Healthcare PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2019 Healthcare 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: SPAG Asia (India/Independent)

In the six years since its launch, SPAG has already established itself as an industry game changer in the Asia-Pacific region — a hybrid firm with strong healthcare and public affairs capabilities that grew 35% in 2018 to US$5.9m, including $4m from just 50 people in India, a market not known for its revenue per capita. In addition to three offices in India, SPAG’s Singapore operation now clocks in at a $2m, while the firm has also added a Malaysia office as it eyes increasing regional mandates and diversification into healthcare technology, with further expansion expected across Southeast Asia.

A good example of SPAG’s increasing ability to handle regional work comes from its Novartis relationship, which includes the external narrative business for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. There was also new business from Lupin, Intuitive, Women Delivers, Lancet, GHAI, Meril, Merck and Depuy, joining a client roster that features AdvaMed, PhRMA, GIPC, Novartis, Abbott, Sanofi Genzyme, Vital Strategies, Girl Effect, BD, Stryker, Medtronic and J&J.

In 2017, SPAG laid the groundwork for continued success by developing a four-year growth plan that includes the creation of a holding company (Strategic Partners Group) for its brands; rolling out new offerings such as a food & nutrition practice; and taking its business to Europe through partnerships with life science companies targeting the Asia-Pacific region. All of which are in sync with SPAG’s overarching strategy of growing its business through expanding its capabilities rather than its client roster; SPAG has doubled, and even tripled, revenue from existing clients by expanding its breadth of services. The firm is banking on big payoffs, with projections calling for its fee income to rise from its current to $12-15m within four years. 

And the firm’s campaign work reflects the sophistication of its offering, including SABRE nominated efforts for Novartis, Sanofi Genzyme and GIPC. — AS


Finalists

DeVries Global (IPG)

Consumer specialist DeVries is not an obvious choice for the healthcare category, but the IPG agency quietly amassed a significant portfolio of pharma, OTC and wellness business in the Asia-Pacific region, accounting for almost 10% of its business and driven by its thriving Shanghai operation. Growth has been rapid, sextupling in size since it launched its healthcare capabilities last year and including such clients as Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi, Roche, GSK, J&J AcuVue and Boston Scientific.

The firm’s success in this area reflects the disruption underway in the healthcare sector, where consumers and patients are taking a far more proactive role in seeking out information. Thus, DeVries has brought its consumer and cultural insights capabilities into the healthcare arena, focusing on compelling and searchable content, analytics that map the patient decision making journey, and influencers and platforms that determine healthcare advice, education and treatment information. 

Healthcare is led by industry veteran Julie Wu, supported by data/analytics lead Robi Yu, and fuelled by DeVries’ culture of taking risks in order to encourage progress. Campaign highlights included helping GSK’s Zyrec cut through the cluttered cold flu market in Singapore via a comedic YouTube campaign; raising awareness of type 2 diabetes in China for Sanofi’s Lyxumia; and addressing misinformation on behalf of BMS’ Opdivo. — AS


FleishmanHillard
 (Omnicom Group)

Healthcare public relations is seen as a recent growth driver among many of the major multinational agencies operating in the region, but there is nothing new about FleishmanHillard’s emphasis on the sector, which has been a key component of its regional business since it expanded into Asia 25 years ago. Its capabilities have expanded from pharmaceutical marketing to include market access, regulatory and legislative issues, clinical trial work, and technical medical communications across the full lifecycle of products from drugs to devices.

The firm has strong healthcare teams in Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Mumbai, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai Sydney and Tokyo, and also collaborates with other Omnicom-owned healthcare-focused agencies to deliver and even broader array of services across even more markets. More and more of that work involves engaging directly with consumers, as they look for information themselves rather than blindly following “doctor’s orders,” leading to increased demand for digital and social content.

Fleishman’s healthcare business was once again one of the star performers among its regional practice groups in 2019, up +20% for a client roster that includes Philips, Amgen, Daiichi Sankyo, Abbott Labs, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, SK BioPharma and Alexion Pharma. — AS

GCI Health (Singapore/WPP)

WPP’s GCI Health may be an established name elsewhere, but in Asia-Pacific, it’s a start-up. The agency opened its doors in Singapore at the start of 2019 as a new hub office of WPP’s only global specialist health PR agency, and has already grown from one to eight employees and exceeded its target revenue for the whole year. It’s been such a strong start that the agency will be opening two more offices in the region soon, an objective that was originally planned for 2020.

The agency is led by Asia-Pacific MD Rikki Jones, a career health specialist who has now been GCI Health’s founding leader in two regions, having also set up the London office five years ago. She is supported by director Gayatri Narayanan – most recently Takeda’s APAC communications director and who has also worked with Edelman in Singapore, Bangalore and New York – and head of media Payal Sadhwani, who brings a decade of healthcare experience from agency roles in Singapore and Malaysia.

The team arrived in Asia with GCI Health’s singular forward vision: to be the best health communications agency in the world, bringing the best of what it offers globally, but customized for the needs of the region and its national healthcare systems. The agency operated under four core service areas: life sciences, market access communications, consumer wellness, and strategic consulting. It has already facilitated a number of roundtable discussions for the industry on best practice health behavior change, which it will continue to roll-out across the region. – MPS

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

Accounting for around 10% of its regional revenue, Weber Shandwick still believes its healthcare practice is underweight in the region, despite registering 23% growth in 2018 growth following a flat 2017. Key clients include Abbott, MSD, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi, while the firm also benefited from the global Novartis consolidation and GSK expansion, along with new business from Gilead Hepatitis and ZO Skin Health on a regional level.  

In Korea, the the merger with McCann Health has turned Weber Shandwick into one of the market’s largest healthcare marketing firms, while there are also sizeable capabilities in Hong Kong (including a new medical education offering), China (where it integrates the C3 platform to drive content to commerce for healthcare brands) and Australia. The firm’s growth in the area is reflected by senior hires in Japan, Singapore and Australia, along with expansion into medical society management and congress convention planning for NGOs, and hires in medical research.  

On a local market basis, key clients include Sanofi (Australia and China), Manuka Health (China), Roche (Hong Kong), Merck for Mothers (India), and Lilly, Medtronic and Samsung Health (Korea). But it is the work that really stands out, including the SABRE nominated campaigns for Roche in Hong Kong (‘Cuupcakes’) and Eisai Korea (‘Who Sprinkled Sale on my Cake’). — AS