, HWBK was charged with driving sales for the retail release of ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ in a saturated market. Leveraging audience insights, the firm invited Australians to discover their inner mutant on 28 September (Mutant Day), deployed a bespoke ‘mutant school’ microsite to engage super-fans, devised a stand out on-street activation and crafted targeted brand and influencer partnerships. Day one sales exceeded expectations by 17.5%. — AaS

Poem (Australia/Independent)
Launched just 18 months ago, Poem is defying expectations around the modern PR. The new firm calls itself Poem to represent Paid, Owned, Earned Media — reinforcing that its work is based on creative insights that are amplified through whatever channel fits best. This approach has lured top-shelf clients like Google, Expedia & Wotif, Movember, Tech21, Masterpet and Transport NSW.

Founders Rob Lowe and Matt Holmes have experience at some of the most notable PR and advertising shops across Australia and the UK — Cake, Freud, Eleven PR and One Green Bean — giving them real insight beyond traditional PR. This is also reflected in the firm’s work. For instance, the work for Alternative Meat Co. —  a new plant based food product that looks, smells and tastes like meat — tapped into research that shows a growing number of Millennials choosing to eat less meat due to health, environmental or animal welfare reasons while also dealing with the stereotype that eschewing meat is ‘unAustralian.’

The two-phase campaign involved going to a kebab shop and pranking meat fans by serving them their favourite kebabs using AMC products, then revealed the truth and filmed their reaction. The video was supported by statistics on the 'flexitarian trend', paid influencer, native advertising and Facebook media spend. The second phase challenged preconceptions that eating meat makes one more Australian. The team recreated MLA's early Australia Day 'lambassador' ads using Sam Kekovitch, rewrote the script and dressed Dave Hughes as the Prime Minister of Australia to make a playful point that 'it doesn't need to moo for you to be true blu'.  — AaS

W Asia (Singapore/Independent)

Fast-growing UK consumer PR firm W Communications launched its Asian operation in Singapore two years year, in a bid to bring its disruptive mentality — based around the concept of ‘creative commerce — to clients in the region. The early signs have been promising — the firm was named New Consultancy of the Year in 2016 — and W built sturdier foundations during the past 12 months, supported by the backing of its UK parent firm, one of the top agencies in that market.

Under the leadership of MD Annabel Fox, W has grown to a team of 12, with turnover tripling in 2016. 
More importantly, the firm has displayed a penchant for working collaboratively with small brands in a bid to innovate beyond the region’s tradition PR offerings. That has helped it net business from bigger brands too, including Princess Yachts, Moet Hennessy Diageo, Bawah Island, Park Hotel Group, Happn, PS Cafe, Ce La Vi, Festival Asia and Marc Jacobs Beauty. They join a client roster that also features MeatLiquor, AppNexus, Oxwell & Co, Foodpanda, Prudential and Kashmi.

While W’s practice focus demonstrates clear strengths in F&B, travel and lifestyle, the firm’s work has also expanded into consumer technology. And the quality of its work also stands out, not least the content it has developed for AppNexus. Meanwhile, W’s ‘Paper Lantern’ campaign for unknown craft distiller Pozible helped spur not only heightened awareness but $40k in sales in a month. — AS