Technology PR Consultancies of the Year 2018 | Holmes Report
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2018 Technology PR 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: IN.FOM (Independent)

No longer the new kid on the block after seven years of remarkable growth, IN.FOM continues to bring plenty of energy to an offering that has already won multiple Agency of the Year Awards from the Holmes Report. And the firm’s performance over the past 18 months proves that it looks set to navigate the difficult teenage years as successfully as it handled its inception, with eye-catching growth of 50% to US$3.7m.

That expansion was underpinned by new business from Ruckus Networks, Expedia and SGInnovate, along with increased spend from key existing clients Microsoft and UnionPay. Other important relationships include Xbox, Engine, CA Technologies, Herbalife, Intralinks, Intel and Nokia — with IN.FOM increasingly taking on regional duties from its Singapore hub.   

Despite the growth, IN.FOM continues to eschew the scale and bureaucracy of established firms in favour of an approach that prizes sustainable employee and client relationships. The leadership team includes managing partners Wong Voal Voal and Mike Liew, who bring impressive pedigrees with global agencies H+K and Burson-Marsteller, respectively, and who understand the transformation of marketing and technology.  And there continues to be considerable investment in talent and training, including twice-yearly pay adjustments and bonuses to convince the market’s best talent that IN.FOM is the best place to build their careers. An up and coming generation of leaders suggests that this approach is paying off, with non-traditional PR revenue also growing commensurate with a broader skill base. 

As ever, the work impresses — including seven Diamond/Gold SABRE nominations and two IN2 SABRE Awards — for multiple campaigns conducted on behalf of Microsoft, SGInnovate and Expedia. — AS


Finalists

The Hoffman Agency (Independent)

22 years ago, Hoffman became the first US tech consultancy to set up shop in Asia. By 2017, that long tenure served to reinforce the perception that the agency was stagnating in the region, with revenue barely growing in the five years since it crossed $5.5m in 2012. But, in line with a broader global reshaping of its business, Asia-Pacific has also seen its fortunes transformed under a new leadership team overseen by ex-Google veteran Caroline Hsu, who joined as Asia-Pacific MD in mid-2017.

Hsu has wasted little time in disrupting Hoffman’s regional leadership team, hiring Jason Cao as China GM, Miranda Lee as GM of Korea, Marc Sparrow as GM of Hong Kong and promoting Maureen Tseng to GM of Singapore. That quartet has joined North Asia head Shingo Nomura and global operations VP Lydia Lu in overhauling Hoffman’s approach in the region, already driving a 19% increase in revenue to $7.3m. It is worth noting that Asia is now Hoffman’s largest region, accounting for more staff and revenue and actively exporting work to the rest of the global network.

In particular, Hsu has brought a strong focus on the startup economy, starting with her native Taiwan, where the firm opened an office last year, adding to its existing network of operations in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan. There was new business from La French Tech, Monaco, Adobe, Johnson Control, Cloudera, Taiwan Tech Area, JOS, Airbnb and Blackberry, joining an existing client roster that features Nutanix, AppAnnie, Nokia Digital Health, Niantic Labs and NIVIDA.

A stronger focus on digital and WeChat is already reaping dividends in China, while a new Jakarta office has extended Hoffman’s Southeast Asian presence. And, across the region, the firm is developing and packaging digital services that integrate SEM, SEO, design, website development, storytelling and social, selling them not just to tech companies, but also to consumer companies such as Sentosa Resorts (Singapore) and Ice Age Water (Korea). And the work also reflects Hoffman’s progression, including a SABRE-nominated effort for Crypto.com. — AS


Rice Communications (Independent)

Following a year of growth ending with 36 staffers in Singapore, Myanmar, Hong Kong and now China, and fee income of SGD$4.2 million, Rice Communications is well on its way to establishing itself as one of the leading independents in South-East Asia. The agency’s success reflects its focus on workplace culture to achieve stability and consistency in an often turbulent marketplace, and the leadership of Sonya Madeira, who founded Rice in 2009, and partner/director James Brasher to compete with larger multinationals for regional assignments in the technology sector: more than 80% of Rice clients are now serviced in multiple markets.

While technology remains Rice’s core business, the agency has expanded into consumer, digital and corporate communications, as well as marketing tech, hospitality, financial services, and some government work. New business over the past 12 months came from Marks & Spencer, HEXA, WWF Myanmar, Internet Society, Pure Storage, MySkillsFuture, AdKnowledge Asia, Blu, Prudential, DataXu, joining a roster of existing clients such as Palo Alto Networks, Pure Storage, Digital Realty, Thales, ESET, Ooyala and National Instruments.

High-profile assignments included the “At the Beating Heart of Singapore” campaign Rice conducted for Hilton Garden Inn to support the brand’s entry into Singapore with the opening of its first hotel in Little India. The multifaceted initiative highlighted the brand’s “bright” values — influencers received hand-delivered sunflowers; videos showed employees exploring Little India’s bright lights and sounds; and international media were shown the neighborhood’s warmth. The hotel’s launch garnered 190 pieces of coverage; The #BrightStories videos were viewed more than 38k times. — PH/DM


Sling & Stone
(Australia/Independent)

Founder/CEO Vuki Vujasinovic started Australian firm Sling & Stone just over seven years ago with just one solid client and a compelling position as the firm for “the world’s best challengers, disrupters and entrepreneurs.” It turns out there were plenty of those potential clients in the Australian market, and Sling & Stone doubled in size through each of its first five years. It has doubled again over the past two years—fees were up by better than 20% last year—and now has a team of 45, adding satellite offices in New Zealand and the US to its Australia headquarters.

It’s not just the quantity of business that has been attracting attention, however; the firm has been winning some big, high-profile pitches. In the past 12 months it has added names like Uber and Uber Eats, Nest, Anki, Goose Island, Zillow, Visa, and OrbitRemit. At the same time, a new “startup package” has made it easier for early-stage, venture-backed companies to work with the agency. And Sling & Stone has retained most of its longstanding clients, including Twitter, Kogan.com, Xero, Amazon Prime Video, BigCommerce, Slack, Stripe, Domain, Nearmap, and Autodesk.

The firm’s work with Twitter has focused on discovering and amplifying the untold stories of how communities use the platform to unite. Among the highlights: it conducted the world’s first underwater live broadcast from the Great Barrier Reef; support for Twitter’s partnership with Australian Marriage Equality; amplifying the voice of Australia’s Indigenous communities with campaigns like #ChangeTheDate and #IndigenousDads; and supplying political journalists with real-time data on the New Zealand elections.

At the heart of the firm’s growth strategy is a focus on creating an “employer-of-choice” work environment, earning Sling & Stone trophies in our Best Agencies to Work For research for the past three years. The firm has been able to safeguard its culture from the vicissitudes of rapid growth, suggesting that its workplace is functioning as a competitive advantage versus rivals. Employees scored it highly across all categories, including management, culture, professional development, client service, empowerment and communication, reflecting a workplace that features state-of-the-art technology, collaborative and open workspaces, weekly cultural activities and health and wellness benefits.—PH


Text100
(Next15)

It is sometimes easy to envy global agencies, with their bigger brands and flags on the map, but the flipside is that client decisions are sometimes impossible to control. So it proved for Text100 Asia-Pacific, which over the past 12 months lost its two biggest global clients — Lenovo and IBM — both of which, had significant implications for the firm’s regional revenue. Luckily, Text100’s 20-year presence in Asia-Pacific continues to translate into strategic depth in key markets across India, Australia, Southeast Asia and Greater China. And, under the leadership of Lee Nugent, the firm has transformed its capabilities, supported by a restructured leadership team that also features Sunayna Malik in India, Marc Ha in Singapore, Meiling Leow in Southeast Asia and Rosemary Merz in Hong Kong.

Overall revenues were effectively flat at around $20m in 2017, with profits up slightly to around $3.7m from 305 staffers in the region. There was significant new business (much of it multi-market) from Oracle, Alipay, Skyscanner, Airbnb, Ernst & Young, Xero, Concur, Radisson Hotel and AirAsia — joining an existing client roster that features VMware, Adobe, Rolls Royce, NetApp, Four Seasons, DHL, British Council, IKEA and DHL

In particular, the firm has invested considerable resources into talent and training, enhancing its leadership across creative, insight/analytics and business development. There is a central creative hub led by a new regional CD, developing above-the-line work for Fortinet, influencer video content for Rolls Royce and website creation for Engineers Australia. And Text100’s digital capabilities remain sharper than most, including offerings in strategic planning (buyer persona development, buyer journey mapping), content marketing (master narrative and story Arcs, point of view, film), and digital marketing (SEO, search & PPC, lead generation). In keeping with its B2B strength, furthermore, Text100 also formalised a strategic engagement with LinkedIn, becoming the only APAC-networked agency to get certified as a LinkedIn Content Marketing Agency.

All of which helps to explain why Text100 continues to deliver standout work on behalf of its clients, resulting in six SABRE nominations, for Zebra Technologies, NetApp, CenturyLink and Lazada. — AS