Southeast Asia PR Consultancies of the Year 2020 | PRovoke Media

2020 Southeast 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: Mutant Communications (Singapore/Independent)

Gutsy independent agency Mutant is led by former journalist and entrepreneur Joseph Barratt, who counts a successful Singaporean craft brewery as a not-insubstantial side-hustle from running one of the best of the new generation of Southeast Asian PR firms. His team now totals 30 people across two offices in Singapore and Malaysia, and last year they surpassed expectations with 30% revenue growth in 2019 to just over $3 million. Profits were also up last year to nearly 23% from just under 11% in 2018.

Mutant picked up a host of new clients across PR, content, digital marketing and social briefs in 2019, including Disney, M1, WeWork, Aviva and Vivo, and grew the scope of its work with retainer clients, adding in expanded markets for Facebook and LinkedIn. In the first full operational year of its Malaysian office, Mutant grew revenue and the team, winning key clients including MYNIC, JobStreet Malaysia, Sutera Sanctuary, Ryde and Beam. Kimberly-Clark, which the agency already worked with in Singapore, also selected Mutant in Malaysia for a government relations campaign.

The agency’s content marketing team has grown to become the fastest-growing component of the business, focusing on producing and creating lead-generating content to build brands’ reputations, thought leadership and drive business growth. The team has branched out into new offerings, including digital marketing, branding, media training, crisis communications and employer branding.

Campaign highlights included reviving the Great Singapore Sale 2019 to recapture shoppers’ hearts by integrating local art, fashion, entertainment and technology, giving the tired annual event a huge boost in media coverage and favorability; successfully launching minimum-entry wealth management platform Syfe; and securing 100% occupancy for co-living operator Hmlet’s new Cantonment facility.

While 2020 has been a shock for everyone, Mutant has been largely protected by its focus on technology and corporate briefs, with less exposure to consumer brands and events. And, since 2019 was focused on building profitability and cash reserves planned for further regional offices, these additional savings have helped, despite the stall in expansion plans. Management innovation to get the agency through the pandemic as a team and save jobs, with full financial transparency, included the introduction of an Employee Equity Scheme that saw 25%-35% of salaries put towards owning a stake in the agency. The agency has also introduced a mentorship programme for its future leaders. — MPS


Archetype (Next 15)

Archetype’s name might be new, but its pedigree owes much to the impressive heritage of Text100 in Southeast Asia. And while the global merger with Bite may have resulted in various leadership changes in other parts of the world, the firm’s rebranded operations continue to progress in impressive fashion across its Singapore and Malaysia offices, up 10% after landing Southeast Asia Consultancy of the Year honours in 2019. 

Another year of double-digit growth took Archetype to US$5.6m in the region, underpinned by a stellar new business record that included Vodaone, Oppo and Amazon Web Services. There were 23 new assignments in Singapore (including Ericsson, Forter, Micron, Mondelez, Stewardship Asia Centre, Subway, Sigfox and Thomson Reuters) and 27 in Malaysia (Amway, Micron, Trend Micro, Petronas, Snap, McDonalds, Samsung, Nando’s and Unilever), joining an existing client roster that features Zebra Technologies, NetApp, Amazon, Rolls-Royce, Adobe, Qlik, Solarwinds, Red Hat, Stripe, and Subway.

The numbers and new business alone, though, don’t tell the full story of Archetype’s progress. The firm’s transformation from B2B technology work has been a notably feature of its growth, towards an offering that encompasses depth in consumer, creative content, digital marketing, corporate storytelling and employee engagement. That is evidence by the breadth of Archetype’s work across clients including Subway (brand communication), Rolls Royce (web development and content marketing), Zebra (PR and digital), the German National Tourism Board (social media and web development) and Xero (content development and thought leadership).

APAC lead Lee Nugent is based in Singapore, as is client strategy head Marc Ha, while Southeast Asia MD Yeow Mei Ling is located in Kuala Lumpur. The Singapore, operation, meanwhile is led by managing consultant Mabel Chiang, who is supported by deputy Owen Waters and ECD Lee Devine, who oversees a 14-person regional creative team. Unsurprisingly, the campaign work bears out Archetype’s evolution, including successful campaigns for the German National Tourism Board, the National Institute of Early Childhood Development, Snapchat and Ikea. — AS

Era Myanmar

PRovoke Media’s 2019 New Agency of the Year, Era in less than two years has grown into a $1.5 million company, with fee income rising an impressive 77% from the year before. The firm more than doubled its staff over the year to handle the growing workload, ending the year 91-people strong. Born through the March 2019 merger of leading PR firm Echo and digital agency RevoTech, Era has ushered in the concept of integrated communications in Myanmar. The goal: combining traditional PR and technology to develop integrated campaigns that enable clients to better, and more creatively, reach today’s complex and connected consumers.

Having cleared first-year hurdles, such as integrating Echo and Revo Tech’s leadership and culture, Era today is the country’s largest integrated marketing comms agency. T­­­he agency’s output and ethos is driven by its desire to reinvent the PR industry's is positioning in Myanmar by focusing on the complex marketing and business issues that the country’s companies face. In its short 18-month history, Era has become the country’s leader in infrastructure communications, public affairs, reputation management, tech & telco and integrated communications management, helping the firm win three lead agency roles in the last year for clients aiming to consolidate their communications. The creation of internal media intelligence applications and products specific to public affairs and reputation work have further underpinned Era's efforts.

Era's key existing clients are Coca-Cola, UnionPay, IFC/World Bank, Tetra Pak, Microsoft, Huawei (corporate), Nestle, MPT (state telco) and Peninsula Hotels. New business came from the Singapore Tourism Board, AIA Insurance, Unilever (Knorr, Fair & Lovely, Rexona, Comfort), Kaplan, Samsung (consumer), Maybelline, SAP, Dagon Beer, VPower and Thilawa Special Economic Zone, GrabFood and more. Era Myanmar's practices also choose a pro-bono client or charitable cause, using the firm’s newfound 'big size' to make the community stronger — the tech and telco practice, for instance, works in digital literacy initiatives and public affairs focuses on press freedom and media ethics. — DM

Golin (Interpublic Group)

Despite a relatively low profile in these pages in recent years, there is no doubting Golin’s presence in Singapore, where it is regularly cited by rivals as a key competitor. That kind of respect does not come easy; under Tarun Deo, the firm serves as the fulcrum for Golin’s Southeast Asian operations, which also include an affiliate brand deal with Rantau Golin in Malaysia and a standalone team in Indonesia. 

There are around 30 staffers in Singapore, delivering record 2019 revenues that are split equally across consumer and corporate, and fuelled in particular by the firm’s topnotch digital, analytics and creative offering — led by growth head Simon Ruparelia and ECD Shouvik Prasanna Mukherjee. Golin’s offering was further expanded by the 2019 acquisition of creative content firm Hurrah Productions.

Key clients include Nestle (exported from Southeast Asia to the region), Porsche, McDonald’s, Unilever and Oracle, while there was new business from Nestle Maggi, Mastercard, Carlsberg, Micron, Nestle Professional, Dow Chemical and Unilever Employee Branding. The firm also benefits from its Relevance Radar analytics offering, part of a digital and creative suite that has helped it deliver a number of eye-catching campaigns, including for Porsche (for which Golin leads 11 markets across Asia), Unilever and Heineken.  — AS

Vero (Independent)

In the 13 years since it was set up, Vero has had sustained growth by focusing on region-specific work and by being an early adopter of marketing technology and digital platforms, and investing in digital experts. Assured of the abilities of local talent, Vero doesn’t operate a specific HQ, instead aiming to open up opportunities for individuals across its offices in Bangkok, Yangon, Ho Chi Minh and Jakarta to take the lead on regional campaigns as required.

The firm credits the growth of new offices in Vietnam and Indonesia over the last 12 months to the efforts of on-the-ground individuals entrusted with making them a success, giving Vero an advantage in Southeast Asia’s fast-growing markets. The Ho Chi Minh City operation is now 16-staffers strong, working with top-tier clients including Japanese air conditioning manufacturer Daikin. The Jakarta office, which started as a four-person team, is expected to double this year.

Vero’s client list across its offices is impressive, featuring leading brands in electronics, technology, sport, travel, food and drink, beauty and entertainment. And the agency now attributes 75% of its $2.6m fee income (up from $2.3m in 2018) from those clients to digital marketing, social media marketing and influencer marketing: its digital team accounts for nearly half of its staff, across creative, planning, account management and paid media. This robust digital capability has given Vero access to larger, regional budgets, resulting in Vero expanding its team across the region to 84 in 2019, up from 70 the year before.

Vero added top-tier clients over the year such as Under Armour, Electronic Arts, Jetts Fitness, LINE, Intel, Kingston Technologies, True Corp., Intel, Air Asia, Daiken, WeWork, WD-40 and Tencent, which joined existing clients including Heineken, Samsung, Dell, One Championships, Nok Air, Delta Electronics, Sennheiser and The year’s hallmark work included a Myanmar Save the Children campaign to raise awareness of the dangerous effects of air pollution; a Pride-related social campaign for &Proud, a Myanmar LGBTQ NGO; and Daikin brand positioning. — MPS/DM