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The 2022 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 2022 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, which return in person to Singapore on 13 October. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:
PRovoke’s 2021 Creative Agency of the Year, Era was born through the March 2019 merger of leading Myanmar PR firm Echo and digital agency RevoTech, ushering 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. The idea is working. Less than four years since launch, Era in 2021 expanded across the region opening new offices in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam — despite the negative impact of living under military rule on business — creating opportunities for staff beyond Myanmar.
Era's 72 staff work across offices in Yangon, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Despite business being hurt after the coup, Era in 2021 expanded its presence across Southeast Asia, opening new offices in Thailand, which handles regional communications and brand reputation for major companies; Cambodia, an integrated communications shop offering local experts; Laos, which provides comms and brand marketing support for primarily local businesses; and Vietnam, which offers advisory and strategic comms. Newly hired managing directors run each of those offices, which agency leaders see as growth opportunities for the firm as well as team members. Even as businesses waned post-coup, Era added Manulife, FoodPanda, Yeo's, Abbott, Mastercard (Cambodia), Mambu, Singha Beer, Wildcats, KFC, Roche, Osotspa and Samsung to its client roster.
Era’s commitment to people is demonstrated internally through its commitment to employees and externally through its activist bent that has included everything from supporting next-gen talent and funding the release of detained journalists to calling on the international community to continue to do business in Myanmar despite the military regimes’ abuses. Leadership has been tried over the last year. Era stepped up when creative Ko Min Gaung was arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned for four months, covering Gaung’s workload as well as his salary and mental health benefits. When COO Saw Thura left in April to join a militia, he was replaced by Ei Ei Khin who focused on rebuilding company culture and morale through mental health initiatives and restructuring internal processes. Managing director Anthony Larmon, who was Echo’s longtime leader, now focuses on client service. Members of Myanmar's ethnic minorities or marginalized communities are members of Era’s workforce. Era was the first agency in the market to actively take a stance against supporting military-owned businesses.
A 2021 SABRE Award winner, Era followed up on its powerful 2020 Save Our Seafarers campaign for Uniteam with an array of other significant work. Highlights include its Yeo’s A Million Cans to Build a Dream campaign, which included partnering with the Cambodian Children’s Defense Fund on building a kindergarten for children who otherwise would not be able to go to school. Era’s European Union Weaving Garment Workers Together program aimed to educate female garment factory workers on their labor rights through Facebook and an app developed in-house. FoodPanda’s A Meal That Goes a Long Way initiative highlighted the food delivery platform’s role in the pandemic and coup.
— Diana Marszalek
Japanese powerhouse Dentsu has seen clients looking for more integration and more earned-first ideas, and the 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 the SABRE Awards and the Cannes Lions. Celebrating its 60th anniversary last 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 living up to its five-year-old tagline: ‘Advocates for Social Innovation’.
Dentsu Public Relations has offices in Tokyo and Osaka.
Dentsu remains the biggest name in the Japanese marketing communications sector, and while the public relations business does not dominate the way the ad agency does, with fee income of around $48 million—up by about 5% last year—it still ranks just outside the top 50 firms in the world, according to our Global Rankings.
In March 2020, Dentsu 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 oversaw the firm’s responses to Covid — allowing employees to work from home, revising working rules, improving communications, and going paperless among them. In-office employees were provided partitions and PPE. Internal communications were strengthened through online social events, companywide meetings, training sessions, and access to occupational therapists. The year also saw Dentsu PR roll out initiatives to foster a more inclusive environment for individuals with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community among them as it seeks to become one of the most attractive workplaces in the changing Japanese marketplace.
Dentsu continues to show up strongly in awards competitions globally and regionally, with highlights over the past 12 months including the “Sponsoring Our Heroes” project for Japanese wellness company Meiji, hiring ordinary working women to serve as spokespeople and celebrating women’s efforts to manage their lives; the “Vegetable Pharmacy” project for the Tokyo Good Manners Project, addressing the problem Japanese consumers have with “unattractive” foods by focusing on their health benefits rather than physical appearance; and the “Sports Change Makers Project” for electronics company Panasonic.
— Paul Holmes
After more than a decade as a headhunter, Siu Tang went for broke in 2012, pursuing his passion for art and design by launching The Orangeblowfish (TOBF) despite having no industry experience. Today, the China-based creative branding agency has worldwide reach with teams across China and in Australia serving clients from around the globe. The key to TOBF’s success: a commitment to imagine and create (they call it ‘imaginate’) through storytelling, art, space, and technology. One of the few independent international agencies in China, TOBF’s services include branding strategies, brand installations, brand experiences, digital campaigns and more. All of which have drawn an impressive roster of top-tier clients including the likes of LinkedIn, Cartier, L’Oréal and Marriott.
TOBF is headquartered in Shanghai and has a presence in Australia.
In 2021, The Orangeblowfish drew new business from an impressive array of companies — Topgolf, Marriott hotels, Colgate and Arc'teryx among others. The firm also expanded its remits for existing clients including Cartier, LinkedIn, L'Oréal, and Asics. 2021 saw TOBF roll out a new service for hotels, stores and restaurants, that assesses the total brand experience, with the goal of boosting customer sales and engagement while they are in the space.
A relatively lean operation, TOBF puts a premium on the wellbeing of employees, who have the autonomy and flexibility to chart their own career paths. The firm’s global team is a mixed lot of people from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, China, Singapore, Malaysia, France, as well as the US, Canada and Mexico, who set and pursue their career goals through custom professional development plans. Women make up 80% of TOBF’s team. That includes women in three of the firm’s top leadership positions — managing partner, client services director and creative lead. TOBF beefed up its team over the last year to include a marketing manager for North America and Europe, client services manager, strategic planning director and 3D artist. The expansion has continued this year with the addition of a GM, creative director and account director in Shanghai, a global social media manager and a director in Australia.
Highlights of 2021 include TOBF’s work supporting the opening of Topgolf’s first entertainment venue in China, which it did by creating a space that exuded the brand’s voice with graphic design, wall art and slogans. Other hallmark work included redesigning the Yuesai Cosmetics retail store to appeal to young consumers. The mental health platform Inward tapped TOBF to create a logo that is modern and inclusive.
— Diana Marszalek
Kiri Sinclair founded the eponymous firm in 2009 to deliver integrated campaigns from its office in Hong Kong. Today, the firm has operations in Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore as well as its Hong Kong HQ, which operate as a unified business true to its core tenet — impacting business through storytelling — with the added benefit of local expertise and regional presence across Greater China and Southeast Asia. Now in its 13th year, the firm continues to progress around its ‘team first’ philosophy — that putting its 50+ staffers above all else leads to business success. The firm is also active in public service, providing community and industry support that leads to positive change.
Sinclair's 50+ staffers are based at its Hong Kong HQ, along with offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore.
Sinclair garnered new business in 2021, thanks in part to a Covid recovery plan that included growing partnerships in stable industry sectors, while expanding its creative and digital services offerings to meet new needs of clients. Growth was fueled by new business from Hong Kong Chartered Governance Institute, Marriott International Luxury, Audi, McDonald's, Miele, Remy Cointreau and Sotheby's, adding to other clients the firm has added since 2020 including Blue Insurance, Carousell, Design Shanghai, FWD Insurance, Marriot Bonvoy, Singapore Tourism Board and Sino Group. All of which is a testament to Sinclair’s commitment to having in-depth knowledge of its clients and working to bring together digital, social, marketing and media to protect reputations and keep business flourishing amid 2021’s challenges. Sinclair also managed to maintain its 2020 achievements including equalizing B2B & B2C revenues.
Sinclair is committed to offering equal opportunities in its recruiting, training, promotion, compensation and more. A female owned and operated agency, Sinclair’s team is 82% female. Senior leadership is 75% female and 75% Asian. Sinclair puts a premium on the value of mentoring. An internal training programme is designed to help employees quickly and adeptly adapt to changes in the industry and environment. The firm’s Work for Good programme is indicative of Sinclair’s commitment to service and actively fostering positive change. Founder and CEO Kiri Sinclair is a leader in the APAC marketing and PR industry, which includes sitting on the board of PRHK, The Marketing Society and PRCA Global Ethics Council. She is active in numerous charities and NGOs. COO Stephen Millikin leads the agency's growth as it transitions into a regional player.
A 2021 SABRE Award winner, Sinclair continued to produce top-tier work in 2021, including supporting insurance company FWD in its push to boost business, particularly among young consumers, by repositioning its digital platform as a one-stop solution. The agency’s work for Sino Group included a year-long PR campaign that differentiated Sino from other property developers by highlighting its green initiatives and technological innovations. Sinclair upped its thought leadership efforts in January 2022 with the launch of #ConversationsThatMatter, a content series that covers the likes of the metaverse, ESG, the post-Covid era as well as the fan economy and trends.
— Diana Marszalek
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