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It is easy to forget that, just a decade ago, Weber Shandwick’s Asia-Pacific presence often registered as less than the sum of its parts. Since then a cohesive regional strategy has added considerable geographic breadth and specialist depth across the region, with the agency tripling in size over the past seven years, to around $110m in fee income after another double-digit return in 2016. Much of that is the by-product of a stable leadership team that is overseen by chairman Tim Sutton and CEO Baxter Jolly, supported by operations chair Tyler Kim in Korea; creativity and innovation chair Darren Burns in China; client experience chair Vanessa Ho in Singapore; technology EVP Lydia Lee; and strategy/marketing chair Ian Rumsby in Australia.
The firm’s local market leadership, overseeing some 900 people across the region, is similarly stable and also reflects Weber’s preference for homegrown leaders, including Ava Lawler in Australia, David Liu in China, Albert Shu in Hong Kong, Valerie Pinto in India, Hitoshi Shioya in Japan and Johnny Sales in Indonesia. Indeed, Weber Shandwick can can claim to have the most complete capabilities in the key markets of Australia, China, India, North Asia and South East Asia. Other metrics are similarly eye-catching: the firm now has 179 multimarket clients, and around 30% of its revenues (30%) comes from Asia-based clients. And growth has been led by India (+23%), Australia (+23%), Korea (+15%), Japan (+14%), Hong Kong (+12%) and Singapore (+12%).
Much of that is driven by an existing client base that includes several companies that have been with Weber Shandwick for more than decade, including MasterCard, Emirates, NTT Docomo, Intel, American Airlines, Nestle, J&J, GM, GSK, Nike and Pfizer. There was also plenty of new business in 2016 ($16.8m to be exact) from the likes of BYD, Tokyo 2020, Cartier, Netflix, SAP, Victoria’s Secret and Ericsson. The growth has benefited every practice group, with consumer and corporate each accounting for about a third of regional revenues, strong capabilities in health and technology—and digital leading expansion.
But the numbers don’t tell the full story of Weber Shandwick’s impressive performance in Asia-Pacific. Jolly has overseen a fundamental expansion of the firm’s integrated capabilities across all of its markets and practices, with a specific focus on establishing a more credible creative offering. That has meant that Weber Shandwick now numbers around 200 digital/studio specialists, supported by 136 content staffers, 109 integrated media specialists, and 34 insight experts. In line with a broader global restructuring, this talent is now placed into ‘value-based communities’, underpinned by significant senior hires in analytics/insights, creative, planning and digital. Digital assignments, for example, grew in all markets — led by Korea (36%), Indonesia (27%), Hong Kong (20%), China (16%) and Malaysia (10%). Florence Ng joined the firm to lead creative in China, while Ali Grayeli came aboard from Uber as regional ECD, while Uff Taufek and Emmanuel Caisse took on senior digital and analytics roles in China and Southeast Asia, respectively. And investment in talent and training has focused on numerous initiatives to help the firm become a more nimble creative player in today’s integrated marketing communications landscape.
The work, unsurprisingly, reflects the level of innovation that has seen Weber Shandwick outstrip all of its global network rivals over the past few years. For Alba Chunkuk, the firm developed an emotive campaign that heightened awareness of the plight of Korea’s part-time workers. For Nescafe Dolce Gusto, it created a WeChat campaign that drove interest and sales. For Ocean Spray, there was influencer activity to ignite awareness and drive ecommerce sales. For Abbott, there was a video series that highlighted how older parents have not lost sight of their dreams. And for Janssen, the firm challenged the standards of mental health across the region, spurring governments to take action. — AS
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