North Asia PR Consultancies of the Year 2020 | PRovoke Media

2020 North Asia 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: Synergy H+K Strategies (Korea/WPP)

Like many international players in North Asia, H+K Strategies’ operations are weighted towards one market in particular — in this case Korea, where Synergy H+K Korea’s 80+ staff has expanded further by consolidating sister firm BCW into its operations, two years after similar integration of Ogilvy. It does not hurt, of course, that Asia lead HS Chung is based in Seoul, where the Synergy firm that she founded 20 years ago is expected to reach 100 people by the end of the year. 

Chung’s outfit has shown little sign of slowing down since it became part of H+K Strategies, growing by an impressive 30% in 2019, with a client roster that includes LG Electronics, Han Sung Motor, SK Telecom, Singapore Tourism Board, P&G, Microsoft, BASF, Hanwha Techwin, Essilor, KIA Motors, AB InBev and Marriott International. In particular, the firm has benefited from ongoing expansion supported by H+K’s global capabilities, which include online crisis training, along with strengthened creative and digital capabilities, and a renewed focus on social impact via the firm’s I-Act and Better Impact practices. 

Campaign highlights, meanwhile, included global influencer marketing for LG Home + Appliances, along with helping to successfully launch LG’s PuriCare Tankless Water Purifier. — AS


Dentsu Public Relations (Japan/Dentsu)

Like marketing agencies everywhere, Dentsu has seen clients looking for more integration and more earned-first ideas, and the Japanese agency’s advertising and PR businesses have converged in ways that have brought out more creativity and originality—and elevated Dentsu to new heights in international awards competitions such as SABRE and the Cannes Lions. As it approaches its 60th anniversary next year, Dentsu is now established as one of the leading creative agencies not only in Asia, where it has been a consistent performer in the SABRE Awards and other regional competitions, but in the world—coming in at number six in our Global Creative Index for last year, living up to its three-year-old tagline: “Advocates for Social Innovation.”

Highlights of the past year include Dentsu’s work for Electronic Arts, which teamed up with the provincial city of Kobayashi to address local depopulation and brain drain, leveraging the company’s gaming app SimCity BuildIt to develop interest and engagement in community development. The firm also partnered with brewing company Yoho on the “bossy talk” campaign, which addressed the hierarchical bullying that sometimes carries over from the workplace into social interactions between senior and junior employees, and supported Shiseido in the launch of new products to combat stress-related odors, emphasizing that “stress stinks.”

And while the creative work continues to stand out, Dentsu is still a standout in terms of its corporate work, its traditional media relations capabilities, and its leadership in the Japanese marketplace. In 2019, the firm worked with 38 Fortune Global 500 companies and 81 Nikkei 225 index companies—standout clients include the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defense, the Japan National Tourism Organization, and corporates Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, and Shiseido. And with 130 PRSJ-accredited PR planners among its 300 employees, enabling Dentsu to deliver a highly strategic product.

In March, the agency named Masahiro Makiguchi as its new president and CEO, replacing Kazunori Azeyanagi, who becomes senior corporate advisor and continues to serve as president of the Public Relations Society of Japan. A 20-year Dentsu veteran, Makiguchi has headed various divisions, most recently serving as managing director of the corporate communications division. — PH

(Omnicom PR Group)

FleishmanHillard’s regional offering has always carried a distinct bent towards North Asia, with Tokyo serving as the firm’s largest single Asia-Pacific market by revenue, and Korea emerging as one of its fastest-growing operations in recent times. There are now 91 people in Japan under president Shin Tanaka, supported by the BlueCurrent and Vox Global brands — bringing strength across corporate, healthcare, technology, consumer and public affairs. In Korea meanwhile, Yvonne Park oversees a team of 45, with a specific focus on stakeholder engagement.

With longtime lead Tetsuya Honda leaving BlueCurrent last year, the firm responded by naming Yosuke Tanno as MD of the unit. In addition, Nojiri Akihiro was promoted to Vox president, while Atsuko Kamegaya became MD of FH Japan and Seiji Takahashi took on COO duties. Japan grew 1.6% in 2019, led by Vox’s 4.9% expansion. There was new business from Google, Olympus, US Soybean Council and CNN, joining a client roster that features the Prime Minister’s Office, P&G, Visa, AT&T and Philips. Campaign highlights included Cisco Japan’s ‘Telework Life’ manga campaign to ease the transition to work from home, along with a BlueCurrent effort for Innophys to reduce the pressure on older workers.

In Seoul, meanwhile, Park oversees an operation that grew revenue by 10% last year and headcount by 13.5%. The newly-established Stakeholder Engagement Centre has brought specific benefits, advising on conflict resolution for clients facing extreme challenges caused by ever-intensifying conflicts in interests and social values. — AS

KPR & Associates

30 years since founder Kay H. Imm set up shop, KPR & Associates hasn’t waned in its commitment to being a trendsetter in the Korean PR industry, creating value for clients through integrated communications and content created through collaboration, new ideas and technology. That combined with the firm’s deep understanding of Korean media and businesses has fueled the continued growth of KPR, which ended last year as a $12.3m business with 108 staffers supporting blue-chip clients such as Google Korea and Citibank Korea.

For KPR, 2019 was a year of changes and expansion, as the firm assumed new leadership and created new offerings to match continued change in the industry and client demand. The start of the year saw Jooho Kim named KPR’s president after five years at the helm of KPR's integrated marketing unit (breaking only to serve as an executive VP of the 2018 PyongChang Winter Olympics Organizing Committee). KPR also launched an integrated digital marketing brand, KPR Digital, which encompasses KPR’s most specialized teams, including K, the integrated marketing brand that the firm launched in 2015; the digital communications and visual content development teams; the firm's PR team; and Bright Bell, a digital creative agency that joined the KPR group in 2018. The goal: integrating teams to create synergies and deliver more comprehensive and effective services under the name of a single brand. The firm also created a social impact team, expanding its CSR function in the process. The expansion continues — KPR's digital communication research lab opens this year.

All of which garnered the firm new clients including Seoul Metropolitan Government, Applied Materials Korea, Google Cloud, Rael Korea, Automation Anywhere, AbbVie Korea (Skyrizi), Dolby Korea, Ediya Coffee, Hanwha Solutions and Hyundai Motor Group. They join an impressive roster of existing partners such as Google Korea, Maserati, Continental Automotive Korea, Hankook Shell Oil, Citibank Korea, YouTube, YES24, Siemens Ltd. Seoul, Korea LPG Association and Sanofi Pasteur. Hallmark work included the “I’m All Ears” campaign by Life Insurance Philanthropy Foundation to raise awareness of and reduce teen suicide. As part of the campaign, a video was produced featuring five dogs rescuing ailing teenagers, which attracted 1.2 million views. An integrated counseling system based on social media was also built to listen to teens more attentively. — DM

Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

Weber Shandwick’s Japanese operations can trace their roots back to 1959, when International PR—later acquired by what was then Shandwick—was first established. Its Korean presence is much more recent, with the office founded a decade ago, under the leadership of Tyler Kim, who was also recently promoted to regional vice-chair. But both of the North Asia offices have been on a similar trajectory in recent years, with Japan and Korea continuing their steady progress in 2019, emerging as the network's most reliable source of growth. 

Under the long-term leadership of chairman Takeo Nishitani in Tokyo, who is supported by GM Campbell Hanley, Weber Shandwick Japan remains in strong shape, adding new business from Airbnb, JNTO, Kiozian and the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan, joining a client roster that features Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, JETRO, JNTO, Kioxia, Netflix, Novartis and TPECO. In particular, the firm benefited from a surge of crisis-related engagements, along with the enduring strength of its technology practice — which is complemented by expertise in corporate, healthcare (up double-digits), public affairs, digital/social, and the firm’s United Minds change management offering. There were also a slew of senior hires across these practices over the past year. 

In Seoul, which Kim has taken from a one-man office to a team of more than 100, growth has been fuelled by integrated marketing and specialist digital work, bolstered by senior hires including joint GMs Juny Lee and Seikyu Hong. The merger with McCann Health has turned Weber Shandwick into one of the market’s largest digital and healthcare marketing firms, evidenced by global digital marketing assignments for Samsung Bioepis and CJ Logistics, along with integrated work for Alcon, Downy, Disney, ExxonMobil,, iHerb and P&G. Key existing clients include AB InBev, Adobe, GM, Hanwha Group, MBK Partners, P&G, Samsung and SAP. Campaign highlights, meanwhile, including eye-catching efforts for in Japan and Hanwha in Korea. — AS