Digital PR Consultancies of the Year 2020 | PRovoke Media
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2020 Digital 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: Ogilvy (WPP)

Despite the agency’s high-profile restructuring, Ogilvy’s ability to blend PR and digital continues to impress in Asia-Pacific, where Andreanne Leclerc oversees a social team that numbers 400 executives across the region. Leclerc is supported by a 22-strong leadership team in Ogilvy’s key PR markets, which include China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Shanghai, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Sydney — bringing expertise across social media, influencer management, research, AI, chatbots, digital content and paid media. 

All told, the social practice grew by 12.5% in 2019, making it the best-performing of Ogilvy’s units. And that continues in thanks to continued innovation in such areas as IRM, social commerce and dynamic content. That much was further reflected by a stellar new business haul, including AIA (regional), the Macallan, Lexus and Mikimoto (Japan), Huawei, Intel and Ubras (China) HSBC and Huami (HK), Pokemon (Taiwan), Amazon Global Selling and Sensodyne (Vietnam), and Mondelez, Nivea, Comfort, OCBC Bank, Max’s and Microsoft (the Philippines). They join a roster that already features such names as H&M, KFC, Pizza Hut, Nestle, Ford, Indomie, the NBA, Shiseido, SC Johnson and Thai Life. 

The best evidence of Ogilvy digital innovation, though, comes from the diversity of its client work, beyond community management and content into such areas as influencer, social commerce and dynamic content. AIA, for example, involves a regional influencer remit, while Mondolez, Korean Air and Huami, and Nestle showcases a focus on always-on content. The firm’s Klear influencer management system powers its work for such clients as Huawei and Shiseido, while the Voice Doodler campaign for Wyeth Illuma and IQ Drive effort for Volkswagen demonstrate Ogilvy’s ability to deploy new technologies for engagement and business outcomes. — AS


Finalists

BCW (WPP)

The 2018 merger of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe may have proved largely complementary marriage of corporate scale and consumer innovation, but one area that remained underweighted was the combined entity’s digital offering, which paled in comparison to many of the network’s rivals. Accordingly, BCW has worked invested substantial effort and resources into improving its digital capabilities, which are together led by digital/innovation head Joe Peng and integrated comms lead Polka Yu. The firm’s digital revenue has increased by almost 150% but the numbers alone do not tell the full story of BCW’s progress in this area.

In particular, the firm’s innovation in artificial intelligence is already reaping increasing dividends, resulting in tools that span data analysis, content and engagement to drive a measurable uplift in sales for a range of clients, particularly in the corporate and PA sector. And AI is just one component of a digital toolkit that includes a range of resources to help build digital business — including the firm’s Hub offering in India which brings together creative, digital and analytics for regional clients — resulting in 25 projects in the first half of this year alone. 

The work reflects BCW’s ability to leverage new technologies in pursuit of client goals. For Huawei, for example, an AI-driven app helped visually impaired people, while another campaign for the same client made much of the ability to charge a quadbook from a Magicbook. In addition, there were notable campaigns such as Alibaba’s global influencer campaign, e-branding and web development for Lenzing’s Tencel, #MyFirstJob to help LinkedIn connect with younger workers in China and other efforts for Gillette, NBA and Popeyes. — AS

BlueFocus Digital (BlueFocus)

Since its launch in 1996 (when it was known as Blue Focus PR), Oscar Zhao’s company has grown into the largest public relations consultancy in China and one of the top 10 public relations businesses in the world, with 2019 fee income (per our global ranking) of more than $330 million. While the growth has stagnated over the past three years, and the firm elected to spin off its international agencies—including Citizen Relations and We Are Social—into a new listed company called Blue Impact in August of last year, BlueFocus continues to be a formidable force in China, with 1,400 employees across offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.

Market conditions have been notably tougher in recent years—China’s economic growth was slowing even before the coronavirus struck at the beginning of 2020—but BlueFocus has responded with several initiatives designed to ensure that it retains its leadership position. As a pioneer in the digital communications revolution in China, BlueFocus was well-placed to take advantage of shifting demand, and has also been a first-mover in areas such as AI and VR, while the firm’s data and analytics capability allows it to develop strategic, forward-looking work for clients, but also to stay one step ahead of new trends itself.

The firm works for a mix of Chinese market leaders and international clients, with big names including FA, GAG Group, JD Group, Lenovo, Chrysler, Baidu, Volvo, Vivo Group, JLR, and SPD Bank, and new additions such as Chery,Great Wall Motor Company, Oreo, WM Motor, Beijing-Hyundai Auto, T3, Yunnanbaiyao Group, NIO, autohome, and WalMart. Highlights of the work include a campaign for JD designed to make eco-friendly shopping bags into a fashion accessory and reduce plastic waste; the introduction of Orea into the Chinese market via a campaign that partnered a western cookie brand with a Chinese cultural icon—the Forbidden City—and blended traditional Oreos with new China-inspired flavors; and attracting younger users to Baidu via the creation of a virtual character starring in his own series of online videos. — PH

Ketchum (Omnicom PR Group)

Rather than attempting to compete via scale, in a region where its regional footprint is dwarfed by several rivals, Ketchum has smartly repositioned its offering around a digital/social-first model that focuses on audience marketing and social commerce. And this approach appears to be paying off, driving overall (estimated) double-digit growth for the firm across the region, landing a slew of new business including JD Digits, Lenovo ThinkVision, Netflix, Activision Blizzard, Line Friends, Japan Airlines, Motilal Oswal, Agro-Russia and Haier. 

These assignments are notably for the breadth and depth of digital thinking and capabilities on display, qualities that have only become more critical amid the absence of face-to-face interaction in 2020. For Japan Airlines, Ketchum’s teams in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Los Angeles oversee an integrated brief that covers the customer journey — which has obviously undergone some re-engineering due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Accordingly, Ketchum has adapted its efforts to focus on social media channels to drive engagement, support solidarity and keep potential passengers occupied. For Lenovo ThinkVision, what started as a small project has evolved to see Ketchum serve as lead agency for digital communications and social marketing, covering digital asset creation, product marketing and social amplification. And, for Agro-Russia, the firm has taken its work to promote the country’s agricultural products to Chinese and Indian audiences onto digital channels. 

In Greater China, CEO (and former IPG Mediabrands chief digital officer) Prince Zhang is supported by chief growth officer Eunice Wong, both of whom bring a distinctly digital focus to the agency’s work. That is best exemplified by the Continental Tires 618 social commerce campaign, which used a range of ecommerce platforms to drive engagement and sales. There were similarly successful digital efforts for Rado and Haier, each of which built on the firm’s ecommerce expertise to drive impressive sales results. In India, meanwhile, VP Avijit Singh has overseen a substantial transformation of the firm’s corporate/financial reputation, thanks to sophisticated digital campaigns for Motilal Oswal, Mastercard and Skoda, the last of which included three successful car launches conducted for the first time on digital channels.  — AS


Weber Shandwick
 (Interpublic Group)

After several years of sustained investment, Weber Shandwick’s digital operation now stands as one of the region’s strongest, with 220 executives in its digital studio teams across Asia-Pacific, and more than 25 focusing on data and analytics. Indeed, the firm’s data and analytics capabilities have seen a pronounced improvement since the 2017 acquisition of data consultancy Bomoda, which brought specific expertise into Chinese social media platforms and has helped to drive several new product offerings, including proprietary solutions in natural language processing of ecommerce behaviours, customer journey analysis and reputation analysis.

Those tools augment the firm’s existing platforms, notably the C3 content to commerce platform and Kloud influencer engagement systems — both of which were developed in China but have since been exported across Weber Shandwick’s global network. And the firm has also launched V.I.X, an integrated analytics and intelligence platform that aims to combine insights across social media, online media and ecommerce to improve strategies from product innovation to customer loyalty. 

All of which has added up to a tripling of the firm’s analytics revenue this year, while also helping to underpin some of Weber Shandwick’s major wins. New hires include planning SVP in Singapore and analytics account director Jesse Hancock in Australia, with the function remaining under the leadership of regional analytics head Emannuel Caisse. And the firm’s work reflects both the breadth and depth of this offering, including campaigns for Twitter and Hotels.com. — AS