Asia-Pacific Digital PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Asia-Pacific Digital 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:

BlueFocus Digital (BlueFocus Communication Group)
Since its launch in 1996 (then known as Blue Focus PR), Oscar Zhao’s company has grown into the largest public relations consultancy in China and one of the top 10 public relations business in the world, with 2016 fee income (per our 2017 Top 250 ranking) of close to $270 million—up by 17% last year.

Today, BlueFocus Digital Marketing Agency is the main subsidiary of the BlueFocus Communication Group in China, employing 1,300 people and offering a unique blend of digital marketing and public relations services in China  across offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Xi’an. The firm is led by CEO Richard Jiao, supported by COO Stanley Xiao, chief strategy officer Yorf Guo, VP Bruce Zhu and SVP Donna Li. Key new hires last year included chief technology officer Su Zuan and Otype VP River Wu.

As such, it represents many of the country’s largest companies (Lenovo, Baidu, JD.com, Tencent, FAW-Volkswagen, Volvo, Canon, GAC Toyota and NETS) . New business over the past 12 months came from Bybo Dental Group, Ferrero, Nestle, WMF, China UnionPay, Chevron, L'Oréal, vivo, Lianjia and 5i5j.

That helped BlueFocus Digital grow its revenues by 8.9% in 2016, despite a challenging market that included many clients looking to optimise their marketing budget. In response, BlueFocus has a built a more modern purchasing and operation department, supported by upgraded client servicing capabilities. The firm has also stepped up its creative capabilities, because of the demands placed on its digital work. A central creative team is supported by investments across big data, artificial intelligence and cloud technology, reflecting BlueFocus shift towards digital CRM and social media marketing. 

High-profile work includes developing Infinit’s customer loyalty platform, a mobile effort that leveraged big data to optimise the carmaker’s marketing experience and led to a substantial increase in owners’ usage. For Baidu, meanwhile, BlueFocus supported the transformation of visual art into music via artificial intelligence, and also developed an AR-fuelled restoration campaign of nine city gates in old Beijing. — AS

Finalists

Edelman (Independent)
Edelman’s digital capabilities have always remained a notch above most of their rivals, and now account for more than 15% 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. A broad restructuring has moved those capabilities into a horizontal construct that spans the firm’s brand and reputation practices across all markets, led by performance Edelman digital president Gavin Coombes, who is supported by such executives as COO Stuart Edwards and performance EVP Martin Shaw.

That restructuring has ensured that all aspects of digital — including those more readily associated with advertising agencies — are delivered across Asia-Pacific. Edelman has invested significant sums in this initiative, across such specialist areas as search engine marketing, social media optimisation, paid media and measurement/analytics, building centralised hubs that feature skills and talent that each of its markets can tap into on a local basis.

Keeping with Edelman’s pioneering spirit, meanwhile, is a considerable focus on data and digital intelligence (up 39% in terms of headcount), led by global technology chair Jonathan Hargreaves, who has relocated from London to Singapore. This has already paid off in the form of psychometric audience profiles for Barclays that helped them understand their entrepreneur customer base, and using predictive data to create new markets for the Singapore Tourism Board. For Stop the Traffik, meanwhile, Edelman built a big data platform that helped to create a particularly successful social media campaign.

Beyond those efforts, much of the firm’s best work involves a sophisticated use of digital marketing, such as developing Pond’s global influencer program; creating compelling online video for iRobot and Mirinda; Weibo work for Joie; and using AR to support Samsung’s swimming safety program. — AS

RFI Asia Limited (Independent)
Ruder Finn’s digital capabilities in Asia were transformed by the 2016 acquisition of Daylight Partnership, the firm founded by former WE Communications regional chief David Ko. Combined with Ruder Finn Innovation Studios (RFI), that gives the firm a 50-person digital presence across China, Hong Kong, Singapore and India — with specific strengths in product development and analytics. Unsurprisingly, that helped fuel 25% digital growth in 2016, with around half of Ruder Finn’s regional revenues now being drawn from digital work. 

RFI Asia Limited’s work, meanwhile, demonstrates a clear focus on innovation, via such efforts as immersive storytelling, marketing chatbots and interactive content. That is supported by an array of products, including new influencer analytics tool Beacon, a risk management app called Riskstat and the Sonar crisis simulation platform.

All of this adds up to an impressive array of clients, including new business from Nike, HSBC, Pacific Place and Macy’s while also helping it expand existing relationships with such clients as Prudential and L’Oreal. And the work is suitably compelling too — including an immersive 360-degree video  and VR mini-movie for Sino Group; Hong Kong’s first marketing chatbot for Pacific Place; UGC campaigns for Swire Properties; and live streaming Prudential’s Relationship Index Forum. — AS

[email protected] (WPP)

Now numbering more than 250 staffers, Ogilvy’s digital/social unit remains one of region’s strongest and, unsurprisingly, fastest-growing, up by double-digits to account for as much as 50% of overall revenues at Asia’s biggest PR firm. Major clients include Merck, Huawei, Nestle, Hilton Hotels, British Airways and Hawaiian Airways, while the work spans the full spectrum of digital activity, from selling products to social care, realtime newsrooms, crisis management, audience targeting, social listening/intelligence and paid media.

While, [email protected]’s content to commerce play is as strong as any in the region, it’s influencer work also stands out, notably for Huawei — for whom the firm has helped completely revamp a moribund system into an industry-leading effort that has built strong relationships with key opinion leaders around the globe, powered by an impressive use of social listening and analytics. Elsewhere, there has been impressive work for Coca-Cola in Southeast Asia, where the firm has built  a nine market social hub network that consolidates all social activity, develops more relevant content and cultivates brand advocates. — AS