Australasian PR Consultancies of the Year 2018 | Holmes Report

2018 Australasian 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: Red Agency (Havas)

Launched in 2002, Red has become the star performer in the Havas Australia group, now numbering 90 people and exporting its model across the wider Havas network. Much of that is down to the leadership of James Wright, who joined Red in 2011 and has since been named global CEO for Havas PR. Red’s senior team also includes executive directors Jackie Crossman and Dav Ghiassi, the latter of whom runs the firm’s 24-person social media team, which has grown considerably to cover creative, strategy, paid, insights and optimisation, community management and content production.

2017 marked Red’s best year ever, as the agency underlined its presence as Australia’s hottest PR agency — growing by 70% and securing major new business from Toyota, Vivid, Lexus, Moet-Hennessy, and Menulog. A further 40% growth is forecast for 2018, suggesting that Red’s momentum is firmly established in the marketplace. Existing clients include Amazon Web Services, Heineken, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Destination NSW, Menulog, Origin Energy, Qatar Airways, Capgemini and Yahoo7.

Red’s impressive momentum, though, is hardly limited to numbers and new business alone. The firm’s work is highly impressive, led by the Palau Pledge global campaign, and also including standout efforts for the Fund for Peace, Australian Macadamias, the Mormon Church, Ben & Jerry’s and Chandon. All of these campaigns demonstrated the kind of cultural intelligence that underscores Red’s desire to ‘be the change’, helping it land awards across the globe, and underpinned by a thought leadership approach that is also sharper than most. — AS


Eleven (Whybin\TBWA)

Now firmly ensconced as one of the region’s top firms, after consecutive Agency of the Year honours, Eleven remains one of the most creative agencies in one of the world’s most creative PR regions. After three years of 80% growth, Eleven opted to stabilise its client base in 2018, turning down opportunities but still managing to win every one of its pitches, except one. That meant the agency added MasterCard, the entire Kellogg’s portfolio and Spotify, while continuing to net a slew of awards. Other new business included Solotel Group and Campari’s entire creative business, joining a client roster that features Tourism New Zealand, MJ Bale, Gatorade, ANZ, Philips and Krispy Kreme. 

The firm retains a core belief in the power of public relations to drive conversations and cultural relevance, and continues to develop cutting-edge products and campaigns to support this vision, in particular the Disruption Live methodology of insights mining, open briefing and audience planning that has helped return some tremendous work for M.J Bale and Gatorade. The agency’s D-Live methodology includes specific components — the Back\slash cultural capability that focuses on Instagram and daily video, powered by culture spotters from the broader TBWA global network; Cultural Research Labs, which help identify a brand’s place in culture; CLUE, a new consumer data analytics engine; and Disruption Labs, which asks what keeps brands up at night.

Roberto Pace has served as MD of the firm’s three offices (Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland) since mid-2015, helping to renew the firm’s reputation for innovation, alongside GM Fiona Milliken and new Melbourne head Kiefer Casamore. There is a strong focus on training and development, to immerse staff in relevant cultural trends, along with all the usual workplace perks associated with a progressive agency culture.

All of that paid off with some inspiring work. MJ Bale’s ‘Coolest Suit on the Planet’ sent a weatherman to test the brand’s wool suits in the hottest places on Earth, while Gatorade’s ‘Bolt Rate’ created a new metric to measure the speed at which cricketers run between wickets. — AS

Herd MSL
 (Publicis Communications)

Last year’s Australian Agency of the Year, just a few months after its acquisition by Publicis Groupe and its integration into MSL’s formidable Asia-Pacific capabilities, Herd MSL has not been resting on its laurels, seeing its revenues grow by 27% last year—a team of 60 generating $10.6 million—with new business wins spanning the consumer (Jaguar, Lenovo, AB InBev – Corona, Fat Yak, Coca-Cola, 2XU, Gumtree, Groupon), technology (nbn Co, Lenovo, Xero), and government (CSIRO, Treasury, Department of Health) sectors. They join a blue-chip roster that includes American Express, Salesforce, Facebook, Airbnb, Instagram, INGDirect and more. 

The Herd brand was introduced in 2016, formed by the coming together of established agencies N2N (best known for its business-to-business technology expertise,) and Fuel (with more of a consumer focus), and the integration of social media specialist Touch Creative. Digital continues to be a significant source of strength, with founder Jamie Verco leading the digital practice and the continued integration of Touch, a content team that offers design and video production services. It is largely that expertise that has helped the agency expand beyond its technology roots to offer strong capabilities in consumer and corporate communications, public affairs, and the technology and healthcare sectors.

The digital work has also underpinned much of the firms award-winning work, including the Coca-Cola “Characters of the Cross” campaign that earned recognition from SABRE and PRIA for turning over an iconic billboard in Sydney’s Kings Cross neighbourhood to the community, allowing people to share images and stories to promote the brand’s partnership with Vivid Sydney. For Airbnb, meanwhile, the “Until We All Belong” initiative focused on marriage equality during the runup to a historic vote in Australia and earned the agency a Silver Lion at Cannes.

Another critical development in 2018 saw the firm complete version 2.0 of its proprietary measurement platform ROAR, which provides real time insight into campaign performance and offers clients access to results via an app.—PH

OPR Agency 

Since 2001, Ogilvy PR has built what is probably Australia’s largest PR business, thanks to the acquisitions of Howorth (B2B/tech), Parker & Partners (public affairs/coroporate), Impact (employee engagement) and Savage & Horrigan (now known as Cannings). And the 17 years since have seen it deepen its capabilities considerably, adding consumer brand agency Pulse Communications, specialist health agency opr Health — all adding up to 110 professionals across offices in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. 

The kind of specialist sector expertise helps to differentiate OPR from its rivals, and ensures a broad base that continues to grow despite its size. Fee income was up by 7% in 2017, thanks to strong pitch conversation and organic growth from social, digital and strategy. New business included KFC, Coca-Cola, Invictus Games, Ausgrid, Crown and Transport NSW, joining a client roster that includes Microsoft Australia, Netflix, Canon, Amex, Ikea, SAP, NAB, AstraZeneca, Mars and Ford.

And, under CEO Richard Brett, OPR has also bolstered efforts to provide a more integrated offering, hiring Bridget Jung as its first ECD, to join a leadership team that also features business/technology MD Graham White, corporate MD Leon Beswick and Pulse MD Jacqui Abbott. And while OPR’s specialist practices remain its drawcard, more than 40% of clients work across businesses, fuelled by collaborative units that cover such areas as media training, storytelling, issues/crisis, content/editorial and strategic planning. 

Campaign highlights include the Xbox One X launch, which saw the creation of the Stay N’ Play Boutique for gaming sleepover experiences, and the UBank Science of Spending & Saving experiment, which helped change Australian spending and saving behaviour. — AS

WE Buchan (WE Communications)

Alongside its acquisition by WE in 2016, Buchan has expanded its capabilities beyond its corporate and financial heartland, into consumer, technology and healthcare. Tom Buchan remains in place as executive chairman, with Rebecca Wilson leading operations as CEO, supported by MD Gemma Hudson and the leadership team comprising, Kyahn Williamson, Michelle Ryan, Sarah Aldridge, and Nichole Provatas.

That expansion helps to explain WE Buchan’s impressive rate of growth, up 5% in 2017 and forecasting a 40% increase in 2018. Corporate and investor still accounts for more than 50% of revenues, but there has been sustained growth across consumer, technology and healthcare, for such clients as Adobe, Allianz, L1 and Bolton Clarke. 

The firm’s Zero Latency work, in particular, stands out — creating the first VR marriage proposal to boost the company’s presence with females. For Allianz, meanwhile, WE Buchan developed the #InspirationShared platform, helping to bolster the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. — AS