Global Technology Agencies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2019 Global Technology Agencies of the Year

The 2019 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 450 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across North AmericaEMEAAsia-Pacific and LatAm.

Analysis of all of the Winners and Finalists across specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are announced at the 2019 Global SABRE Awards, which take place at the PRovoke19 Global PR Summit in Washington, DC, on the evening of 23 October. 

 

Finalists

Archetype (Asia-Pacific, Next15)

Archetype’s name might be new, but its pedigree owes much to the impressive heritage of Text100 in Southeast Asia. And while the global merger with Bite may have resulted in various leadership changes in other parts of the world, the firm’s rebranded operations continue to progress in impressive fashion across its Singapore and Malaysia offices.

Singapore, in particular, has been Archetype’s star performer in Asia-Pacific, growing 17% in 2018 to more than S$5m, thanks to continued investment in integrated marketing services. Of note, that growth was accomplished despite the exit of major client Lenovo at the start of last year, with Archetype rebounding from that hit to win 21 clients over the following 12 months, including major assignments from Amazon, Subway, Ikea, the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIECD), WeWork, Hubspot, Cloudera and JLL. They join an existing client roster that includes Rolls-Royce, Alipay, Zebra Technology, Adobe, Stripe, German National Tourism Board, Red Hat and Property Guru. 

The numbers and new business alone, though, don’t tell the full story of Archetype’s progress. The firm has successfully transformed its offering from core B2B technology work to encompass depth in consumer, creative content, digital marketing, corporate storytelling and employee engagement. That is evident by the breadth of Archetype’s work across clients including Subway (brand communication), Rolls Royce (web development and content marketing), Zebra (PR and digital), NIECD (web video), Germany’s Tourist Board (social media) and Century Link (internal comms films). 

APAC lead Lee Nugent is based in Singapore, as is client strategy head Marc Ha, while Southeast Asia MD Yeow Mei Ling is located in Kuala Lumpur — an office that grew 8% last year on the back of new business from such clients as Airbnb, Snap, Mattel Fisher Price, SuperPark and McDonald’s. The Singapore operation meanwhile, is now led by managing consultant Mabel Chiang, who is supported by deputy Owen Waters and ECD Lee Devine. 

Unsurprisingly, the campaign work bears out Archetype’s evolution, including SABRE nominated efforts for Qlik and the NIECD in Singapore, and Airbnb in Malaysia. — AS

The Bulleit Group (US, Independent)

Despite being surrounded by innovation, tech firms can tread in the shallow waters of tactical execution. The Bulleit Group, however, breaks through with exceptional intellectual curiosity and a drive to innovate right alongside its clients. This was evident, for instance, in its work with Thor Trucks that landed as #2 Best in Show at the Innovation SABRE Awards. The campaign involved ‘newsjacking’ against competitor Tesla with game-changing results. Judges lauded the work for telling a “compelling launch story on a limited budget by using Tesla to propel Thor Trucks to the front of the narrative.”

When it comes to talent, the Bulleit Group prioritizes senior-level staff with diverse backgrounds in anthropology, law, politics, data science and linguistics. The firm fuses deep tech expertise with public affairs, which is increasingly important to tech companies. Senior staff come from both sides of the political aisle, providing counsel on issues ranging from data privacy to electric and autonomous vehicle regulation. Among its 27 employees, seven have direct public affairs backgrounds and five have worked either on Capitol Hill and/or the White House.

The agency’s unparalleled positioning is paying off. The Bulleit Group grew by 65% in 2018, pushing its revenues up to $5.35m. This comes on the back of a slower 2017 when co-founders Kyle Arteaga and Alex Hunter focused more on putting systems in place for continued growth. This was a far-reaching endeavor that included revamping contract management, HR policies, billing, network security and all admin processes.

Bulleit has counted Google as a client since 2012 and its work with the tech giant has now grown to 12 divisions. Other long-standing clients include LinkedIn (since 2015), Bloomberg (since 2016), Flexport (since 2015), Orbital Insight (since 2015), among others. New clients include P&G Ventures, Thor Trucks, HackerOne, Helm, Orro, Lilt and rideOS, among others.

Notable hires include former head of comms at Clover Health and Yammer Shelley Risk as SVP and GM of San Francisco, in addition to five account leads. The firm also unveiled a dedicated speaker’s bureau last year and it is increasingly handling crisis situations across its practice areas: mobility, energy, security and AI/robotics.  — AaS 

Harvard (UK/US, Chime)

As Harvard enters its 40th year, there’s no question the agency is in its prime. After eight years of consecutive growth, the 70-strong agency boosted fee income by a further 18.5% to £6.4m. Along the way, it won 92% of pitches, including global brands such as Salesforce and the launch of Chinese mobile giant Xiaomi into the UK; they joined a client roster that also features Vodafone, Cisco, Square, Ricoh, Fujitsu and Sennheiser. 

The management team, led by CEO Louie St Claire, set out a new five-year strategy for the business to drive it forward to a 100-person agency. It also built a new leadership team responsible for driving cultural change in the business and refreshed the board (maintaining a 50/50 gender split) including Lewis Webb, who joined from FleishmanHillard Fishburn as client services director. And further international opportunities will arise this year, after parent group Chime’s acquisition of West Coast tech shop Method at the end of 2018.

Harvard has worked hard to defend its open, nurturing culture through the latest period of growth and last year added further robust wellbeing, psychological safety, diversity and hiring best practice programmes to the business. It established a six-month training programme for senior account managers to help them make the tricky shift to AD and the Future Leaders programme moved 13 of its most talented people into senior management roles. The agency, which has a staff retention rate of 92%, also introduced a more flexible working environment and policy.

Putting planning and creative at the heart of the agency continues to pay dividends with integrated work continuing to grow: 36% of the agency’s revenue now comes from non-traditional PR. The approach has resulted in a raft of awards and Harvard’s first ATL work with Hiyacar. There was also an increased focus on corporate work, reflecting the shifting technology narrative from the industry being media darlings, to dealing with more complex responsibility and reputation challenges.

Among the stand-out work over the past year was helping Square engage with small businesses across the UK with its Digital Towns campaign; devising the ‘Tech in a Transforming Britain’ campaign to help Fujitsu address some of the UK’s biggest challenges; and capturing the imagination of Mancunians to launch Cisco’s smart city accelerator in Manchester, including a hero film, an augmented reality walking tour of the city and a digital skills academy. – MPS


The Hoffman Agency 
(Asia-Pacific, Independent)

23 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 seen a profound transformation under a new leadership team overseen by ex-Google veteran Caroline Hsu, who joined as regional MD in mid-2017. Hsu has helped steer rapid growth in what is not only Hoffman’s largest geographic region but, as founder Lou Hoffman puts it, their “center of gravity,” thanks 110 people across Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan.

After 19% growth in 2017, Hoffman expanded by another 20% in 2018 and is on course to reach $11m in fee income by the end of this year, thanks to an even higher growth rate in 2019. Hsu 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, bolstered even further by the hire of digital head Nicolas Chan.  

Chan’s arrival supports Hoffman’s increased focus on content marketing and digital commerce, with the firm developing numerous digital campaigns that drive sales leads, underpinned by programmatic advertising, analytics and multi-channel content. There was significant new business from Blackberry, Amazon Web Services, Airbnb, CES Asia, Uber, Shopline, JOS, Microchip, Intel and McAfee — joining an existing client roster that features Nutanix, Adobe Systems, Johnson Controls, Crypto.com, AppAnnie, Lam Research, FireEye, Niantic Labs and Avast. Significantly, much of the business is now multi-market, with nine clients now supported in three or more markets, compared to two in 2017.

A stronger focus on employee culture, training and retention is also paying off, as Hoffman looks to wield its network as a positive influence. And there were several campaign highlights, including a SABRE-nominated campaign for MoneySmart in Hong Kong.  — AS

WE Communications (Global, Independent)

The fiercely independent technology firm has seen its fortunes turn recently with US organic growth at 9.5% to $94m. Global growth was 7.7% on an organic basis, with another 7% attributed to acquisitions. The momentum was driven by growth across all three of its sectors: technology, consumer and healthcare. Moreover, much of this is coming from WE’s new positioning around Brands in Motion, which studies how consumers expect brands to evolve and innovate. Mostly recently, the research put a spotlight on consumer expectations that brands use technology ethically and responsibly.

In Asia-Pacific, meanwhile, WE has undergone a rapid transformation thanks to an ambitious acquisition spree that added top-rated outfits in China (Red Bridge), India (Avian Media) and Singapore (Watatawa), with a leadership team that is stronger than most, featuring Penny Burgess in China, Nitin Mantri (India), Simon Pangrazio (Watatawa), and Rebecca Wilson (Australia and Singapore). The firm's strength in the region led to WE being named Asia-Pacific Midsize Agency of the Year, while AvianWE won Indian Consultancy of the Year.

Revenue in Asia-Pacific grew by a remarkable 41% in 2018 to $24.9m. There was a significant new business haul, including Adobe, Alcidion, Butterfield, Coca-Cola, Fila, Lego Education, NTUC Income Rosewood, Samsung, Tencent and Viacom18, adding to an existing client roster that features Aruba, Bayer, F5, GSK, Honeywell, iRobot and Lenovo. Australia, which grew 34%, has successfully expanded beyond its corporate heartland into consumer and healthcare, while China grew 22% on the back of increasing creative capabilities and such new mandates as developing the purpose narrative for Coca-Cola’s brand portfolio. And Avian WE grew by 35% in 2018.

The purchase of Avian Media instantly turned WE into a far more credible South Asian force, at the same time giving Avian the kind of global network it has long craved. Early revenues suggest that the firm has only benefited from the WE deal — with revenues up by a remarkable 35% to $6.5m. Unsurprisingly, the campaign work continues to impress, with campaigns for Mastercard, McDonald’s, AB InBev, Tourism Australia, RB, Dettol and PVR Cinemas all catching the attention of SABRE judges. — AS/AaS