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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:
It is easy to take BCW’s status as one of the region’s strongest networks for granted, given the track record of the two firms that combined five years ago to create the current entity. But that would probably do a disservice to the work of regional president Matt Stafford’s leadership team, who have worked relentlessly to make the whole greater than the sum of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn and Wolfe, landing Regional Consultancy of the Year in two of the past three years. BCW now weighs in at more than $100m in revenue in Asia-Pacific, and much has been fuelled by a transformation in the firm’s digital and integrated capabilities under chief digital officer Joe Peng deputy president Polka Yu, which includes a focus on digital consulting, data analytics and commstech, and integrated storytelling. There has been extensive expansion in capabilities, including new offerings in performance measurement, sentiment analysis, applied data and AI-driven content.
BCW’s comprehensive Asia-Pacific footprint is particularly strong in Greater China and India, which are also the two markets that lead much of its digital innovation. China, for example, plays a prominent role in terms of BCW’s investment in new technology and integrated marketing, while India provides digital transformation and newsroom solutions for BCW clients across the globe.
BCW’s stellar growth in recent years owes much to integrated marketing and digital capabilities, underpinning 18% growth in 2022. The firm’s new offerings resulted in expanded mandates for Lenzing, BGI, Twitter and HSBC, while there was also important new digital business from TCL and TikTok. The firm’s integrated marketing and digital capabilities, furthermore, helped underpin a new business haul that included included Apple, Amazon, Appier, Bank Negara, DeBeers, Ericsson, Google, Grab, HCL, Kirin, Lincoln, PWC and TCS.
The stability of BCW’s key leadership stands out, with Stafford supported by deputy president Polka Yu and chief digital officer Joe Peng at a regional level, and Australia head Pamela Klioufis elevated to chief client officer in addition to ANZ leadership. Deepshikha Dharmaraj oversees the combined BCW India group, while GCI Health Rikki Jones has proven to be a successful addition as BCW Singapore CEO.The BCW Grow learning & development program continues to flourish, involving hundreds of hours of training, while its mentorship programme has been exported to North America. There has also been a significant elevation in BCW’s DEI focus in this region, led by Peng, marcoms director Leah Taylor and people head Pallabi Gosh. And BCW’s focus on happy staff continues to pay off, with strong scores for employee pride, inclusion, diversity and safety.
The firm’s digital thought leadership has stepped up to noticeable effect in the past couple of years, including a recent Digital Transformation in Asia-Pacific study, and support for BCW’s global focus on the ‘Age of Values’, and AI. All of these have proved pivotal in BCW’s best campaign work, which saw 19 SABRE nominations — for such clients as Haleon, Dyson, Brittania, Oppo, Honest Eggs, Honor and Diageo.
— Arun Sudhaman
Nearing its 30th anniversary, D&S Media bills itself as a “Brand Architect in the Digital Era,” reflecting the firm’s operating model of putting technology, along with creativity, at the center of its work. With a focus on user, social, and big data, D&S provides brand strategy, digital marketing, PR and online reputations for 1,000 brands in sectors including automotive, consumer electronics, FMCG and finance. D&S, however, has also exceeded the industry in embracing metaverse marketing using Web 3.0 technology.
D&S Media has nearly 1,000 employees in eight major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.
D&S is a big operation that in 2022 saw revenue rise12% to CNY1.2 billion (about $177 million US). Headcount grew to 971 employees to serve new clients such as Changan Mazda, Changan Ford, Guangqi Honda, Jiangling Ford, Lotus, realme, Jidu Auto, Dr Plant, Fotile and Lenovo, which joined the ranks of existing clients such as Changan Auto, The Great Wall Auto, Dongfeng Honda, Huawei, GEELY, Hozon New Energy Automobile, and Samsung China.
D&S founder and chairman Steaph Huang is an active, and visible, member of Japan’s PR culture who has received multiple honors for his contributions to the development of the country’s comms industry. Huang is supported by two co-chairmen — Charlies Liu and Jane Shi — who have an array of practical and managerial expertise gleaned from years in the business. VP Mika Li was the year’s major hire, bolstering the firm’s internet advertising capabilities. D&S’s culture is centered creativity and teamwork — and managers leading by example in their interactions with clients and internally. The Huangpu Lecture Theatre and PR Elites Training Camp provide training opportunities for all employees, while D&S is committed to understanding and respecting staff members’ varied culture customs to avoid discrimination.
D&S has gone all-in on embracing the metaverse and Web 3.0 technology, far outpacing the larger, more reticent PR industry. Through research and partnerships, D&S has developed its own metaverse marketing solution that uses both virtual reality and terrestrial PR in brand communications, experience and sales. Last year’s hallmark efforts included an NFT campaign for the Mid-Autumn Festival; launching a new Dongfeng electric vehicle in the metaverse as well as physical world; and a viral video campaign for Dr Plant’s new eye cream.
— Diana Marszalek
KPR lost its founder, Kay H. Imm, heralded as the godmother of the Korean PR industry, a year ago at age 91. The firm, though, has not wavered from Imm’s staunch commitment to being the trendsetter in the Korean PR industry that she created it to be in 1989. KPR’s continued success is built on 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, where it employs 145 staffers.
While Covid cost KPR a portion of its tourism and aviation business at the start of the new decade, the past two years have seen in bounce back, with a particular emphasis on digital marketing services, strengthening capabilities in areas such as branded journalism, web and app development, and interactive VR platforms, all driven by the firm’s KPR Digital Communication Research Lab. The firm recorded fee income of more than $23.6 million in 2022, up by better than 28% and enough to earn it a place in the top 120 in our global ranking. Along with existing clients such as Applied Materials Korea, Google Cloud, Hankook, Shell Oil, Hyundai Motor Group, Kia Corporation, Lenovo, POSCO, Sanofi, Siemens, and The North Face, KPR added new clients including BGF Retail (CU), Blue Prism, GS Caltex, Hasbro, Hyundai Engineering & Construction ,LG U+, OMRON Healthcare, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, and Stellantis Korea.
You can’t look at KPR’s culture without noting the lasting influence of agency founder Imm, who came into the office every day. Her commitment to the firm’s people, elevating women in the workplace and improving the world through communications remains very much alive under Jooho Kim, who 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). In March of this year, Myounghee Shin joined KPR to lead the newly created KPR Public brand, having previously been responsible for Seoul City Government’s online news platform “Seoul in My Hands.” A progressive employer with a strong commitment to diversity and a culture than values collaboration over traditional hierarchy, in 2022, KPR abandoned the traditional Korean business custom of calling colleagues by their rank, instead using first names, to create a more open, horizontal corporate culture.
With its Digital Communication Research Lab providing clients with digital news and information and delivering a digital communications trend report, and its new K Public unit offering specialized services to the public sector, KPR continues to innovate. Outstanding work includes sustainability communications for POSCO, a world-leading steelmaker based in Korea that has drawn up a roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050; support for CU, the leading convenience store brand in Korea, as it celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022; and producing a video campaign for Hyundai Motor Group to promote new technologies that embody "human-centered progress."
— Paul Holmes
Ogilvy’s ability to blend PR and digital continues to impress in Asia-Pacific, where the social team numbers 400+ executives across the region, including expertise across social media, influencer marketing, content/context, social commerce, paid and realtime marketing. The firm’s position within the broader Ogilvy group gives it access not only to PR and creative expertise, but also to media and brand capabilities and delivery/tech skills — a combination that has proven particularly useful for its for its AI influence and social content Centres of Excellence, along with new offerings focused on B2B influence and TikTok.
Ogilvy’s digital operations encompass its key Asia-Pacific markets of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Shanghai, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Sydney. There are 250+ people across the agency’s various content/context hubs in the region, including major centers in Manila and Vietnam and a further 13 studios across the region.
There was standout growth from the firm’s CoE’s in Vietnam and Manila, driven by social content expansion (+120%) and influencer revenue (+13%), helping to underpin new business from Changi Airport Group, Samsung, Baidu, Skyscanner, L’Oreal, AIA, Snap, British Council, Moderna, InvestHK, DestinationNSW, AWS, Microsoft, VinaMilk and NBN. The firm launched Southeast Asia’s first healthcare virtual influencer, while its creator studio landed expanded work for AIA, Dove and Unilever.
Brenda Ho and Anggie Apriilia lead the firm’s influence and content CoEs in the Philippines and Vietnam, respectively, while there were also several promotions and hires that focused on Ogilvy’s creative, content and strategic planning capabilities. Ogilvy’s leadership reflects its belief in Asians overseeing its operations, and most are women, reflecting a workforce that is 55% female, with the 30-for-30 Asia effort challenging female talent to reach their full potential. New research from the firm’s Philippines office is driving a broader inclusion focus, including a region-wide Inclusion Empowerment Committee, and there is Ogilvy’s usual extensive investment in training and development, including the pioneering Pacesetters programme for next generation leaders, along with a wide-ranging regional wellness initiative that has noticeably softened some of the harder edges involved in a network as big as Ogilvy
In tandem with its impressive product innovation around AI influence, creators, content, B2B and TikTok, Ogilvy’s prolific thought leadership operation has been a key factor in the firm’s Asia-Pacific success. A focus on disruptor and DTC brands has paid off in major assignments, while the firm’s social practice demonstrates strong innovation, not least through its AI influencer activity and content/context hubs. Ogilvy’s campaign work continues to reflect these strengths, including 31 SABRE nominations, for such clients as Aldi, KFC, Unicef, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Unilever, Taya, GE Healthcare, Atlassian, Intel, Swire Coca-Cola, Sabeco, and Mind You Mental Health Systems.
— Arun Sudhaman
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