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The 2023 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 2023 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, taking place in Singapore on 27 September. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:
Anthem was founded in 2014 by executive chair Jane Sweeney and CEO Caro Kerr, with a vision of developing a world-class, integrated, competitive communications and marketing firm that addressed a gap in the market between traditional agencies and strategic consultancies. Anthem got off to a singing start with a launch event fronted by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, and the agency has continued its early promise, offering corporate communications, stakeholder engagement, government relations, issues management, marcomms, internal communications, investor relations and Māori relations to clients across the sustainability, government, property, insurance, health, technology, finance, agritech, transport, not-for-profit, food and beverage, tourism and construction sectors. Anthem’s services also include digital, creative, branding, design and advertising.
Anthem is based in New Zealand.
On the back of 50% fee income growth over 2021 and 2022, Anthem has again grown by double digits in the past year to close to $5m, with high levels of client retention – several have been with the firm since its inception – and solid growth in its client base. Its full-time team of 21 is supplemented by specialists. New clients included Doppelmayr, the world’s largest cable car, gondola and ski lift business, and a number of NGOs and organisations. These joined a roster that includes ANZ, New Zealand’s largest bank, DoorDash, leading ferry operator Fullers360, neuroscience firm Exsurgo and an international beverage company.
Last year, Anthem created a dedicated people and culture team and appointed its first chief people officer and people and culture manager. The agency prioritises workplace wellbeing and flexibility, learning and development and DE&I, and has invested in a professional development and coaching programme, as well as project management tools and HR platforms to encourage work/home life balance. Its focus on improving diversity has included partnerships with inclusion organisations Diversity Works, Inside Out and Tupu Toa; the latter has yielded two interns of Māori and Pasifika descent, plus a purposeful hiring approach. Anthem has also improved representation across age, gender and sexual orientation. In its most recent anonymous employee survey, 100% of the team said they would recommend Anthem as a place to work.
Anthem is shortlisted for two SABRE awards this year for its work building Doppelmayr’s case for ropeways as an urban public transport solution and creating an interactive, AR-powered ‘5G Street Museum’ for Spark, New Zealand’s largest telecommunications and digital services provider. Other standout work included helping ANZ to use its sponsorship of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup (hosted in New Zealand in 2022) to highlight issues around gender equity, which continued into 2023 with a reporting highlight issues around gender equity with a focus on Māori, Pasifika and Asian women. The agency continued its research, panel and podcast series, ‘Fair Enough?’ which analyses reputational issues through the lens fairness, with topics including climate change, flexible and hybrid working, restriction of cars in cities, and passing on the rising cost of business onto consumers. The agency has a partnership with the Sustainable Business Council and the Institute of Directors’ Chapter Zero, including hosting a webinar to help business leaders navigate new ESG reporting guidelines.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Eleven remains one of the most creative agencies in one of the world’s most creative regions. Group MD Roberto Pace, who has been with the business for eight years, has grown Eleven to a team of more than 50 across ANZ, with an expressed purpose to create cultural impact for brands in a meaningful, relevant way that drives growth and moves clients forward, from influencing policy to shifting outdated notions, stereotypes and behaviours. Over the past year, the agency – which is an official partner of the United Nations – has embraced AI, AR and the metaverse, with initiatives including a new ESG consultancy practice, Sustain, developing an episodic series on Amazon Prime ad a new classification for Australian film and television, picking up dozens of global awards – including Cannes Lions – on the way.
Eleven is headquartered in Sydney, with offices in Melbourne and Auckland. It also has offices in Dubai and Los Angeles.
Building on achieving its three-year targets in two years, with 84% revenue and 77% profit growth, in the past 12 months Eleven has seen revenue growth of a further 13%, with organic growth up by 47%. New clients over the year included Amazon Ring, the Australian Childhood Foundation, Kraft Heinz, Mars Wrigley, P&O Cruises, Quickbooks and World Vision Australia. They joined a client roster that includes longstanding clients Tourism New Zealand, Campari Group, Mastercard and Kellogg’s, and it also works with Amazon, Asahi, Allianz, Braun, Lavazza and Mycar.
Eleven’s policy of investing 10% of profits into training and culture – including global overseas training for high performers, matching annual leave with remote working days and volunteer days – has contributed to 70% retention, plus at least two boomerangs. The agency’s leadership is 60% female and over the past year it has also doubled down on other aspects of diversity, including DE&I training in partnership with the Diversity Council of Australia, unconscious bias training in the recruitment process, no longer viewing culture fit as a reason to hire, and a ‘Take the Lead’ program which includes talking to cultural advisors in the creation of work, a diverse supplier list and a Reconciliation Action Plan. After nearly a decade, Sydney MD Fiona Milliken, departed Eleven to spend time with her family; general manager Amy Ashworth will move into the MD role in the near future.
Eleven’s outstanding work over the year included working with Mycar to introduce of ‘R’ plates, to recognise drivers returning to the road after road trauma, including meeting industry leaders ahead of discussions on formalising the scheme with government. The campaign had 5m TikTok views, website traffic increased 56%, and the pilot R Plates ran out in 48 hours. In partnership with consent educator Consent Labs, Eleven created a movement to launch the first-ever ‘lack of consent’ classification, highlighting famous movie scenes lacking consent via a (C) appearing at the start of content. A government petition garnered thousands of signatures and inspired people to submit hundreds more scenes that contained non-consensual acts; the Australian Government is working involved to implement the world’s first ‘lack of consent’ classification across Australian screens in 2023. Eleven has several thought leadership initiatives, from Backslash, its platform on what’s breaking in culture (with 33,000 Instagram followers), to Edges, its look at macro cultural forces that will shape culture in the future, which included a ‘Future Of’ series for retail, finance, travel and technology clients.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Our 2021 and 2022 Australasia PR consultancy and Global Digital Agency of the Year, Icon Agency was founded in Melbourne in 2002 by innovative husband and wife team Joanne Painter and Christopher Dodds. Their vision was to combine the disciplines of PR, digital marketing and advertising into a new, connected model of creatively led communications. After expanding from its consumer PR beginnings to government and corporate PR, the firm now operates at the forefront of modern PR, helping clients adapt to disruptions such as digital transformation, big data, influencer marketing and the experience economy. The agency has developed particular specialisms in deep web and digital marketing, as well as multi-channel behaviour change and social marketing, including data-driven, creative integrated campaigns to counter violent extremism, and ‘Counter Communications,’ an emerging field of PR practice focused on addressing misinformation and fake news. As it enters its third decade, Icon has introduced a new brand positioning, ‘For People, with Purpose,’ reflecting its ambition to make a positive impact on people’s lives and the planet. In 2021, Icon opened a new headquarters in Sydney, and introductions included the launch of a secure forms product, a new webinar and podcast service, The Content Garden – a dedicated video, content and film production studio – and I-Chat, an AI-driven chatbot to improve citizen communications.
Icon's 92 staff work across offices in Melbourne, Cremorne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane.
Icon emerged from the Covid era as one of the largest independent communications agencies in Australia, and last year continued on the upward trajectory that played a key role in the firm being named PRovoke Media’s Australasia for the last two years. Icon’s revenue was up an impressive 53% to A$23.2m in 2023 (after growing 84% the previous year). Gross profits rose 43% to A$14.8m. the firm’s technology practice saw a particularly big lift, growing from three to 12 clients with revenue of nearly A$3m. Icon saw new business from Salesforce, Mulesoft, Tableau, Slack, MyFitnessPal and the Australian government’s Department of Health and Aged Care (worth A$10M), building out a roster already populated by the likes of American Data Processing, Schneider Electric, Australia’s departments of Defense, home affairs and foreign affairs, the Australia Space Agency, and Sustainability Victoria.
Icon grew staff from 80 to 92 in 2022 and the agency has achieved gender parity across the business and the leadership team. More than 40% of Icon’s staff come from countries other than Australia; More than 30% identify as culturally and linguistically diverse. In 2022, Icon implemented a range of initiatives to further DEI including paid internships for people living with a physical or cognitive disability; cultural awareness training and a new employment partnership with Career Trackers that supports First Nations candidates; a partnership with Indigenous consultancy, Winangali, to shape work with First Nations stakeholders, train staff on cultural sensitivity and bring an Indigenous viewpoint to clients. Painter and Dodds expanded its leadership team in 2022 with new hires including general manager Gabrielle Gray, Executive creative director Michael Knox, technology director David Radestock and public affairs director Ben Haslem.
In 2022, the agency was an industry frontrunner in thought leadership, publishing 25 articles in Australian and Asia-Pacific publications on topics including DEI, disruptive technology, behaviour change, reputation, purpose and workplace culture. Icon also launched the Icon Innovation Lab, housed within its new digital content production facility (also launched last year). The lab conducts research into how PR can harness emergency technologies to shape the future of the industry, looking at topics like AI, the metaverse, machine learning and chatbots. The year’s key efforts included executing an extensive communications campaign supporting the the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australian Pavilion over six months at the World Expo in Dubai, which won a 2022 trade show SABRE and was shortlisted for global honors. The effort garnered 1,000 pieces of print and online coverage; 100 broadcast stories on outlets including including CNN, Dubai TV and Al Jazeera; and 1.6m visitors through the Pavilion — 6% of total expo visits.
— Diana Marszalek
Despite its status as Australia’s biggest PR operation, Ogilvy’s success in the market owes much to a restless spirt of innovation that has seen the firm implement a new ‘consultancy’ strategy over the past couple of years. This has involved a management consulting-inspired reorganization around sector specialisms, along with increased investment in technology, talent and skills. All of which adds up to an agency that possesses considerable breadth and depth across brand marketing, business/corporate, technology, health, investor relations, employee comms, government relations/public affairs and sustainability.
The bulk of Ogilvy PR’s 130-strong ANZ workforce is based in Sydney, while there are smaller offices in Melbourne, Canberra and Auckland.
Ogilvy’s ambitious reorganisation appears to be paying off in droves, with revenue up 11% in 2022 to more than A$24m. The new model encourages a focus on fewer, but bigger clients, with the roster bolstered by new business from Aldi, Coca-Cola, Destination NSW, Janssen, NBN Co, Novartis, Ørsted and Samsung. These brands join a client portfolio that already includes such blue-chip brands as Ford, Microsoft, Atlassian, American Express, KFC, Netflix, eBay and AstraZeneca.
Now a decade into his tenure with the agency, Richard Brett has led Ogilvy Australia since 2018, supported by an impressive executive team that features Jacquie Potter, Rachel Stanton, Dan Young and Ant Kelaher — each of whom oversees a specific vertical. Key hires included Nicolas Mendel (head of performance media), Liana Rossi (head of culture and influence) and Melissa Devine (head of public health), while Ogilvy’s commitment to an open an transparent culture also stands out. The firm places particular emphasis on formal initiatives to ensure that every staffer has a voice, while its record on DEI includes partnerships to drive First Nations recruitment, and increased investment in training and pro bono work.
Named Agency of the Future at this year’s Innovation SABRE Awards, Ogilvy PR ANZ’s ‘Futures’ platform gives the firm an enviable edge in the thought leadership stakes, built around an annual trends report that has become widely cited. The platform also drives sector-specific publications in such areas as healthcare and influence, and there is considerable investment in promoting this IP via an an annual roadshow. Meanwhile, the agency’s second Believability Index focused on trust in politicians ahead of Australia’s federal election, drawing considerable interest from the country’s national media. And Ogilvy’s creative engine appears to have revved up further under the new model, with the KFC Degustation campaign attracting particular acclaim.
— Arun Sudhaman
Sling & Stone has grown over the 13 years since founder Vuki Vujasinovic launched in Australia to become a 90-strong “boutique at scale”, working with world-class clients across four countries, and still achieving double-digit growth every year. The agency – acquired by Chime’s VCCP Business group in 2021 – has its roots in technology and now describes itself as specialising in ambitious, challenger and disruptor brands shaping the future of how we live, work, and play. The agency’s services range from social media strategy, digital content and influencer marketing to executive, corporate and internal communications, and it also added a range of new services: a start-up PR package, an events arm, copywriting and tailored workshops on executive social and presentation training for clients including Google.
Sling & Stone is headquartered in Australia, with offices in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as in Auckland. It also has offices in Singapore, Los Angeles and New York.
Sling & Stone’s revenue grew by 24% in the 2022 calendar year, thanks to the expansion of its integrated offering; 82% of its revenue comes from retained accounts. With a win rate of 77% in 2022, the agency ended the year with 90 clients, having turned down work for 276 brands, and won more than 50 clients in the first five months of this year. New wins included Shopify, Forbes, programmatic ad buying platform The Trade Desk, mobile phone challenger Oppo and a trio of high-profile gaming clients. Its existing portfolio includes social enterprise Who Gives a Crap, accounting software Xero, payments firm Stripe, online retailer Kogan.com – its foundation client, dating app Hinge, online design platform Squarespace, and Google Cloud, where its remit expanded from Australia to New Zealand and Singapore).
In 2022-23 Sling & Stone facilitated three global transfers to other offices and two moves to its sister agency Harvard in the UK. It overhauled the ‘UpSling’ training program, adding core technical modules for each level catering to skills needs; from junior training on pitching, to mid-level client and campaign management, to senior level campaign strategy and insight, and giving managers techniques to foster long-term career development opportunities for their teams. Overall, the agency invested in nearly 2,000 hours of learning and development over the year. The firms offers flexible work arrangements for returning parents, students and carers, and formalised its 2030 justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) commitments and strategy, setting up a task force focusing on attracting and nurturing diverse talent, supporting mental health and wellness, and diversity training, as well as introducing a team insights form to track progress against diversity metrics. In its most recent employee engagement survey, 92% of its people said they would recommend Sling & Stone as an employer.
Standout work over the year included the successful launch of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in Australia and helping Getty Image and iStock highlight the importance of using inclusive and authentic imagery. The agency contributed to industry efforts to raise awareness of the need for changes to visas and immigration reform to combat the PR talent crunch, and held free PR training sessions for entrepreneurs. It also helped technology industry group DIGI educate industry bodies, agencies and businesses on proposed reforms to Australia's Privacy Act, and executed a pro bono project for Cut Through Ventures on Australia’s biggest startup funding report.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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