"At some levels, I think that Bite in the last number of years has had its ups and downs, but one thing you can reflect on is that Bite Asia has been an incredibly strong brand," she said. "Any challenges it’s faced internationally are not reflected here."
The merger should be viewed, she said, as the marriage of two strong brands rather than a reaction to the challenges Bite has faced elsewhere. "Having our resources integrated, we create considerable scale across our business, and that is an important aspect of being seen as competitive in this market," Hynes said.
The combined entity in Asia-Pacific is expected to contribute 30 per cent of Text100’s global revenues, she added.
However, Tim Dyson, CEO of parent company Next Fifteen recently told PRWeek's Daniel Farey-Jones that Bite has "struggled to be a global agency" and needed to carve out a different reason for its existence.
Bite will also be merging with Text100 in mainland Europe but will continue to operate in the US and the UK.
The process, which will take place between September and December this year, will involve around 300 members of staff and will span operations in Mainland China, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.
Also present in the phone interview this evening with Hynes were the merged entity’s new leaders: Paul Mottram, Asia-Pacific vice-president at Bite and Anne Costello, Text100 regional director for Asia-Pacific. The three leaders were calling from Sydney where the joint agencies have been holding a management meet in the lead up to this announcement.
Following the merger, Costello and Mottram will jointly lead the regional team of about 300, reporting directly to Hynes.
David Ketchum, president Asia-Pacific of Bite, will be staying on to help with the transition and moving on "pretty swiftly" to helm a new initiative, said Mottram. "He’s gone into stealth mode, but he hasn’t already left. We can’t disclose at present if David and his new project will be staying with the group, that remains to be seen."
Hynes, and Dyson, are not expecting a large number of redundancies in the region during the merger. "Both businesses are healthy and the integration is less about looking at headcount reduction and more about economies of scale."
These gains will stem mostly from real estate, as the agencies reduce their footprint by moving into a single office, and in back-end office operations. "The front end is about clients, our hope is that we will retain all of our clients," Hynes said.
Nevertheless, Bite has already decided not to participate in long-term client HTC’s agency review process in Asia-Pacific. "HTC has been a client for quite awhile but has been declining," explained Mottram. "We have communicated with them and have agreed to help in the short term until the handover."
Client conflict was, of course, top of the list of concerns when the two agencies started to examine the possibility of integrating. "It was resoundingly clear that what conflict we had did not detract from the fact that these businesses [Text100 and Bite] are much better together," added Mottram.
The joint client list will include Blackberry, Cisco, IBM, Lenovo and VMware in the technology field; Expedia, Rakuten, Tencent, and TripAdvisor in e-commerce; corporate clients such as DHL, Schneider Electric, Standard Chartered and SWIFT; Lupin and the Max Bupa group in healthcare; as well as household names such as Beats by Dr Dre, Cadbury, Haagen-Dazs, Hong Kong Disneyland, Jawbone, Maruti Suzuki, Peroni and Qatar Airlines among many consumer brands.
According to both Costello and Mottram, clients have been supportive of the merger. "They want that extra scale from us, extra skills and best practices of which we now have more to share," said Mottram.
The process is also helped by the similar fees charged by both agencies. "We hire similar people and generally cost about the same amount of dollars," he said.
Around 25 to 30 per cent of Text100’s business in Asia-Pacific stems from non-traditional PR, said Costello. This figure varies by market, ranging from 40 per cent in Malaysia and Singapore to a much lower figure in India.
"Bite has a strong digital team that focuses on SEM and SEO in Hong Kong, whereas we have a team, in KL, that’s focused on creative and brand building," Costello said. "So when we were presenting to each other it was very much an ah-hah moment. We’re stronger with the two lots of skills."
The merger process will be "easier than you’d think", said Hynes. "Next Fifteen under Dyson has a common set of values shared by Text and Bite. Building a new culture around that will be easier than acquiring the company externally."
Right now, the leadership team is examining the business market by market and client by client. "Some markets are just really easy. For example, it’s easy to say that Text100 will move into the Bite offices in Hong Kong and vice-versa in Singapore".
Following the merger, the leadership by market is as follows:
Australia – co-lead model
- Karen Wells, Managing Consultant
- Karen Coleman, General Manager (from Bite)
- Yeow Meiling, managing director, Text100 Greater China and apac senior vice president, also overseeing Digital Hub Kuala Lumpur. Lancy Ma, MD of Bite will be reporting in to Meiling.
Singapore & Malaysia
- Marc Ha, vice president and managing consultant for Singapore & Malaysia
- Rosemary Merz, GM (from Bite), also overseeing Digital Hub Hong Kong
- Erica Pompen, SVP, Asia-Pacific consultancy director for Text100 will continue to focus on Asia-Pacific clients.
- Sunayna Malik, managing director for the whole of India region. The local office leads will be reporting in to Sunayna.