Consumer PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report

2019 Consumer PR Consultancies of the Year

The 2019 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 125 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the region. 

Consultancy of the Year winners are announced and honoured at the 2019 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, which take place on 12 September in Singapore. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below:

Winner: AKA Asia (Singapore/Independent)

AKA Asia celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019, but showed little sign of slowing down. Indeed, under the leadership of founders and former Grayling directors Kate O’Shea and Amy Wright, the consultancy has seen sustained growth in recent years, improving topline revenue by 29% to S$5.4m after 46% growth in 2017 helped underline its crowning as last year’s Asia-Pacific Consumer Consultancy of the Year. 

Now numbering 37 staffers, AKA’s portfolio spans several sectors, with a formidable brand communications practice bolstered by an in-house design and product team that has created everything cinema ads to website design to social content. Significantly, AKA does not silo its teams, focusing instead on a cross-matrix structure that has featured such new hires as planning director Sian Jenkins. And while AKA has set a relentless pace of growth over the past couple of years, it also used 2018 to take stock, stepping up investment in employee culture and development via a series of initiatives that helped to underpin a talent retention rate of 87.5%.

Growth has been driven by the increased focus on design and production, along with broad capabilities across corporate, consumer and digital. AKA Asia continues to serve as creative agency of record for Jetstar and the Singapore Science Festival, responsible for all ATL and BTL content, while also adding integrated assignments from Impossible Foods, Sephora and Facebook. There was also new business from several government clients, joining an existing client roster that also features British Council, Manulife, Discovery Networks APAC, Deliveroo and Electrolux SEA.

The client roster is impressive enough, but what also catches the eye is AKA’s ability to deliver multi-channel integrated work. SABRE-nominated highlights included launching the Impossible Burger in Singapore, rolling out the Singapore Science Festival, and highly creative work that significantly increased sales for Jetstar’s Okinawa route. — AS


DeVries Global (Interpublic Group)

Interpublic agency DeVries Global launched its Asia-Pacific operations in 2012, carving out P&G business from sister firm Weber Shandwick to help fuel its initial expansion in China and Singapore. And while the agency has kept a relatively low profile under regional head Andres Vejarano, much of that is down to the transformation that has been underway since Vejarano took charge of the agency in 2016. In particular, DeVries has diversified its client base beyond beauty and CPG work to notable effect, moving into such areas to automotive, travel, retail, technology and healthcare. Those efforts have been bolstered by the establishment of a social commerce and marketing innovation hub at its Shanghai office, alongside a creative studio in Singapore, which together underpin offering that focuses on ‘cultural communications.’

DeVries is well placed to make this shift, thanks to its midsize footprint and focus on consumer marketing. The firm derives around  a third of its global revenue from Asia-Pacific, putting it at around $12m, generated by 90 staffers — including 55 in China, 12 in Singapore and 10 in Taiwan. And while DeVries’ US operation has suffered from the loss of P&G, the it’s Asia-Pacific offices continue to grow their business (+10%) with the pivotal client, at the same time ensuring that its broader growth no longer makes it so reliant on the CPG giant. After growing regional topline by 3% in 2018, the firm is on course for double-digit growth in 2019, with China expecting another year of double-digit expansion and Singapore returning to a much healthier growth mindset.

The firm’s new business haul reflects its diversification, including such clients as IHG, Audi, Midea, Wellcome, Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi, Roche, GSK, J&J, Acuvue and Boston Scientific. They join an existing client roster that features New Balance, Audi, Remy Cointreau, J&J, Hasbro, Zippo and several P&G brands. Much of DeVries growth reflects its investment in data, search and social commerce experts in Shanghai, along with creative, content and cultural insights talent in Singapore. 

And DeVries’ transformation is also borne out by the firm’s campaign work, which builds on its efforts to inculcate a more experimental mindset among its consultants. Notably, there were SABRE-nominated efforts for Acuvue (influencer marketing), and P&G brands Olay and SK-II. — AS

Poem (Australia/Independent)

Launched four year ago by Rob Lowe and Matt Holmes, Poem’s rise is hardly surprising given both its founding duo’s pedigree, and the obvious appeal of its hybrid creative/PR approach in Australia’s fiercely competitive consumer market. Lowe and Holmes were both “fatigued” by the demands of big agency life, so with Poem have set out to develop and agency that can “Be More Human”, whether in terms of the connections it creates between brands and humans, or the focus it brings to employee culture. 

While the name reflects Poem’s channel-agnostic offering across paid, owned and earned media — it is the firm’s focus on ‘earned creative’ that stands out, bolstered by creative sprint sessions with brands, its ‘Poem Pulse’ online tools offering, and a fundamental focus on insights that drive strong work. Last year, the firm’s progress was supercharged by the arrival of the Playstation account, which Poem won in a highly competitive pitch against several bigger rivals. That was followed up by landing another of the industry’s largest retainers in Blackmores, along with further new business from Tourism Fiji, Virgin Active, UberEats, the NRL, Beats by Dre, Fantastic Furniture, Tourism New Zealand, Krispu Kreme and Weet-Bix — which join a roster that already includes NSW Government’s Place Management, Tech21 and Audible.  

Poem’s work underlines why it has been able to secure such major assignments. For Sony Playstation the agency developed a campaign the Detroit:Become Human game that tested how society would treat androids. Poem also launched the SABRE-nominated Audible for Dogs, driving impressive sales results. — AS

Tate Anzur (Singapore/Independent)

Tate Anzur’s founders have something of a different background to most agency heads: Ethan Tan started his career at Singapore’s Ministry of Defence and was Singapore’s representative to the US-led Coalition Forces, working on comms strategies to ensure a positive portrayal of their efforts in the global war on terror, while Yvonne Li is a psychologist by training and a believer in the power of PR to drive perception and behaviour. Together, they have led the agency since 2011 and it now punches well above its weight for a team of 20 (none of whom have ever left to work with another agency), with revenue doubling over the past three years to around S$2.5 million. Last year, Tate Anzur saw 170% increase in revenue from retainers, with margins of 35%.

The agency is a proud supporter of Singapore Inc, and works for a number of leading institutions and brands on the island, including Gardens by the Bay, the Asian Civilisations Museum, the National Gallery of Singapore and the National Heritage Board, for which it ran a campaign promoting Singapore’s hawker food culture that led to UNESCO considering it for inclusion in Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

In the past year, the agency has driven many other conversations about Singapore’s arts and culture, as well as its push to be a financial hub in the region. Including a placemaking campaign for the live- work-play waterfront precinct Marina Bay, and ensuring the Singapore Night Festival was a stand-out immersive event on a limited budget. Other consumer brands on its roster include Carlsberg, Google – for which it is shortlisted in this year’s SABRES for the Google Online Safety Park campaign – Macallan, BMW and Uniqlo.

In 2018, the firm re-strengthened its integrated offer, partnering with best-of-breed agencies from event organisers to media buyers and enhancing its social, creative and events capabilities. The team developed a new methodology called TASER (Target Audience Synergised Engagement & Response) to help its consultants to consider the different stages of the customer journey from awareness to advocacy, and leverage different tools to maximise the impact of its work. — MPS

W Asia (SEA/Independent)

It has been four years UK heavyweight W launched in Singapore in a bid to bring its disruptive mentality — based around the concept of ‘creative commerce' — to clients in the region. And the firm’s 2018 performance continued to demonstrate why it is successfully changing expectations about what PR can deliver to clients. Fees were up 27% to S$1.7m, with the firm employing 20 staffers in Singapore and launching a new office in Malaysia, under the leadership of new MD Marina Mathews, who previously led her own firm for several years in Singapore.

In 2018, the firm won 27 pitches, helping it to secure new business from 1880, Air France-KLM, Barry’s Bootcamp, BASF, Casillero Del Diablo, Diageo, Star Cruise Line and the Wyndham Hotel Group. Those clients join an existing roster that features Bang & Olufsen, Banyan Tree Group, Club Med, Foodpanda, Kat Von D Beauty, Belvedere, Marc Jobs Beauty, Moet & Chandon and Appnexus. 

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 interns ready to be hired after graduation. The firm also launched its enterprise division last year to bring creative thinking to corporate clients such as 1880 and BASF. And the firm’s campaign highlights reflect the restlessness of its creative appeal, including the SABRE-nominated ‘Holiday Quickies’ campaign for AirAsia. — AS/DM