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The 2021 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 2021 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, which takes place virtually on 15 September. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:
Befitting a market leader, PR One has broad capabilities that span consumer and corporate, financial and public affairs, digital and creative; sector expertise in financial services, healthcare and tech; and supplemental services that are far from ubiquitous in South Korea, including a focus on employee communications and culture change. Responding to changing client demands, the firm’s digital and social media capabilities are formidable, including content creation designed to reach consumers in immediate and interactive ways, and a dedicated influencer marketing capability.
From its headquarters in Seoul, PR One focuses primarily on the Korean marketplace. The firm has a longstanding partnership with Japanese agency PRAP and is a member of the Worldcom network of independent PR firms.
Korea handled the first nine months of the Covid crisis considerably better than many other markets, but even so the 28% growth PR One recorded during 2020 was extremely impressive, taking the firm up 10 places to number 88 on our list of the world’s largest PR agencies—and into the top 10 Asia-based agencies. Major clients include Samsung Electronics, LEGO Korea, Lotte Nestle Korea, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Nikon Imaging Korea, Hawaiian Airlines, Oakley, AXA General Insurance, LG Household & Health Care, and the French Tourism Development Agency. New business last year came from CJ Cheil Jedang, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Paradise Hotel Group, BMW Handok, Kwangdong Pharmaceutical, Amway, Cargill Korea and more.
PR One is justly proud of the talent it has amassed, recruiting leading specialists in key disciplines supporting president and CEO Jaehyung Cho such as digital PR director Howon Son; Seoyun Jang, a specialist in brand marketing PR; Taeyoung Kim, who focuses on PR for startups and business enterprises; and Jihun Park, deputy chief specializing in communication research. A new addition last year was public affairs specialist Kwangwoo Jun.
Highlights last year included a digital campaign for KB Card, one of the largest credit card companies in Korea, producing a wide range of content that won the top prize in the image PR category from the 2020 Korea PR Awards. The firm handled rebranding work for Epson Korea; social media channel strategy for BMW Handok; and managed the “Great Driver” campaign for the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association aiming to improve understanding of government’s automotive policies.
— Paul Holmes
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 90+ 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 more than 50, with a specific focus on stakeholder engagement.
Tokyo and Seoul.
FleishmanHillard’s Tokyo operations grew by 8.8% in 2020, powered by 19% expansion from its Vox brand, and is on course to grow by 20% this year. And while Seoul had a quieter time in 2020, that operation is up more than 15% to date in 2021, and has grown its headcount by almost a quarter over the past 12 months. The firm’s success in Japan owes much to its global reputation management and healthcare capabilities, including increasing multimarket business from the likes of P&G, J&J, Sumitomo and Aflac. For Olympus, specifically, Fleishman has expanded from its B2C camera work to include B2B medtech and corporate, bringing together healthcare comms, reputation and branding. For Samsung, meanwhile, the formerly US-led business has become a key assignment in Korea, growing to include IT, mobile and Olympics work. The Japanese government also serves as a very important client for Fleishman, demonstrating the firm’s public affairs capabilities, and growing by 30% in 2020.
In Japan, Rei Mochizuki arrived to support Tanaka as group COO, while Tomomi Sasaki was hired this year to oversee the firm’s growing healthcare business. In Korea, Kye Yeon Kim joined to oversee the market’s True Global Intelligence unit. Both operations benefit from Fleishman’s EDGE learning and development program, which continues to deliver results across leadership/personal effectiveness, commercial acumen and value proposition.
Fleishman’s Korea office has developed a particularly strong thought leadership offering, including specific survey results as part of the firm’s global tracking of pandemic-related changes in global values, mindsets and behaviours. Park, furthermore, is a high-profile presence, helping pass new laws mandating gender diversity on Korean PLC boards, authoring work on AI trends, and establishing a Stakeholder Engagement Centre that advises clients on conflict resolution. In Japan, meanwhile, campaign highlights included the ‘Tree of Hope’ to establish the Tokyo Sky Tree as a uniquely spiritual place.
— Arun Sudhaman
In the 30-plus 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 business, has fueled continued growth and a reputation as a full-service player in the competitive Korean marketplace.
KPR is headquartered in Seoul and provides thorough coverage of the Korean market.
The firm’s client list includes AbbVie Korea (Skyrizi), Applied Materials Korea, Citibank Korea, Continental Automotive Korea, Google Cloud, Google Korea (including YouTube), Hankook Shell Oil, Hyundai Motor Group, Kia, Sanofi Pasteur, and Siemens, with new business in 2020 from the likes of AbbVie Korea (Rinvoq), Cell Biotech, Korea Tourism Organization, Lenovo, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Sanofi-Aventis Korea, and The North Face. Those clients contributed to very healthy 11% growth in 2020.
A year ago, Jooho Kim was named KPR’s president after five years at the helm of collabo K, the firm’s integrated marketing unit (and a stint as executive VP of the 2018 PyongChang Winter Olympics Organizing Committee). He previously worked at Cheil Worldwide, as did managing director Eunyong Kim, who leads KPR digital. Newer additions include creative director I-seok Kim, a commercial film director who earier founded Production NALBAL, and Heonjoo Seo, an expert in the field of brands, corporate communication and marketing with 28 years of experience. The firm is known for its low staff turnover (7% last year), based on a a commitment to operating and supporting self-development programs to help members better themselves and a number of work-life balance initiatives.
“PR has to pursue social good and put the highest priority on the public interest,” said Kay H Imm, KPR’s founder, articulating a principle that has continued to underpin the firm’s operation over the decades. Exciting work included the “I’m All Ears” campaign for the Korea Life Insurance Philanthropy Foundation, designed to raise awareness of and reduce teen suicide; the 2020 Organ Donation Campaign by Korea Network for Organ Donation Support; and a new media effort for steel manufacturer POSCO that engaged brand fans to communicate the company’s focus on the environment and society.
— Paul Holmes
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 has consolidated its presence as WPP’s key PR player in the market by integrating sister firms BCW and Ogilvy in recent years. 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 now numbers 100 people, with strength across technology, corporate and public affairs.
H+K grew its Seoul revenue by an estimated 15% in 2020, a remarkable return during a difficult year. LG Electronics remains a key client and, together with SK Telecom, has been successfully exported to numerous other markets across Asia and beyond. Other important accounts include Han Sung Motor, 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 a string of new products focused on such areas as Covid-19, behavioural science, data/analytics, social impact and lead generation.
Under Chung, who sits on WPP CEO Mark Read’s global DE&I committee, there has been a notable focus on ‘belonging’, with elevated mental health support, increased investment in training and development, and numerous initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion.
Campaign highlights included the transformation of LG’s ‘life’s good’ concept for Gen Z, along with a similar initiative revamp LG Mobile’s social media presence to better appeal to younger consumers.
— Arun Sudhaman
Weber Shandwick’s North Asian operations comprise a longstanding Japanese presence, which traces its roots back to 1959, along with a Korean operation that has grown considerably since launching in 2009. One thing that unites them, though, is their trajectory, which has turned the sub-region into a critical growth engine for the firm’s regional operations. The performance was further recognised when North Asia head Tyler Kim was promoted to Asia-Pacific CEO earlier this year.
Seoul and Tokyo.
Both Japan and Korea saw single digit growth last year, defying the worst of the pandemic downturn. In Korea, consumer business grew, while there was also expansion across North Asia in technology, healthcare and digital. New business reflected both the breadth and depth of Weber Shandwick’s offering in the markets, which includes specific expertise in storytelling, content development, brand consulting and integrated marketing. In Korea, for example, the firm landed six AB Inbev brands while also expanding work with Intel, SAP and Samsung Health. There were also cross functional assignments from Legoland and Disney, while the Tokyo office expanded its Facebook relationship with an integrated Oculus win, and an Ikea account that combines consumer, corporate and public affairs. Tokyo also took on global positioning consulting for the Prime Minister’s Office, which involved collaboration with the firm’s Beijing and Singapore offices.
Japan is led by MD Campbell Hanley, while Juny Lee oversees Korea, supported by deputy MD Elizabeth Bae. Japan also made three senior last year, bringing in Kenzo Makino as consumer head, Kaoru Nakagawa as healthcare SVP and Megumi Takayami as public affairs VP. There was a sustained focus on virtual community and learning and development, including increased staff exchanges between the two offices. A new DE&I program has also launched in Asia-Pacific, which includes committees in each market and mandatory training for senior leadership.
Campaign highlights included work to engage new audiences for Samsung Health, integrated assignments for Oculus and Ikea, and positioning analysis for Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office.
— Arun Sudhaman
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