Corporate & Public Affairs Consultancies of the Year 2018 | Holmes Report
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2018 Corporate & Public Affairs Consultancies of the Year

The 2018 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 were announced and honoured at the 2018 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards on 11 September in Singapore. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:

Winner: Adfactors (India/Independent)

Long regarded by Indian market watchers as the best corporate and financial specialist in the market, Adfactors has diversified its offering to a remarkable extent in recent years, helping it to net the $5m Tata mandate from Edelman in the year’s biggest account shift. The firm’s creative prowess has grown commensurate with that expansion, helping Adfactors become one of the most successful PR firms at the South Asian and Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards over the past three years, thanks to assignments for State Bank of India, Mahindra & Mahindra, Vodafone and Godrej.

The mammoth Tata assignment was just one of number of big wins in 2017, with others including Essar Group, Apollo Hospitals, Samsung India, ACC Ambuja, Bajaj Electricals. The firm also continues to work for energy and infrastructure conglomerate Adani Group, Bombay Stock Exchange, Citibank, ICICI Bank, Infosys, Jet Airways, Mahindra Group, State Bank of India and Vodafone India—a veritable who’s who of Indian market leaders and giant multinationals, to whom it provides public and investor relations' services at a high level.

With 2017 fee income of close to $28 million—following 16% growth—Adfactors ranks among the top 75 PR agencies in our global ranking of PR firms, and is the largest Indian firm on the list. It now has 600 people in 13 Indian offices, with overseas outposts in Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the UAE. And its investment in new services is second to none, focusing on training and development, human resources, and digital transformation.

Notable campaign highlights included When Jailbirds Sang, a campaign for Godrej that used former criminals to help sell locking solutions; a tech-fuelled campaign to protect children on behalf of Vodafone; and, helping OYO successfully lower the GST on budget hotels. — AS


Finalists

Honner (Australia/Independent)

A veteran of respected UK corporate specialist Fishburn, of Australian institutional investment journal Super Review, and of the banking sector in both the UK and Australia, Philippa Honner launched her own communications firm in 1997 and has built it over the past two decades into the leader in the financial services sector, working with a range of companies from fintech start-ups to listed investment companies and major superannuation funds. Key clients include big-four bank National Australia Bank, $64 billion superannuation fund UniSuper, the world’s largest listed hedge fund manager Man Group and a top 50 global asset manager, Janus Henderson Investors as well as Australian Ethical, BetaShares, Saxo Capital Markets, Pengana Capital, MetLife and Cromwell Property Group.

Last year continued a healthy growth trend, with a team of 16 generating fee income of around $3.5 million—up by about 15% on the previous year. New business came from CreditSmart (consumer credit reporting education program); Bell Direct (share trading platform); Chi-X (alternate share market to the ASX); Six Park (robo advice); asset managers Plato and Antipodes; Super Friend (a mental health foundation for which the firm provides pro-bono support).

Given the history of its founder, it’s not surprising that Honner has always kept one eye on international markets—it was a founding member of the Global Fintech PR Network and is a longtime member of Global Communication Partners (a financial and corporate communications agency network of leading independent PR consultancies)—but it took things to another level last year, opening its own marketing office in New York (helmed by Philippa Honner herself) and joining the PROI network.

The firm has also been expanding its service offer, developing an in-house content team led by 20-year media veteran Rebecca Thurlow to help clients stand out in an increasingly crowded space, and has been working with client Ariel Investments, with which it co-authored a submission to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s review of its financial literacy strategy, urging greater involvement by the financial firms. Highlights in terms of the client work included handling the IPO of Plato Income Maximiser and supporting the launch of Japanese fintech Moneytree into the Australia Market.—PH


North Head
(China/Independent)

Launched less than a decade ago, North Head continued its pattern of growth in 2017, its fee income up 20% to reach $2.9m by year’s end. Since its 2010 launch, North Head has adhered to an integrated approach to communications services, with a focus on quality and excellence. The firm has earned a balanced portfolio of private and public sector as well as Chinese and multinational clients.  New business in 2017 included the likes of Apple, Amazon, AstraZeneca, the European Union Delegation in Beijing, Mattel, and Sanofi, joining an impressive client roster populated by names such as PhRMA, Eastman, CITIC, Roche, Novartis, Cummins, McDonalds, Ferrero and Honeywell.

With one of China’s largest healthcare practices, North Head works with a range of  international healthcare companies, as well as two of the largest pharmaceutical industry associations—the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and the R&D-Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) in China. Main priorities have included raising their reputations among key stakeholders and advocacy on China’s healthcare reform. And, with social and digital channels rapidly becoming a staple of communications in China, North Head has strived to stay ahead of the curve through innovative solutions to client needs. In the last year, the firm strengthened its digital team and added capabilities — social media content creation, working with influencers and helping clients build and maintain digital platforms among them — while maintaining its core competencies in healthcare, public affairs and strategic communications.

North Head operates under the watch of managing director John Russell and senior executive director Robert Magyar — both founding partners of the agency. Russell brings expertise garnered over his nearly 30-year career in public affairs across Asia, Europe and the US. Magyar has logged 15 years in corporate communications in Japan as well as China. — DM


Redhill Communications
 (Singapore/Independent)

2017's New Consultancy of the Year, Redhill Communications’ business surged last year, with fee income of $1.5m (SGD) — up from $500,000 (SGD) in 2016. Redhill during 2017 tripled its team as well, creating a firm more than 45-people strong serving clients across sectors in Singapore, Yangon, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo, Jakarta, Tokyo, Hong Kong, New Delhi, San Francisco, Berlin and London. All of which reflects the tenet around which Redhill was created — that brand communications should be generated by local teams who understand their markets best.

Before launching Redhill in September of 2015, Jacob Puthenparambil had held communications positions with Government of India’s Ministry for External Affairs, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller in the Middle East, and the UN’s MUrgency global response network in San Francisco. Partner Surekha Yadav, meanwhile, has a background that spans software development and finance. Together, they bring a wealth of international and business experience to a new firm, which helps to explain how Redhill has grown from five people in 2015 to what it is today.

With its offices in key hubs like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo,  Redhill’s reach across Southeast Asia means on-the-ground services for a roster of clients including the region’s largest venture capital firms. Other high-profile companies also on that list include Unilever, General Mills, Emirates, Grab, MundiPharma, UOB FinLab, Singapore Police Force and MetLife.

Charged with supporting Emirates’ inaugural Cambodia flight last year, the firm rolled out a campaign positioning the airline’s arrival as a milestone in Phnom Penh reaching the status of a global city.  The airline’s new route moved beyond being an aviation story to an economic one. Emirates’ arrival was covered by outlets from rural radio networks to national broadcasters and government websites. After his office reached out, Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the launch event. — DM


Sefiani Communications Group (Australia/Independent)

Robyn Sefiani’s firm, closing in on its 20th anniversary, has been alternating between our Australian and Corporate Agency of the Year list since the first year of our Asia-Pacific awards, a tribute to the firm’s consistency and the respect that it is held in by its peers in the market—both of which give it a stature in the Australian marketplace that is out of proportion to its relatively modest (20 person) size.

The past few years have seen a successful expansion and diversification strategy take shape, with Sefiani transforming itself from a relatively traditional corporate and financial communications specialist into something broader, more creative, and more modern—all without losing sight of the strategic thinking that has set the firm apart since it was founded by Sefiani upon her departure from Edelman. That transformation contributed to impressive growth last year, with fee income up to $4.8 million—an increase of better than 35%.

The firm continues to do both corporate and financial work and public affairs and issues management exceptionally well, often partnering with global agencies who lack their own presence in the Australian market, while its consumer/challenger subsidiary Kite is making a name for itself in the creative realm. Key clients such as EY, Rest, Rothschild, Landbridge, Allen & Overy, Everlight Radiology, McGrathNicol, BaptistCare, Hotels.com, and Foodbank were joined by a bumper crop of newcomers including Northern Trust, The Communications Alliance, Lederer Group, Liberty OneSteel, Johnson & Johnson Medical, Bazaarvoice, New Hope Mining, Hammons Holdings, Australian Custodial Services Association, Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation.

While corporate and C-suite reputations have come under more intense through government-led enquiries and increasing activism, Sefiani’s wisdom and experience were in high demand. It provided pro bono counsel to privacy campaigner Brieana Rose—the victim of “revenge” exposure on the internet—to get the law changed to make the taking and sharing of intimate images without consent a criminal offence. It also assisted Rothschild in the global announcement of its lead involvement in the sale of Westfield's shopping centre portfolio to French property giant Unibail-Rodamco; helped EY with a national thought leadership platform; and worked with various clients in preparation to face an IBAC Enquiry in Victoria; a Parliamentary Senate Enquiry into superannuation; and class action litigation. And Kite developed an integrated campaign for NT Tourism to encourage Aussies to book trips to the Northern Territory in the hot wet season.—PH