Consumer PR Consultancies of the Year 2018 | Holmes Report

2018 Consumer 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: AKA Asia

AKA Asia has been on an upward trajectory since it was founded by former Grayling directors Kate O’Shea and Amy Wright in 2008, but 2017 was a particularly good year for the firm. Total revenue grew by 46% to $4.2m (SGD), and the agency doubled its margin in 12 months. AKA Asia also secured more retainers in the first quarter of 2017 than any other year on record, and added 10 to its headcount, bringing its staff to 31.

The growth reflects the transformation of the firm from a creative PR shop to an award-winning integrated comms consultancy, as comfortable competing with digital and advertising agencies as with its traditional rivals in the PR space. Growth has been driven by an increased focus on design and production, along with broad capabilities across corporate, consumer and digital. Over the past 12 months, there was new business from Deliveroo, Manulife, Discovery Networks APAC, BreadTalk, Giant, AsiaMalls, OPPO, and ScienceFest 2018, joining existing clients such as Jetstar, Bugaboo, EDB Precision Engineering, Costa Coffee and Treasury Wine Estates.

The client roster is impressive enough, but what also catches the eye is AKA’s ability to deliver multi-channel integrated work — and in surprising ways. The campaign AKA crafted for Jetstar Asia, for example, encouraged people to stay home for the Lunar New Year, using the occasion to promote the company’s values (and low-cost travel the rest of the year) rather than have the budget airline battle it out with competitors for holiday business. Jetstar offered travelers who booked peak travel day flights the chance to change their flights for free if they decided to stay home instead. — DM


History Will Be Kind (Australia/Independent)

From the outset of the year, Australia’s History Will Be Kind decided 2017 would be its game-changing year, and the agency appears to have achieved its mission, pitching and winning some of the most coveted accounts in the business — Google, YouTube, Nestle and Marriott International. The year marked a continuation of the growth trajectory the firm has been on since its creation four years ago, fueled by an aggressive new business program, 24 new client wins, retention of foundation clients and what founder (and former Weber Shandwick Australia chief) EJ Granleese calls “an insatiable hunger to make a mark.”

In 2017, HWBK made its mark in a very concrete way through its PR support of Go Gentle Australia’s “Stop the Horror” campaign aimed at influencing politicians to approve the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill in Victoria. Working with ad agency Cummins & Partners, HWBK developed an integrated strategy to reframe the suffering of a terminally ill patient as a thing of horror, with a short film documenting the real-life story of a terminally ill man’s final days at the center. The distressing six-minute film allowed viewers to “Stop the Horror” by opting out of the film, which directed them to a landing page with information on taking action. Ultimately, Parliament legalized voluntary assisted dying in Victoria, making it the only Australian state where assisted dying is legal.

All of which are steps toward fulfilling the lofty aims with which the firm was launched — “creating moments in history for clients.” Granleese started the firm to manage reputations, raise profiles, launch products, and most interestingly, to start movements, which, as “Stop the Horror” shows, it already is doing. — DM

Reuter Communications 

Since launching her agency in 2010, Chloé Reuter has grown her business in keeping with China’s growing penchant for the kind of luxury brands Reuter Communications specializes in promoting. Expanding from a one-woman operation to a team of 60 across four offices, Reuter’s fee income rose 60% year-over-year in 2017. New business came from an impressive list of brands including Hilton, Canada Goose, Estee Lauder, Maison Margiela and Disney, joining a roster already including the likes of Gemfields, Sotheby's,  Pierre Marcolini, Delvaux and Swarovski.

Reuter’s work is embedded with the keen cultural sensitivity overseas brands must exhibit, and embrace, for their businesses to flourish in China. With on-the-ground teams in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as Dubai, Reuter teams possess both keen understandings of the affluent communities its clients are targeting, and the local experience and expertise to support them in doing so successfully.

Reuter, however, stays diligently abreast of the changes rapidly unfolding in China — and in Chinese consumerism — and has responded by growing and integrating digital capabilities. Today, Reuter specializes in social media management, digital and offline PR, and influencer engagement. The firm recently launched a research and insights division to help guide campaigns. Reuter also launched a stand-alone website, The Luxury Conversation, that positions the organization as a thought leader in the China luxury market while increasing partners’ visibility. — DM

Sinclair (Greater China/Independent)

Kiri Sinclair founded the eponymous firm in 2009 to deliver integrated campaigns from its office in Hong Kong across Asia. Today, with a second office in Shanghai, business is good. Revenues last year were up 52% year-over year, rising to $2.7m. The firm’s headcount rose to 35 from 21 the year before. The growth was fueled by new business from the likes of Alibaba, Banyan Tree, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, P&T Group and PURE Group, adding to a client roster already including Pirata Group, Singapore Tourism Board and Tourism Australia.

While remaining true to its core tenet — impacting business through storytelling — 2017 was a seminal year in Sinclair’s evolution, one in which the firm repositioned itself from a lifestyle agency to a full-service corporate and consumer brand consultancy with expanded capabilities. In addition to new branding, Sinclair showcased its integrated approach to communications, while also investing in a measurements & insights team and launching a content creation group. New business leads rose 30%.  Sinclair is also committed to fostering a culture centered on collaboration, while also providing individuals' opportunities to improve their abilities and performances. The firm offers mentoring and internal training, as well as monthly team activities. Staff are encouraged to pursue external training and conferences.

Sinclair’s work last year included the  “Singlish Fun” campaign it crafted for the Singapore Tourism Board, aimed at driving Hong Kong residents to visit Singapore. The multifaceted campaign reached young professionals through influencers, partnerships and media showcasing Singapore’s nightlife as well as outdoor adventures. A travel guide illustrated by a 10-year old Hong Kong artist who had visited Singapore was the centerpiece of efforts to drive multi-generational travel. The efforts paid off, increasing the number of visits to Singapore last year by 370,000. — DM

W Asia

2017 was a banner year for W Asia, the fast-growing consumer PR firm that UK heavyweight W Communications launched in Singapore three years ago in a bid to bring its disruptive mentality — based around the concept of ‘creative commerce' — to clients in the region. On the heels of being named New Consultancy of the Year in 2016 — W built sturdier foundations during the past 12 months, supported by the backing of its UK parent firm, one of the top agencies in that market.

Propelled by a 16-person team (and a 100% staff retention rate), W Asia posted 50% growth in 2017, achieving an annual billing of $1.5m in its third year of operation. During that time, the firm consolidated the handling of Moët Hennessy & Diageo Singapore’s portfolio — expanding its work for Champagne brands from Moët & Chandon and Krug to Veuve Clicquot, as well as premium spirits from Belvedere, Hennessy and Glenmorangie. Other new business includes travel clients Club Med, Travelodge Asia and Banyan Tree Hotels, digital brands Zuji, Carro, eatigo and PropertyGuru, and American Express.

W Asia is keenly focused on hiring and grooming young, local talent, reflected in its W Fast-Track Scheme — a program under which university students join the firm as trainees ready to be hired after graduation. In the last year, the firm also launched a program to spotlight creativity, most recently through a French-themed BBQ that included showcasing the best work from Cannes Lions. With last year’s launch of the agency’s W Passport program, staff travel to W’s global offices for training. — AS/DM