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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:
The world’s largest PR firm was also one of the first US-based networks to launch in Asia, via a Malaysian office in 1984. Since then, Edelman has expanded rapidly, and now employs 1,200 staff across 11 Asia-Pacific markets. And, also in line with its global focus, recent progress has been led by the firm’s ability to blend creative, strategy and a pioneering digital capability for clients across brand marketing, corporate and B2B.
There are 1,200 people across major operations in Greater China (mainland offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as operations in Hong Kong and Taipei), Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam), Australia (offices in Sydney and Melbourne), Japan, Korea, and India (where the firm has seven offices)—enough to give Edelman one of the largest Asia-Pacific footprints among the multinational agencies.
Warren Fernandez’s arrival as Asia-Pacific CEO marked another leadership shift at an agency that has seen more than its fair share of C-suite turnover in recent years. But Edelman’s creative progress continues to progress in relatively serene fashion, underpinning new business from Conden Nast, Fonterra, Diageo DP World, Dubai Economy and Tourism, Hanwha, KFC, Novartis and the World Expo 2030 in Busan. Key existing clients features such names as Adidas, HP, GSK, Lululemon, Microsoft, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nissan, PayPal, Samsung and Shell. A centralised Asia-Pacific creative function includes a growing India studio and underpins impressive integrated of Edelman’s strategy, creative and digital units — supported by creative hubs in Hong Kong, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney.
Tim Green is the firm’s chief creative officer in Asia-Pacific, while Jamshed Wadia is vice chair of digital, along with integrated and digital leadership figures across local markets, including India ECD Ashish Pathak. Edelman’s global focus on diversity and inclusion includes eight employee resource groups across the globe, supported by unconscious bias training and a commitment to transparent reporting on pay and progress.
Fernandez has brought a specific focus on integration, not just in geographic terms, but across such areas as employee experience, corporate reputation, brand marketing, research, social content and experience — reflected in an impressive array of work that aims to create multi-stakeholder movements. There were 60 awards over the past year, including the Dove #LetHerGrow campaign that won Best in Show at the 2022 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, placed fifth among Global SABRE winners and won a Glass Lion at Cannes. Meanwhile, the firm scored 35+ nominations at this year’s SABRE Awards, underpinned by work that blended social, innovation and product development, including HP StreetCode, KFC Brainwave Bucket, Doritos #CheatTheHeat, Starbcusk #ItStartsWithYourName, and Democratising Courage in the World’s Largest Democracy for Mountain Dew. When it comes to thought leadership, meanwhile, it’s difficult to look beyond the firm’s Trust Barometer, almost certainly the most valuable piece of intellectual property in the public relations industry.
— Paul Holmes
Run by three founding partners (and former Weber Shandwick colleagues), First Partners in 2016, with the goal of being India’s go-to corporate communications and public affairs firm. Using its proprietary Business Outcome Communication model — which blends PR and public affairs to build clients’ long-term reputation and drive short-term business results — First Partners has in the time since built roster of coveted clients including the likes of Rolls-Royce, Hyundai, Yamaha, McDonald’s, ITC and Vedanta. First Partners has also created a name for itself as an PR industry advocate, co-creating the an annual Innovation First Conclave to foster innovation in communications.
First Partners is headquartered in Delhi and has offices in Mumbai, Bengaluru.
Six years in, First Partners capped 2022 with a 62-person staff to service a growing list of top-tier clients. Key additions during the last year include multinationals like McDonald’s, Nikon and SunLife, as well as Indian conglomerates Vedanta-Foxconn Semiconductors and ITC Hotels. They joined a roster already populated by big names such as Rolls-Royce, Hyundai, Yamaha India, Baxter International and the German National Tourist Board.
First Partners is helmed by its three founding partners (and former Weber Shandwick leaders) Atul Ahluwalia, who leads creativity and stakeholder relations; Dilip Yadav, who drives the Business Outcome Communication focus at the firm and is also a business coach for C-suite leaders; and Santanu Gogoi, an issue management and strategic media management expert. About half of First Partners’ staff is women, including senior ranks. New this year is the firm’s pledge to hire 25% of its workforce from India’s tier two and tier three cities, which is in line with the government’s call to provide opportunity to young people from smaller cities — including two of the firm’s founding partners’ hometowns.
2022 was a big year for awards for First Partners, which placed 12th on our Global Creative Index (and second in Asia Pacific) and won a diamond and six gold SABRE Awards. All of which was a credit to the ingenuity of its work. Asia-Pacific Gold SABRE winners included the firm’s #NursesMidwife4Change campaign for healthcare nonprofit JHPIEGO, which rallied support, and helped launch a training program, for healthcare workers; and Vedanta Aluminum’s Breaking the Bias campaign showcasing women in conventional roles in the manufacturing sector. Other winning work included supporting ITC in its effort to find alternatives to single-use plastics and Hyundai celebrating its 25th year in India by inviting 25 journalists to travel 25 cities across the country.
— Diana Marszalek
There was a time when international firms in the Japanese market would seek to diminish the public relations operations of Dentsu with the suggestion that they played a secondary role to the giant ad agency with which they share a name and ownership. The fact is that the PR and advertising businesses do work closely together, but in recent years it has become impossible to ignore the fine quality of the public relations work, and the fact that much of the integrated output is “earned first” in the best sense of that term. After celebrating its 60th anniversary last year, Dentsu is now established as one of the leading creative agencies not only in Asia but in the world—living up to its tagline: ‘Advocates for Social Innovation’.
Dentsu Public Relations has offices in Tokyo and Osaka as well as access to a network of owned and affiliated partners in major global markets.
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—essentially flat last year—it still ranks just outside the top 50 firms in the world, according to our Global Rankings. Clients include 34 Fortune Global 500 and 67 Nikkei 225 companies, with key names including the Japanese Cabinet Office,Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Defense, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,Japan National Tourism Organization, Japan Arts Council, Nikkei Inc., USJ LLC, and Sekisui House.
In March 2020, Dentsu named Masahiro Makiguchi as its new president and CEO, replacing Kazunori Azeyanagi, who becomes senior corporate advisor and continued 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 firm has continued its commitment to increased diversity, with professional development activities supporting the advancement of women in the workforce, and support for Pride events in the region.
Dentsu continues to show up strongly in awards competitions globally and regionally, including 23 finalists in the Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards competition (more than any other agency headquartered in the region). Highlights included the “Stress Buying Center” campaign for ISJ and the “Sekisui House Paternity Leave Project” for Sekisui House, addressing the need for parental leave for men, while other highlights included #MeatfulTime for more family mealtime conversations on behalf for NH Foods.
— 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.
A three-time APAC Innovation SABRE Award winner for branding & identity, TOBF’s next-level creative drove continued growth in 2022, which saw the firm expand its client roster. New business came from Stryker, Kolon Sports, Universal, W Shanghai, W Suzhou, Moxy Hotels across China and Hilton (APAC). The agency also expanded partnerships with key clients including Aijia, Cartier, Anta Sports Group and Hilton.
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. TOBF beefed up its team over the last year to include business development directors in China, Canada and the Americas, as well as a Shanghai senior account manager marketing manager and a senior brand consultant in Hong Kong.
TOBF distinguishes itself by producing work that draws on its eclectic range of expertise — branding, graphic design, spatial design and digital. Highlights in 2022 include TOBF’s work for Colgate-Palmolive, which included designing the company’s new space in Shanghai with features to fuel innovation and engagement. For outdoor clothing brand Arc’teryx, TOBF created a pop-up store meant to transport consumers from urban Shanghai to a tech and design-driven walk-through forest complete with mountains, forest-scented air and changing sunlight.
— Diana Marszalek
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