Principal: Keiji Nishie
Ownership: Vector Inc
Offices: 9; Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Taipei
Revenues: US $82,000,000
Vector’s focus in 2015 was squarely on content production. The agency created a service called VideoWire, which CEO Keiji Nishie sees as eventually replacing the written press release as a means of disseminating information.
VideoWire enables the creation and distribution of original online video content. This usually takes the form of press conferences or exhibitions and events. Instead of charging clients for organising a press conference, Vector makes money from putting the content out online and hitting a certain viewership target specified within the budget.
In the space of around five months, Nishie claims around 200 clients have made use of the service, mostly on a project basis. He expects that number to reach 1,000 by the end of the new fiscal year. In particular, it has helped Vector get a foot in the door with more luxury clients, Nishie says. Companies on board so far include Ferrari, Ikea and Laforet, the latter a retail site that used VideoWire to appeal to potential visitors to Japan in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Nishie says what makes the service important is that unlike a press release, it can appeal directly to consumers as well as the media. It also gives more control to clients in promoting their products. Typically, at a press conference where a celebrity endorser is involved, the media ignores the brand and focuses on the celebrity, he says.
VideoWire aims to redress the balance—although we think it’s doubtful that viewers will respond well to an overload of product shots, so the service should be used with caution.
Overall, Vector’s business grew 30 percent year-on-year in revenue terms. Nishie does not attribute that to anything concrete, but it’s worth noting that the agency has grown steadily for the past five years. Its newswire distribution service, PR Times, listed on the Mothers (Market of the high growth and emerging stocks) section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in March.
The biggest challenge Vector faced, he says, was the controversy around its alleged use of so-called ‘stealth marketing’ techniques for clients—essentially, the media placement of paid promotions as legitimate pieces of editorial coverage.
Negative coverage of the alleged activities in a business tabloid resulted in a fall in Vector’s stock value, but Nishie says it has since recovered, and that client relationships were not affected.
Vector is still one of few Japanese PR agencies to be able to boast an international footprint, with offices in a number of Asian markets (see credentials above). Nishie claims around 30 percent growth here too, but the overseas pie remains small—just 10 percent of Vector’s total business. Clients are mostly Japanese, but it does work with some local companies too.
The agency did not claim any award wins and in fact Nishie says they are not important to him. Rather than winning awards for creative work, he says his guiding aim is to be creative in business. The agency hired around 100 people over the past 12 months, many of whom Nishie says come from non-PR backgrounds.
The purpose of this, he says, is to help rejuvenate the industry and make it more creative. Again, for him that doesn’t mean winning awards at Cannes, but acting as a true partner to clients rather than as an order-taker.
Technology has given PR agencies the option to be much more proactive, he says, and he plans to capitalise on that opportunity. To build on the launch of VideoWire, he says the priority for the coming year is to host casting sessions for celebrity influencers on behalf of clients.
He chooses not to compare Vector to other PR agencies. Instead, he looks to holding companies like WPP, or tech startups, for inspiration. "A typical PR agency [in Japan] can only do PR," he says.
"They can’t do video, and they can’t do that much online or with social networking. We think our approach is different. We are trying to find our own way."