Weber Shandwick Asia-Pacific has corralled several of its offerings, including content arm Mediaco, its digital team and Innovation Lab, and launched it as a practice it calls Weber Shandwick I/O (which stands for integrated operations).
The practice brings together a team of 100 staff across six hubs in Asia and represents about 20 per cent of the agency’s revenues in Asia-Pacific (when measured as integrated content marketing). Globally, that figure is 30 per cent.
As part of the practice’s soft launch at the start of the year, WS promoted Jonathan Wade to president of Weber Shandwick I/O and ECD of Weber Shandwick. Wade was previously ECD and president of CMG Worx, IPG’s creative technology arm.
Jye Smith, SVP digital Asia-Pacific has likewise taken on the additional role of head of strategy for I/O.
"What we’ve done is restructure our services to allow us to put an emphasis around creativity, particularly, creative technology," Wade told PRWeek Asia.
This emphasis on creativity lead Wade to his other role, that of ECD. "It’s a route a lot of PR agencies are going down now and they’re competing with lots of different agency disciplines," he said. "Creativity and ideas have always been important to PR but even more so now that the agencies pitch for work outside standard communications."
As ECD, Wade is responsible for the creative resources the agency plans to launch, not just for "work that’s already been done". "One of the things that’s changed a lot in PR is the move away from words and more into visual comms. We’ve been talking quite a long time now about the role of visual communications in influencing people and the skill has traditionally sat in the ad agencies. That’s changed. My role now spans both copy and art."
The difference between I/O and Mediaco, he continued, is best expressed by the work the agency is pitching for. "We’re looking at work that extends beyond brand publishing, that is involved with launching new brands such as the launch of Crayola in Japan."
Another example of the type of work I/O is looking to do more of is its work with Spotify as part of its partnership with the upcoming event, The Music Run in Singapore. The run is a global movement featuring an un-timed non-competitive 5km fun run split into five 1km music zones, each with a different music genre: Rock, Pop, Old School, Hip Hop and Dance. Each zone’s playlist is selected via Spotify.
"Our challenge was to connect runners to the music in an immersive and personal way," said Aki Takahashi, head of consumer marketing Asia-Pacific for Spotify. So the team at Spotify collaborated with WS’ creative tech team to create a new app that would invite users to vote and share their favourite songs on the event playlists. "This would result in crowd-sourced playlists specifically for the event."
Despite its new emphasis on being creative-led, WS I/O will continue to approach client briefs from the point-of-view of public relations, said Wade. "Whereas in an ad agency, a key visual, tagline or big idea would drive planning, our is build around a sustained series of communications that’s continually going out. It’s a publishing mindset."