Healthcare PR Consultancies of the Year 2020 | PRovoke Media
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2020 Healthcare 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: FleishmanHillard (Omnicom PR Group)

Healthcare public relations is seen as a recent growth driver among many of the major multinational agencies operating in the region, but there is nothing new about FleishmanHillard’s emphasis on the sector, which has been a key component of its regional business since it expanded into Asia 25 years ago. Its capabilities have expanded from pharmaceutical marketing to include market access, regulatory and legislative issues, clinical trial work, and technical medical communications across the full lifecycle of products from drugs to devices.

The firm has strong healthcare teams in Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Mumbai, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo, and also collaborates with other Omnicom-owned healthcare-focused agencies to deliver a broader array of services. And Fleishman’s healthcare business was once again one of the star performers among its regional practice groups in 2019, up 23% for a client roster that includes Abbott, Pfizer, Novartis, J&J, Genesis, Olympus, Amgen and ChromaDex. Healthcare remains a growth sector for FleishmanHillard in 2020 too, helping the agency remain stable despite difficult economic conditions.

Campaign highlights included India’s ‘Right to Protein initiative, along with a BlueCurrent effort for Innophys to reduce the pressure on Japan’s older workers. — AS

Finalists

APCO Worldwide (Independent)

APCO’s Asia-Pacific presence includes operations across Greater China, India and Southeast Asia, bringing its typically sophisticated corporate and public affairs expertise to a range of clients in ‘issues-rich’ environments. There are 50 employees led by industry veteran James MacGregor in Greater China, where the firm has operated since 1989, but it is in Southeast Asia where the firm has seen a specific turnaround under the leadership of James Yi, who joined from GlobalHealthPR in 2018 after previously leading Burson-Marsteller in Korea. Since Yi’s arrival, APCO’s Southeast Asian revenue has increased by 42%, with 28 people in Singapore supplemented by a further six across Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta and Manila.

The firm’s Southeast Asian revenue is evenly split between corporate, public affairs and government relations, but there has been specific growth in the healthcare sector, which accounts for the bulk of assignments alongside trade associations, FMCG and technology, particularly biotech.  Accordingly, new business over the past 12 months included the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Emirates Airlines, SP Group, I-Mab, Hummingbird, Microchip, GE Steam Power, Grab and Adani Group — joining a client roster that also features Gilead, Mars, Microsoft, PTTEP, Rockefeller Foundation, World Bank, AdvaMed, Expedia, ASTM and Lockheed Martin.

Yi has also transformed the leadership team, bringing in healthcare specialist JJ Lee as chief client officer and Rasheed Abu Bakar as technology director. And while healthcare has become a critical focus for the firm, the work in general reflects APCO’s deep expertise in helping clients navigate a world of rising geopolitical tensions. For the RSPO, APCO serves as lead global agency for a nonprofit that is backed by some of the world’s biggest companies. There is also notable work for Gilead (the Rainbow Grant program that focuses on people living with HIV) and PTTEP Indonesia, which builds collaborations between NGOs and local government to help the country achieve sustainable development goals. — AS

GCI Health (WPP)

WPP’s GCI Health may be an established name elsewhere, but in Asia-Pacific, it’s a start-up. The agency opened its doors in Singapore at the start of 2019 as a new hub office of WPP’s only global specialist health PR agency, and has already grown from one to 16 employees, adding a Hong Kong office and exceeding its 2019 revenue target by a staggering 228%. The firm is expected to double in size again this year, under the leadership of MD Rikki Jones, a career health specialist who has now been GCI Health’s founding leader in two regions, having also set up the London office five years ago. Jones is supported by Singapore MD Dan Blomfield and Hong Kong MD Yvonne Yeung, part of a plan to assemble a deep regional leadership team that can address the relative paucity of healthcare specialists in Asia-Pacific. 

GCI Health’s growth also extends to its capabilities which now include medical education, policy expertise and integrated marketing skills. There were eight new clients over the past year, including major pharma players and nonprofits, with the firm’s services spanning advocacy, corporate, pharma and public affairs.  

Campaign highlights included the Beyond! Health Hack for support influenza vaccine uptake on behalf of Sanofi with the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation’s and the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, while another effort for Bayer aimed to improve access to Stem education among disadvantaged girls. — AS

SPAG (Independent)

In the seven years since its launch, SPAG has already established itself as an industry game changer in the Asia-Pacific region — a hybrid firm with strong healthcare and public affairs capabilities that grew 35% in 2019 to more than US$8m, putting the agency well on track to reaching its five-year plan of $10-12m. In addition to three offices in India, SPAG’s Singapore operation now clocks in at a $2m, while the firm has also added offices in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, as it eyes increasing diversification and regional mandates. 

SPAG’s growth has included investment, launching a digital consultancy in D Yellow Elephant and acquiring creative firm Gigalife to support a holding group approach that includes new offerings focused on plant-based food and technology. There has also been a notable uplift in the firm’s thought leadership output, via the Asia-Pacific Healthcare Communications Outlook Report in partnership with KPMG. 

A good example of SPAG’s increasing ability to handle regional work comes from its Novartis relationship, which includes the external narrative business for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. There was also new business from Herbalife, GE Healthcare, Sanofi Pasteur, Bayer and IPA, joining a client roster that features AdvaMed, PhRMA, GIPC, Abbott and Intuitive Surgicals. And the firm’s campaign work reflects the sophistication of its offering, including employee engagement efforts for BD, advocacy for PATHw, healthcare financing support for Sanofi and the award-winning #beatheartfailure initiative for Novartis. — AS

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

Accounting for around 10% of its regional revenue, Weber Shandwick still believes its healthcare practice is underweight in the region, despite serving as one of its key growth areas over the past two years — expanding at a double-digit rate in Japan, India and Hong Kong last year. The firm brought in new sector leadership last year in the shape of Naomi Mermod, while there were also senior healthcare hires across a range of markets, including Japan, Australia and Singapore. Key clients include Abbott, Amgen, Astellas, Biogen, Gilead, MSD, Pfizer, Pierre Fabre, Samsung Bioepis and Takeda, while the firm also added new business from Janssen, Unilever/Lifebuoy, HKUMed and Biomed. 

Hong Kong serves as Weber Shandwick’s biggest healthcare practice, thanks to a particular focus on medical education and digital, for a client base that includes Amgen and Pfizer. For HKU’s Medical School, specifically, the firm devised a smart campaign that transformed world-leading Covid-19 research into accessible information for the general public. In Korea, the the merger with McCann Health has turned Weber Shandwick into one of the market’s largest healthcare marketing firms, while there are also sizeable capabilities in China (where it integrates the C3 platform to drive content to commerce for healthcare brands), Australia, Indonesia and Singapore (which saw marked healthcare growth last year). On a regional basis, the firm has diversified its service offering to focus on science and R&D, while also developing a virtual model to engage with healthcare professionals, leading to increased business from webinars and content.

Campaign highlights included ‘The Little Book of Poo’ — which helped Nestle’s medical marketing team promote instant formula Nan Pro, educating parents about such topics as allergy, milk proteins and nutrition. — AS