Australasia PR Consultancies of the Year 2020 | PRovoke Media
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2020 Australasia PR Consultancies of the Year

The 2020 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 2020 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, which takes place virtually on 24 September. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:

Winner: Sling & Stone (Independent)

Vuki Vujasinovic founded Australian firm Sling & Stone nine years ago with just one client and a compelling positioning as the agency that would “unearth, craft, and share the stories of the most ambitious brands shaping the future.” It turns out there were plenty of those in the Australian market: Sling & Stone doubled in size through each of its first five years and is now – somewhat accidentally – one of the biggest independents in Australia, as well as having bases in Auckland and Los Angeles.

Vujasinovic is supported by a dynamic management team including global general manager Kya de Rome, global head of consumer Kasi Reynolds and global head of business James Hutchinson. Sian Church was promoted in 2019 to lead the NZ office, doubling the Kiwi team, and leading campaigns for some of the country’s most ambitious startups.

In 2019, the 55-strong agency grew in healthy double-digits while maintaining its focus on ambitious, future-focused brands and startups, and is still growing with typical resilience through Covid-19, with no redundancies. It’s so picky, in fact, that Sling & Stone’s leads come almost entirely from word-of-mouth recommendations, and it turned down 90 clients in 2019 who didn’t fit.

After a lot of change in 2018/2019 – during which Vujasinovic relocated to LA to build the agency’s American operation, the NZ office moved from Wellington to Auckland and the agency launched a social and content arm in Sydney – the past year was focused on organic growth through regional and global campaigns. This included more work for Snow, Halo Top, and Slack in new regions, as well as winning global engagements for Google Cloud, Zwift, Eventbrite, Deputy, KeepCup, Linktree, G2 and Xero, who join Uber, Twitter, Strip and founding client Kogan.com in Sling & Stone’s portfolio.

The agency also launched a sustainability offering, doubled down on its expertise in the growth areas of health tech, energy and fintech and expanded its government relations, stakeholder relations and crisis work. — MPS


Finalists

Archetype (Next 15)

The agency created by the merger of Text100 and Bite did not have the most auspicious start to life in Australia, thanks to the global loss of key Text100 account IBM in 2019. That Archetype has been able to rebound from that setback speaks volumes of the culture and resilience exhibited by the 24 person-team, which ultimately grew revenues by 18% to US$3.4m. A stronger focus on strategy and creative, supported by the hires of director Nigel Malone and strategist Bec Madden, undoubtedly helped — while regional creative director Lee Devine is supported by a team of 10 producers, creatives and digital specialists.

A strong new business haul, helped offset the IBM loss, including Ericsson, GitHub, Aconex, Upright, HTC, DXC Technology, Thomson Reuters, DHL, Poly and Delphix, joining a client roster that features VMware, Acer, Clipsal Solar, Rode Microphones, Legoland, Tile, Oracle/NetSuite, Redhat, Trend Micro and Cisco. Australia is now Archetype’s most profitable office globally, and the work it is doing reflects an ability to span brand development, digital and creative strategy, notably for such clients as Oracle, Clipsal Solar and Acer. 

The firm’s work further reinforces those capabilities. Clipsal Solar included conceptualisation to brand launch of a new company that aims to persuade Australians to believe in solar energy, ultimately resulting in impressive click-through and marketing qualified leads. For Acer, the firm has led PR, social, creative, digital and events for more than six years — helping to drive 107 sales. And, for Rode, Archetype promoted the global ‘Master Your Craft’ campaign, driving entries to the internship campaign via targeted social and digital. — AS


Eleven
 (TBWA/Omnicom)

Now firmly ensconced as one of the region’s top firms, after consecutive Agency of the Year honours earlier in the decade, Eleven remains one of the most creative agencies in one of the world’s most creative PR regions. The firm has always benefited from its ability to fuse brands with culture, but has revamped that approach in recent years to focus on creating more personalised brand stories. That has included the development of Cultural Research Labs to help uncover emerging personal values, along with a renewed focus on workplace culture and professional development.

All of which paid off to the tune of double-digit revenue growth, highlighted by eye-catching new business and new work. New clients included Lavazza, Mattel, Dove, Allianz, SC Johnson, Emerald Foods, Continental Tyres and WWF, joining a client roster that features Tourism New Zealand, Signify, Campari Group, PepsiCo, Mastercard, Kellogg, Baiada and Mycar. Meanwhile, notable campaigns included Mycar’s child safety ‘Lullaby Service’ effort, which underpinned the company’s rebrand. The firm also supported Mastercard’s Rugby World Cup sponsorship, generating impressive results in Tokyo, and also developed Campari Australia’s ‘Shaken Not Broken’ initiative, to help pubs and venues bring in revenue via an online delivery platform.

Under the leadership of MD Roberto Pace, GM Fiona Milliken and ECD Russ Tucker, Eleven’s focus on culture has also proved beneficial during the current challenges, which include the pandemic and bushfires that ravaged Australia. The firm was one of the founding members of the Bushfire Alliance that provided pro-bono support to areas affected by the latter, while also stepping up employee engagement as Covid-19 took hold. 90% of the firm’s leadership roles are held by women, while 50% of the firm has been in place for more than four years. — AS


OPR (WPP AUNZ)

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/corporate), Impact (employee engagement) and Savage & Horrigan (now known as Cannings). And the 19 years since have seen it deepen its capabilities considerably, adding consumer brand agency Pulse Communications, specialist health agency Our Health — all adding up to 120 professionals across offices in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, with specialist teams in government, brand, B2B, technology, healthcare and corporate.

After being named Australasian Consultancy of the Year in 2019, OPR consolidated its progress over the following year, with revenues up slightly to A$27.5m. Of particular note is the impressively integrated offering that the business has developed under CEO Richard Brett, which is underpinned by a new vision that launched in 2018 — which focuses on ‘making every story matter’. That thinking builds on the agency’s longstanding ‘believability’ approach, which includes considerable research (including the Believability Index and Futures Report) and — new in 2020 — a book that focuses on ‘The Decade of Do’ for brands that can no longer talk the talk without walking it.

Brett is supported by chief digital officer Daniel Young, chief strategy officer Kaz Scott, and chief creative officer Bridget Jung, while Graham White serves as chief operating officer after Jacquie Potter took on leadership of Howorth, and Jacqui Abbott oversees consumer brand agency Pulse. The breadth of talent helps explain why OPR is as comfortable handling major issues management projects as it is developing sophisticated digital content and influencer marketing work, fuelled by collaborative units that cover such areas as creative, digital, performance marketing, and strategy.

New business included the high-profile Tourism Australia assignment, along with accounts from Audible, Sport Australia, the Federal Government Department for Infrastructure, Federal Government Department of Communication Information and the Arts, Intuit Australia, Sequirus and Sydney Catholic Schools. They join a client roster that features Microsoft, AstraZeneca, Ford, American Express, GenesisCare, Netflix, KFC, eBay, Intercontinental Hotels Group, SAP. And there were notable campaigns for AstraZeneca and the Lung Foundation (focusing on lung cancer stigma), Michelin Impossible (improving the perception of KFC’s food quality), and Australia’s Right to Know, which tackled the erosion of media freedom in the country. 

The firm has also launched two new products in the past 12 months. supported by dedicated teams. The Envoy influencer planning tool uses a proprietary algorithm to determine influencer relevance, while Performance integrates sales enablement into social and earned campaigns. In addition, there is a new proprietary approach to audience segmentation called the ‘Minorstream’, which targets sub-cultures validated by GroupM’s data. — AS


WE Communications
 (WE)

Acquired by global agency WE in 2016, the firm formerly known as WE Buchan has revved up its performance to impressive effect under the leadership of Rebecca Wilson, who also oversees Singapore for the independent agency network. And much of that is down the firm’s impressive expansion beyond its corporate and financial heartland, into consumer, technology and healthcare. Wilson supported by CEO of Australia Gemma Hudson, GM and technology head Nat Bradford along with investor and DXT heads, Kyahn Williamson and Nichole Provatas, respectively. 

That diversification helps to explain WE Communications' impressive rate of growth, up 16% in 2019 to US$5.9m from 55 employees, thanks in part to 61% growth from its digital/creative (DXT) capabilities. There was new business from existing client Adobe (expanding beyond marketing services to include PR), Gigabyte, Vaxxas, Teva, Trend Micro and Janssen, joining a client roster that features Alcidion, Jenny Craig, Commonwealth Bank, Novo Nordisk, Teva and Viiv. 

The firm’s Adobe work continues to stand out, including the ‘Made Here’ campaign, which showcased how the company’s products can spark creative collaboration.  — ASA