The Holmes Report is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Asia-Pacific Consultancy of the Year awards, selected on the basis of submissins to our annual Consultancy Report Card. The trophies will be announced at our annual Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards dinner in Shanghai on September 18.

Asia-Pacific Consultancy of the Year: MSLGroup

A third consecutive year of 30 percent or better organic growth in Asia means that MSLGroup has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the region. While much of the focus has been on a series of acquisitions (seven in three years; experiential agency Luminous and production and design specialist King Harvests were added to the fold in 2012), much of the underlying growth has come from the increasingly close working relationship between what were once disparate and dispersed operations.

There were new multimarket assignments from the likes of P&G, Coca-Cola, IKEA, Sony, Singapore Tourism Board, Haier, TAITRA, WalMart and United Technologies. MSL also picked up new business in local markets, including Facebook (India), McDonald’s (Taiwan), Disney (Taiwan), Microsoft (Japan), Dow Corning (Japan), Beam Global Spirits (Singapore), and Jack & Jones (China). Other major clients include Hyundai, Samsung, Huawei, the Business Software Alliance, World Gold Council, Astra Zeneca, and Dell.

MSL now has 1,675 people in Asia, across 38 offices in nine markets, under the leadership of Glenn Osaki—who has led the firm since its early days in Asia—supported by a team that includes China veterans Johan Bjorksten and Par Uhlin (whose firm, Eastwei, was one of the better acquisitions of recent years); Indian leadership team Sunil Gautam and Jaideep Shergill, and VP of insights and innovation Gaurav Mishra.—PH
Finalists: BlueFocus, Edelman, Ogilvy Public Relations, Weber Shandwick

Australasia Consultancy of the Year: Eleven PR

Eleven has established itself as one of the brightest of Australia’s new constellation of consumer PR agencies, coming off a highly successful year that saw it grow revenues and win plenty of recognition. Founded in New Zealand in 2006, Eleven opened an Australian operation in 2011, benefiting from an impressive creative insight process that has helped it create standout work for its clients. A good example was the ‘Grazed for Greatness’ campaign for new men’s fashion brand MJ Bale, a smart idea that boosted awareness and ultimately spurred a significant sales increase. The TBWA-owned firm won 14 pitches during the year - now boasting a client base that includes Nissan, Infinity, Energizer, PlayStation, IAG and Reckitt Benckiser - and is eyeing further expansion into Asia after launching in Singapore.—AS
Finalists: Impact Communications Australia, Liquid Ideas, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, PPR

China Consultancy of the Year: FleishmanHillard

There’s no doubt that China is now the major engine for growth for FleishmanHillard in the Asia-Pacific region, with revenues from the mainland up by 45 percent, and the Hong Kong office growing by close to 20 percent. Regional president Li Hong took the helm of the firm’s China operations a decade ago, at which time the firm has just $1 million of business in the market. Focusing on helping overseas multinationals understand the Chinese market—with a more recent expertise helping Chinese businesses expand internationally, the firm has three offices (Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou) and two brands (Blue Current opened there in 2011 and is now a $1 million in its own right, serving clients including Chinese giants Gome, Huawei, and Li-Ning and global giants P&G, Philips, Mercedes Benz, Tiffany and Swatch.
Finalists: BlueFocus, MSLGroup, Ogilvy Public Relations, Weber Shandwick

India Consultancy of the Year: Perfect Relations

In India’s highly-competitive PR market, it takes a certain level of performance to remain relevant for more than 20 years. That Perfect Relations has done so speaks volumes about a pioneering sensibility that continues to drive growth at one of India’s biggest PR players. Still proudly independent, Perfect leaders Dilip Cherian and Bobby Kewalramani have created a vibrant agency culture that with relatively low senior turnover and a laudable commitment to training and development. The past 12 months, meanwhile, saw Perfect win some of India’s biggest PR pitches, for Infosys, Google, Airtel and Nokia. And the agency’s campaign work remains a enduring strength, highlighted by standout work for Coca-Cola and Acer. Now numbering more than 500 employees, Perfect’s success is evidence that good homegrown Indian PR firms need not sell to MNCs to realise their ambitions.—AS
Finalists: Adfactors, Avian Media, Integral, MSLGroup

Japan Consultancy of the Year: Bilcom

Founded in 2003, digital marketing specialist Bilcom is a Japanese firm with a distinctly modern approach, offering a cohesive blend of marketing and PR services that range from planning to execution. The firm’s communications unit was launched in 2006 by company director Koji Nizaka, catching the eye when it won a Gold Lion at the inaugural Cannes PR Lions in 2009. Despite tough economic conditions, the firm’s innovative mindset has ensured resilient earnings, boosted by new business from Tommy Hilfiger and Lacoste, along with a smart YouTube campaign that has helped to personalise Konica Minolta’s corporate image.—AS
Finalists: Dentsu Public Relations, FleishmanHillard, PRAP, Weber Shandwick

Korea Consultancy of the Year: Medicom

One of the most digitally-savvy PR firms in one of the most digitally-savvy PR markets in the region, Korea’s Medicom’s capabilities in the digital and social space were they key factor in sealing a 2012 deal to represent global public relations giant Burson-Marsteller in the Korean market. It now provides integrated digital and traditional services to more than half of its clients, including big names such as LG Electronics, Shiseido, Nike, and Kiehl's, served by about 140 account staff, and last year saw the introduction of big data and social intelligence services for clients such as Accenture and BMW. That helped the firm to healthy double-digit growth in 2012, with new business from IBM, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, LG, Nongshim, the Australian Trade Commission, and the US Embassy—PH
Finalists: Communication Korea, Edelman, KPR, Prain

South-East Asia Consultancy of the Year: Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Ogilvy’s massive, market-leading operations in China and Australia get the lion’s share of the attention, but it has long had a significant presence in South-East Asia, and in 2012 its operations there led the way in terms of growth, with the Indonesian and Malaysian operations up by about 25 percent each and its Philippines office up by better than 36 percent. The Singapore office, meanwhile, was named PR Agency of the Year by Marketing Magazine for the third consecutive year, while the Vietnamese office (Ogilvy was a pioneer when the market began to open itself up for business a few years ago) also made a solid contribution. New business came from the Indonesian Port Corporation, Zurich Insurance, World Kitchen, Panasonic, Singapore Tourism Board, APB Guinness and more.
Finalists: Edelman, Fortune PR, Galaxy Communications, Vero PR

New Consultancy of the Year: Artemis

Artemis Associates, founded in March 2011 by FTI veteran Diana Footitt, has quickly carved a niche for itself as an entrepreneurial boutique firm capable of delivering world-class, international, independent strategic communications advice and flawless execution to an impressive list of clients: Berry Brothers & Rudd, CVC/Matahari Department Stores, Esprit, Estee Lauder, Fong’s Industries, Graff Diamonds, Hong Kong Airlines, IRC Limited, Louis XIII Holdings, Poly Property Group, the Mongolian government, and Samsonite. The firm made an immediate impact on the M&A front with its work on the Prada and Graff Diamonds transactions, with other highlights including work with the Government of Mongolia on the media relations surrounding its inaugural US$1.5b medium term note offering and advice to CVC on media relations for an offering involving Matahari, the Indonesian retailer.—PH
Finalists: PRecious, SharpeLankester, Zeno

Consumer Consultancy of the Year: Waggener Edstrom

It was no great surprise that Waggener Edstrom picked up three trophies at the 2012 SABRE Awards dinner in Hong Kong: it was a good haul for a midsize firm, but WaggEd has been doing good work in Asia since its acquisition of local technology specialist Shout in 2005. What was, perhaps, surprising is that the three winning campaigns were for an anti-smoking health education program on behalf of the Health Promotion Board of Singapore; a product media relations effort for the Ramen Emporium, with Japanese noodle restaurant IPPUDO in Hong Kong; and a promotional campaign for online travel company Zuji. In other words, there wasn’t a single technology assignment—long WaggEd’s bread-and-butter, among its winning work. That’s a testament to the success the Asia-Pacific operation has had in diversifying beyond the tech sector so that there is now a case to be made that after a year of better than 60 percent growth, the consumer practice is now its Astrongest in the region.—PH
Finalists: AKA Asia, Mango, Ogilvy Public Relations, Trimaran

Corporate and Public Affairs Consultancy of the Years: Sefiani

Long established as one of Australia’s leading corporate communications boutique, Sefiani broadened the scope of its operations considerably in 2012, introducing a change communication practice, expanding its investor relations offer with the addition of former stockbroker Harold Shapiro, and opening a new office in Brisbane after picking up business from local clients such as Chandler Macleod, St.George Bank, Vita Group and BDO. High-profile work included change communication assignments:  first, the transformation of the OPSM brand, which won multiple awards; and second, the successful integration of leading accounting firms BDO and PKF during a period of intense competition and consolidation of professional service firms in Australia. Both showcased Sefiani’s ability to operate in the C-suite, counseling clients at the highest level and deliver real business results.—PH
Finalists: FleishmanHillard, Pelham Bell Pottinger, Senate SHJ, Weber Shandwick

Digital Consultancy of the Year: Weber Shandwick

A few years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to even include Weber Shandwick in this category, but the firm has transformed its digital operation to good effect. That is in large part down to the development of an impressive digital studio led by Jon Wade, which has shown a commendable commitment to cutting-edge content creation on behalf of both clients and the firm itself. This has translated into significant digital growth for a range of existing clients, along with helping it net new clients such as the California Walnut Commission in China. Weber Shandwick may have been a little late to the digital party in Asia, but they are making up for lost time in a hurry.—AS
Finalists: Bilcom, Edelman, MSLGroup, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Financial Consultancy of the Year: Adfactors

Founder and chief executive Madan Bahal’s investments during difficult economic conditions are paying off, helping Adfactors—still India’s largest corporate and financial communications specialist—grow by around 20 percent in 2012. The firm continues to derive a large part of its revenues from the financial realm, thanks to extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions, IPOs and restructurings. Major clients include some of India's largest companies and overseas multinationals, most notably in the financial services sector: State Bank of India, ICICI Group, Larsen & Toubro, Jet Airways, Maruti Suzuki, Barclays Banking Group, Unit Trust of India, Aviva Life Insurance, Nissan Motor Company, Adani Group, JSW Group and GMR Group. Additions in 2012 included Vodafone, Citibank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Essar Group, Mahindra Group, and more.—AS/PH
Finalists: Artemis, Brunswick, Ogilvy Public Relations, Strategic Public Relations Group

Technology Consultancy of the Year: Bite Communications

The firm formerly known as Upstream may have dramatically reshaped its offering since being acquired by Bite, yet much of its success must be down to the reassuring management stability provided by David Ketchum and Paul Mottram. The duo are now supported by a solid Asia-Pacific management team, all of whom have played a role in ushering an innovative rollout of new services at the agency. The 2012 acquisition of search firm Red Bricks Media followed two earlier digital buys, turning Bite into a firm that is as comfortable handling digital marketing as it is running media relations activity. Bite grew its Asia-Pacific revenue by almost 15 percent in 2012 to US$8m, providing ample evidence that its strategy is bearing fruit, and all accomplished without a noticeable pipeline of global business for the US or Europe. For technology clients, Bite’s integrated marketing capabilities give it a clear edge, and the firm’s expansion into the broader B2B and consumer market suggests that neither Ketchum nor Mottram are about to slow down anytime soon.—AS
Finalists: Hoffman Agency, Lewis PR, Rice Communications, Six Degrees