Digital PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report
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2019 Digital PR Consultancies of the Year

The 2019 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 125 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the region. 

Consultancy of the Year winners are announced and honoured at the 2019 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, which take place on 12 September in Singapore. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below:

Winner: Edelman (DJE Holdings)

Edelman’s digital capabilities continue to showcase the firm’s flair for innovation, particularly when it comes its data and analytics operations, which remains one of the sharpest in the region. That is demonstrated best by the predictive intelligence centre (EPIC) it has formed in conjunction with Singapore’s Economic Development Board, which followed up the impressive Shell Emotion Tracking campaign by winning a string of assignments from HP, Turner, EndowUs Insights and two healthcare clients.

So while much of the industry mistakes predicative analytics for diagnostic activity, Edelman has forged ahead by developing an offering that brings together AI, neural networks and data mining to help clients predict patterns of human behaviour at real scale. For HP, for example, the firm used psychometric modelling to help parents understand how to teach children which tools to use, boosting the value of printing across five markets. For Turner, EPIC is uncovering the motivations and triggers that underpin fandom. For SingTel, the firm is using third party tools to understand B2B audiences, before deploying those insights across performance marketing activities. And in a rare coup, the firm won a major Singapore Traffic Police assignment after pitching against a number of digital agencies. 

All of that work has positioned EPIC as a global hub for Edelman’s analytics operation, and has functioned as a major growth driver for the agency over the past couple of years. And, of course, it also combines well with the firm’s existing strength across all aspects of digital — including those more readily associated with advertising agencies — including such specialist areas as search engine marketing, social media optimisation, and paid media, building centralised hubs that feature skills and talent that each of its markets can tap into on a local basis. 

In Singapore, where the firm hired Daryl Ho as digital head, 25 of the office’s 110-strong headcount is focused on digital, reflecting the firm’s transformation over the past three years. That has been bolsted by  investment in such areas as martech training and a partnership with the Ehrenberg Leadership Institute to help develop a common skillset across such areas as content marketing, analytics and storytelling. 

Unsurprisingly, the best of the work reflects this impressive range of capabilities, featured in SABRE nominated campaigns such as ‘Gut Bacteria Zoo’ for Kellogg, PayPal’s 2018 Christmas campaign, and ‘Discover Choice’ for Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation. — AS


Finalists

Ketchum (Omnicom Group)

Rather than attempting to compete via scale, in a region where its regional footprint is dwarfed by several rivals, Ketchum has smartly repositioned its offering around a digital/social-first model that focuses on audience marketing and social commerce. And this approach appears to be paying off, driving significant digital growth in the firm’s key markets of China and India, reflected in the fact that more than 50% of its new hires are digital-focused, and demonstrated by numerous digital-led new business wins.

These assignments have included web development for Dupont and AVG, integrated work for Aptamil, Marshall and Haier, and digital-only mandates for Continental China, Motilal Oswal and Skoda. The firm’s SABRE nominations comfortably confirms this transformation too, perhaps best exemplified by the Conti Cities visual storytelling and social commerce campaign in China, which not only build awareness but also saw a considerable spike in sales growth. There was also sophisticated ‘hyper-local’ influencer work for Livat Beijing Shopping Complex, and social commerce activity for ThinkVision, the latter a particular focus in China where it has also completed similar assignments for Bacardi, P&G and AIG.

In Greater China, CEO (and former IPG Mediabrands chief digital officer) Prince Zhang is supported by chief growth officer Eunice Wong, both of whom bring a distinctly digital focus to the agency’s work. In India meanwhile, the firm attempting a more ambitious transformation from a traditional corporate/financial firm, but has stepped up hiring and delivered some eye-catching work for the Hockey World Cup and AVG Investments, the last of which included website development, social media work, digital brand ID, programmatic, SEO and paid digital activity..

All of which is underpinned by Ketchum’s focus on developing tools and products. The firm’s in-house Ketchum Analytics offering, includes the Maestro influencer and amplification tool that was built in Singapore, while there are plans to develop further social commerce and influencer focused platforms in China.  — AS


Ogilvy
 (WPP)

Despite the agency’s high-profile restructuring, Ogilvy’s ability to blend PR and digital continues to impress in Asia-Pacific, where Andreanne Leclerc oversees a social team that numbers 400 executives across the region. Leclerc is supported by a 13-strong leadership team in Ogilvy’s key PR markets, which include China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Shanghai, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Sydney — bringing expertise across social media, influencer management, research, AI, chatbots, digital content and paid media. 

All told, the social practice grew by 8.5 % in 2018, underpinned by a series of new business wins including AIA and Beijing 2022 in China, the HKJC, Colgate and Korean Air in Hong Kong, Tripadvisor, JAL and Tokiomarine in Singapore, and Tinder, Bose and Red Bull in other markets. Much of the best work also demonstrated an innovative flavour, too, including AI vision and realtime digital insight activity for IBM, along with chatbot development for Supermi in Indonesia and MSD across the region — all of which was part of product development offering that has delivered nine tools in the digital space. 

Unsurprisingly, SABRE judges have taken note. The firm’s Early Childhood Development Agency work in Singapore made impressive use of digital channels, while there were also standout digital campaigns for the National Arts Council, Jollibee and NBA Philippines. — AS


RFI Asia (Independent)

Ruder Finn’s digital capabilities in Asia include a 50+ person presence across China, Hong Kong, Singapore and India with specific strengths in product development and analytics, all of which is led by RFI Asia MD David Ko. Unsurprisingly, that has bolstered the firm’s prowess as an integrated marketing consultancy, particularly in China where its ‘digital media centre’ works on behalf of a host of automotive, travel and tourism, beauty and F&B clients — across paid media buying on Weibo and WeChat; digital campaign design, branded content and social media management. And that progress was perhaps demonstrated best by the firm’s win of the Almond Board of California’s integrated marketing assignment versus a competitive field of advertising, digital and PR firms.

RFI’s product development, meanwhile, demonstrates a clear focus on innovation, via such efforts as immersive storytelling, ‘dark social’, marketing chatbots, WhatsApp for business and interactive content. That is supported by an array of products, including the Sonar Crisis Simulation programme; the AI-driven Influenpedia resource that is already being used by Burberry, Longines and Chaumet; and the Beacon influencer heatmap. 

All of this adds up to an impressive array of clients, including new business from HSBC, Heineken, McDonald’s, Marriott, the Singapore Tourism Board, Tencent, Uber, Estee Lauder and DBS Asia, along with data-focused work for Orbis, CLP, Manulife, Prudential and HSBC. The work is similarly vibrant, including HSBC’s CNY Facebook Stories campaign, McDonald’s 2018 World Cup initiative in China, Tencent’s global social content programme, influencer marketing management for Uber and Marriott, and connecting 12,000 Metro employees on WeChat. — AS

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

After several years of sustained investment, Weber Shandwick’s digital operation now stands as one of the region’s strongest, with 220 executives in its digital studio teams across Asia-Pacific, and a further 25 focusing on data and analytics. Indeed, the firm’s data and analytics capabilities have seen a pronounced improvement since the 2017 acquisition of data consultancy Bomoda, which brought specific expertise into Chinese social media platforms and has helped to drive several new product offerings, including proprietary solutions in natural language processing of ecommerce behaviours, customer journey analysis and reputation analysis.

Those tools augment the firm’s existing platforms, notably the C3 content to commerce platform and Kloud influencer engagement systems — both of which were developed in China but have since been exported across Weber Shandwick’s global network. And the firm will soon launch another offering called Vox, which aims to combine insights across social media, online media and ecommerce to improve strategies from product innovation to customer loyalty, while also readying a new B2B social media tool. 

It is not just the products that impress, though. Weber Shandwick’s creative capabilities have improved to noticeable effect in recent years, with ECD Ali Grayeli overseeing a team that helps bridge its data insights with a fluent range of digital solutions. This has helped underpin new integrated business from the likes of ExxonMobil, Hotels.com, Turkish Airlines and Shiseido, along with digital content assignments for such companies as Hanwha Group and Samsung Electronics, and lead generation work for many of its technology clients.

The firm’s work reflects both the breadth and depth of this offering, including SABRE-nominated campaigns for Air New Zealand, Nescafe Dolce Gusto and Mastercard x ICBC. — AS