Text100: PRWeek Global Agency Business Report 2016

CEO Aedhmar Hynes says 2015 was "an incredibly strong year for Text100."

Principals: Aedhmar Hynes, CEO; and Ken Peters, regional director, North America; Anne Costello, regional director, APAC
Ownership: Next Fifteen
Offices: Global 22; US Boston, New York, Rochester, New York, and San Francisco; APAC 12 wholly owned, 10 partner
Revenue: Global $62.7m; US $27.5m; APAC $18.9m 
Headcount: APAC 301

U.S.

Text100’s global revenue jumped 9% globally and 11% in the U.S. on the back of several recent acquisitions and an international integration with sister agency Bite.

"It was an incredibly strong year for Text100," says CEO Aedhmar Hynes, who declined to reveal organic growth.

Progress is "the culmination of a three-year strategy" to shift toward integrated digital communications and hiring or acquiring talent to deliver digital and social services beyond media relations and comms strategy — all of which is "paying off," according to Hynes.

Eighty-five percent of the global tech-focused firm’s growth in 2015 came from existing clients. "We’re extending relationships," says Hynes. "They’re not spending more on comms; they’re spending more in different parts of the organization."

Digital and social accounts for about 35% of revenue (up from 30% the prior year), and Hynes hopes to shift it closer to 50%. North American clients have been more receptive to integrated marketing services that the 2014 acquisition of Republic Publishing helped infuse, she says. New clients include Schneider Electric, Namely, and KodakAlaris. Longtime clients Xerox and Cisco expanded work.

Asia-Pacific, the Next Fifteen firm’s fastest-growing region at 21% revenue growth with a headcount that tops 300, picked up GoDaddy and WeChat, but also Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Fox International, and William Grant & Sons, reflecting Text100’s strategy to diversify from its tech roots.

The firm also partnered with APCO Worldwide last June to launch a joint healthcare offering, ATDigitalHealth.

Losses in the past year include Dropbox in the U.S. and longtime AMD and SanDisk EMEA accounts. Continental Europe is the one region where "business has been flat," driven by the "larger economic conditions" facing Europe.

Expansion of priorities
The firm acquired brand-marketing consultancy IncrediBull in London and closed an office in Johannesburg. Text100 does not have imminent plans for new geographic expansion. Recent personnel moves hint at its expansion priorities, including the promotion of former Republic Publishing executives James Beechinor-Collins to chief digital officer and Jeppe Christensen to head of content and social in North America, and the hiring of Starcom Mediavest’s Joe Rider to lead global insights and analytics.

Despite a predicted slowdown in tech, Hynes says Text100 isn’t feeling the effects — yet. "We haven’t been given any indication by clients that they’re reducing spend," she says. "From where I sit, markets seem to be growing."

Asia

2015 was the first full year of the firm’s integrated Text100 and Bite business and saw revenues grow by double-digit percentage.

APAC regional director Anne Costello says China, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia were strong markets last year.

"Malaysia has been challenged with economic and political issues, slowing decision making," she says, but adds: "We’re seeing things come back there now though."

"We’re also seeing a softening in Singapore as fears of a slowdown seem to be louder there than anywhere else in the region. Growth has been driven a lot by non-media relations services."

She says she was particularly pleased with a strong, stable year in mainland China, and substantial growth from the team in Delhi.

"We also saw great performance from our digital hubs in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, and we achieved our goal of getting 50 percent of our revenues from non-media relations a year earlier than planned."

This had led to significant growth in work across social, web build, design, email marketing, content and search, she adds.  

Regionally, the firm’s top six clients remain Lenovo, Four Seasons, Solarwinds, IBM, Vmware and Gartner, but 2015 saw it pick up accounts from Turner Broadcasting and William Grant & Sons, with the only significant loss being Optus.

Costello points to three key trends she is witnessing across Asia: fewer agencies are still splitting media from the rest of communications and marketing; more clients expect a fully-integrated service but at the same budget as before; and there are now a growing number of clients who fully understand integration and how to engage consumers.

"The other trend I see is that all ad agencies now seem to think they know everything about earned. For us, though, the increase in work is away from media relations. India is at a tipping point of integrated work, everywhere else expects it," she adds.

Internally, the firm focused on its Vision 2020 strategy to shape the agency’s future direction and also increased its training programmes, CSR and staff-related benefits such as free breakfasts.

It also merged HyperText and its content team in India to create a stronger digital and content proposition locally and is working on plans to roll-out a new structure to better reflect the integrated work its now carrying out.

"We’re also looking at potential acquisitions," adds Costello, "and we’re hiring a digital team in China and more content specialists in India.  We also want more social specialists in Singapore and Australia."

China and India are especially ripe for growth this year, she adds, citing huge opportunities in digital for the former and in content for the latter.

This, combined with solid performance elsewhere, should see the firm chalk up double-digit growth again in 2016.

2016 is likely to see staff numbers in Asia increase to 350, but finding good recruits remains difficult.  

"We’re hiring in new sectors and from different types of agencies now but it’s a huge struggle. Our plan is to approach this with a ‘shaped people’ model, she says.

"Key to this is keeping our own staff and building word of mouth on the Text100 culture and work environment."

One person that the firm was unable to keep hold of was Paul Mottram, who recently joined Allison+Partners as managing director of its All Told digital and content unit.

Mottram was Text100’s managing director of integrated strategy for APAC. Prior to that, he served as COO of independent agency Upstream Asia for eight years before it was acquired by Bite and its parent company Next Fifteen in 2009.

He then became executive vice president of Bite, helping oversee significant growth before it was merged into Text100 in 2014.

Costello now has full control over the firm’s Asia strategy and said she was investigating several options to boost recruitment and retention.

"We are hiring in different sectors, from different agency backgrounds, and looking for new differentiators that appeal to Generation Y and Generation X employees such as tagging company holidays on to offsite visits, offering free travel passes and catered lunches.

"If we can get the people right and the skills we need, we will win the business and keep clients."

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