Southeast Asia PR Consultancies of the Year 2018 | Holmes Report

2018 Southeast Asia 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: H+K Strategies

H+K’s Southeast Asian network has always served as one of the market’s most well-rounded offerings, with more than 100 staffers across offices in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, accounting for 15% of the WPP network’s Asia-Pacific revenue. But that stability is today being complemented by sustained growth, led by a Thai operation that remains H+K’s star performer in Southeast Asia. The 46-person Bangkok office must rank as the country’s largest international PR firm, and has grown at a double-digit rate for each of the past 15 years, under the leadership of Kanpirom Ungpakorn. In Singapore, meanwhile, a resurgent 28-person office under MD Michelle Tham grew topline (+12%) and bottomline (+18%) in some style. And in Malaysia, meanwhile, the firm has 15 people under Tham’s leadership.

Growth has been led by an increasingly diversified talent mix that features particular expansion in digital and content creation. New business included China Fortune Land Development, Deoleo, Eu Yan Sang, Huawei, Ministry of Social and Family Development Singapore, Mercer, Nestle, Singapore Institute of Technology and the World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation, who join an existing client roster that features Experia Events, Ford, HSBC, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Nikon, Overseas Union Enterprise, Shell, Tata Communications and Telenor. 

Notably, much of the new business reflects integrated assignments, underpinned by a slew of digital and creative hires in all three markets, including Mullika Angsuwattana and Wachiraporn Pornpitayalert in Thailand; Vanessa Heng as creative director in Singapore; and Vicky Wong as integrated comms director in Malaysia. Southeast Asian clients are also driving growth across H+K’s global network, notably Deoleo’s Bertolli Olive Oil.

Technology remains H+K’s biggest sector in the region, evidenced by such clients as Huawei, Mercer, Honor and Spotify, while Singapore is best-known for its public sector prowess, and Thailand brings a strong consumer marketing edge. Campaign highlights included the SABRE-winning Bertolli campaign that sold the benefits of olive oil to Thai consumers; making Huawei the number-one ranked smartphone in Malaysia; developing the ASEAN communications masterplan, and other noteworthy efforts for the NLB, Experia, Alibaba, Facebook and the Singapore Institute of Technology. — AS


Echo Myanmar (Independent)

Let’s be clear: with a population of 52 million (dwarfed by its neighbors China and India) and a history of ethnic strife, Myanmar is still an emerging market as far as the public relations profession is concerned, and its emergence was made more difficult over the past 12 months by a sluggish economy and religious conflict that contributed to international uncertainty about the stability of the market.

Against that backdrop, the emergence of Echo Myanmar—it quadrupled in size last year—as a major player in the South-East Asia public relations business is even more impressive. With a team of 40, the firm is the clear leader among local firms, and is a fierce advocate for professional public relations in its home market and for the profile of Myanmar in the region. While fee income remains modest (around $650,000), the firm has earned its place on the shortlist for South-East Asia agency honors for the second consecutive year.

In large part, that’s because of the work, including its “Microsoft Pirates a Celebrity” stunt, which drew attention to the problem of software piracy in dramatic fashion and earned a couple of SABRE Awards' nominations, building on the success of “Lighting the Way Forward,” a campaign for Myanmar Post & Telecommunications which won an award in last year’s competition. Echo’s client roster includes Coca-Cola (corporate and consumer brands), Microsoft, Myanmar Post & Telecommunications, KBZ Bank, Facebook, Huawei (corporate and devices), Tencent, IFC/World Bank, and the Ministry of Construction. 

Under the leadership of PR head Burhan Omar, a Malaysian with experience at Hill+Knowlton and CIMB Bank, and social-digital practice head Su Shwe Yee Htun, formerly of Havas, the firm continues to pioneer new services, including the development of a local social listening capability and some sophisticated measurement tools focusing on share of voice and message pull-through, all while maintaining a local leadership position in public affairs, reputation and crisis management, and technology. All of which puts Echo well on the way to fulfilling its ambition of “making the large multinational agencies nervous” when they see its name on a client’s shortlist.—PH


“Events Organizer Network" (EON) was founded in Manila, Philippines in 1998 by the triumvirate of career diplomat Junie del Mundo, artist/writer Jeannie Javelosa, and Ambassador Romeo Manalo. Since then, it has grown in ways that transcend its origins, establishing itself as the most forward-thinking public relations firm in its market, rebranding as EON The Stakeholder Relations Group (with dedicated units focused on public relations, public affairs, events, and digital) and continuing to thrive in a market that has not exactly been the most stable part of the world (or the region) in recent years.

Fee income last year topped $4 million, up by more than 30% despite the vagaries of the Philippine market, with new business from corporate clients such as Netflix, Nissan, Samsung, Air Asia, Pepsi-Cola Products and fashion brands Christian Louboutin and Louis Vuitton, as well as governmental work for the ASEAN Chairmanship of the Philippines, the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and the Civil Service Commission of the Philippines. They join a client roster that includes the likes of multinationals Spotify, Visa, FedEx, Uniqlo, Nike, BMW, HP, Delta Airlines as well as Resorts World Manila and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council.

The firm’s best work included the “Make Room” campaign, which told real-life stories of inspiration and hope on behalf of the Kythe Foundation and its Child Life Program, encouraging the audience of kind-hearted Filipinos to find ways to help children heal in more holistic ways, and “No BS bes,” a Valentine's Day initiative for Spotify designed to undercut the melodrama that sometimes accompanies the holiday and include even those not in a romantic relationship (“bes” being shorthand for “best friend”).

The firm—which is Edelman’s affiliate in the market—also promoted the global agency’s annual Trust Barometer research in the Philippines, one example of the thought leadership and commitment to new thinking that has kept EON on top. Having created a new chief innovation officer role in 2017, the firm continued to develop its research and analytics capabilities, and to expand its EON U professional development offer. It also added Arvon Fernandez to lead digital marketing arm DiG, bringing experience from the likes of Publicis Manila, DDB Philippines, Harrison/McCann, Ace Saatchi & Saatchi, and Arc/Leo Burnett. Emmanuel Escondo, an award-winning director, also joined as head of a newly formed multimedia production unit.—PH

Mutant Communications (Independent)

Launched in 2012, Mutant has emerged as one of the best of a new generation of Southeast Asian PR firms, led by former journalist and communications consultant Joseph Barratt. Now numbering 25 people, Mutant’s leadership team also includes Lina Marican, who has risen to MD after previously working in-house and at agencies. And there have been some notable hires too: Byravee Iyer as managing editor and former Randstad PR head Matthew De Bakker as director — exemplifying the firm’s focus on turning content marketing into lead generation and real business outcomes.

While probably best known for its technology prowess — the firm represents, Hootsuite, and Zendesk, along with a number of major social networking platforms — Mutant’s offering extends beyond the typical B2B heartland into consumer and corporate for such companies as Pure Group, Singapore Toys, Kimberly-Clark, STGCC, 4 Fingers and Rockstar Games. An impressive new business haul saw the business effectively double its revenues in 2017 to S$1.4m, with the pivot towards in-house editorial helping underpin expansion.

Campaign highlights included SABRE-nominated efforts for TaxiBaby and Meltwater, along with ‘My First Jobs’ for — AS

PRecious Communications (Independent)

Lars Voedisch launched PRecious in 2012, at a time when several new Southeast Asian consultancies were springing up. Voedisch’s background, however, from senior roles at DHL, FleishmanHillard and H+K Strategies, marked PRecious out as one to watch, as did his expertise from running analytics consultancy Commetric. Unsurprisingly, then, PRecious has grown at a steady clip to 40 people across Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, with two more markets forecast to launch in the next 12 months.

The firm’s focus is on B2B technology and consumer, along with a specific arm — PRecious Sparks — that has worked with more than 100 startups, including twelve unicorns. Having started life as a classic media relations firm, PRecious has since broadened its approach considerably across crisis, influencer marketing and digital, underpinned by an evaluation focus on conversion and lead generation. 

Revenues are expected to reach around S$3m by the end of this year, after 50% growth in 2017, powered by a new business haul that includes Electrify, Hashgraph, Entrepreneur First, Ascott, Hotel and Nickolodeon, who join an existing roster that features McAfee, Out Systems, Software AG, Young Living, Brotzeit and Lufthansa. Significantly, 80% of PRecious’ work comes from recommendations. 

Voedisch is supported by a senior team that includes head of business growth and innovation Prayank Gupta and B2B head Melinda Ilagan. Campaign highlights, meanwhile, include supporting Artbox Singapore, helping Yotel launch in Singapore, and positioning both Electrify Asia and Software AG as thought leaders. — AS