FleishmanHillard Asia: Agency Business Report 2015

Among highlights for FleishmanHillard in Asia during 2014 was winning PRWeek's Asia-Pacific Network of the Year in addition to more than 20 other regional awards. Lynne Anne Davis, president and senior partner Asia-Pacific was also named to Campaign-Asia's Most Admired Agency Leaders list.

Lynne Anne Davis
Lynne Anne Davis

Asia Head: Lynne Anne Davis, president and senior partner Asia Pacific
Ownership: Omnicom
Asia Offices: 18
Asia Revenue: undisclosed; R3 estimate US$48 million
Asia Headcount: undisclosed

Among highlights for FleishmanHillard in Asia during 2014 was winning PRWeek's Asia-Pacific Network of the Year in addition to more than 20 other regional awards. Lynne Anne Davis, president and senior partner Asia-Pacific was also named to Campaign-Asia's Most Admired Agency Leaders list.

To highlight regional growth, Davis points out that the firm more than doubled revenue from advertising, citing work for Aflac, Kellogg’s, Uniqlo and HSBC as examples. That the agency would track ad campaigns at all is itself a sign of the times, and a clear indication of the blurring distinction between PR and marketing.

The firm also doubled business with 55 existing clients, while 61 expanded work into additional Asia markets. Within that, there is a distinct trend of local brands growing into regional players, on their way to global status. That overall story, according to Davis, was something the APAC team identified early on and now plays a significant role in the agency’s regional strategy.

Melco Crown Entertainment, a cornerstone casino brand in Macau, falls into that category. Through multiple offices, the agency helped the gaming operator launch in its first new market, the Philippines, at the end of 2014. That work contributed to the near 20 percent billings growth in Hong Kong.

Huawei, the Chinese communications-equipment giant is another name that follows the trend. "Huawei started out as just a project in 2005 and has continued to expand," Davis says. Today it is among the agency’s top-10 Asia-based clients.

While China has been—and still is—a major business driver for FleishmanHillard, India has been another standout over the past year. Davis reports that the market posted over 36 percent growth, as the agency added Hyundai, Akso Nobel and the United Nations Foundation to the client list.

"We saw a big boost in confidence after Narendra Modi took office," Davis says, explaining how the new prime minister has energized the market, and not just for domestic names. "Suddenly India is back on the table for global brands; we could grow revenue as much as 50 percent in India [in 2015]."

Even Japan, with its notoriously low growth, was a positive in 2014. The agency claims billings climbed 19.6 percent for sub brand BlueCurrent in the country, with new accounts Uniqlo, GoPro and Kellogg’s as notable contributors.

Japan, Davis points out, also demonstrates a push to hire strong local leadership. She emphasizes that the agency has always sought to recruit "people who grew up in each market."

Yoshihito Nagakawa, VP and head of strategic planning for BlueCurrent, is an example of that philosophy. He established and is leading strategic planning in Tokyo and represents a wider industry story. As a former planning manager at JWT, Nagakawa brings over 10 years of advertising-agency experience to the PR firm. As digital channels continue to obscure where agencies-types operate, Nagakawa is part of FleishmanHillard’s aim to offer what Davis calls "complete marketing solutions to clients".

Davis backs that up saying: "Since the beginning of 2013, BlueCurrent Japan’s strategic planning team has won landmark projects. [Nagakawa] has been providing marketing communication plans, above the line and below the line, for Aflac, Kellogg’s, Marui, Medtronic, P&G, Suntory and others."

Vox Global Japan, focusing on public affairs and government relations is the third FleishmanHillard brand in Asia. Davis says it had a strong start for 2015, as first-quarter revenue jumped 43 per cent year-on-year.

The brand’s managing director Akihiro Nojiri has over 20 years’ experience in Japan’s Ministry of Finance and holds a Harvard law degree. SVP Minoru Koshida, who leads media relations and issues management, is a 20-year veteran journalist—11 of those years with Reuters in New York City.

The story of relying on local leadership repeats across Asia. In Thailand FleishmanHillard hired Sophis Kasemsahasin as SVP and GM of its new Bangkok office. And Jerry Zou, who oversees the China technology and branding practices for clients such as HP, Li Ning and VW (a new account won in 2014), received a promotion during the year to become the Beijing GM.

Davis says people are the key to how the agency tackles the theme of digital disruption. Building up an analytics team in Asia is one of the priorities she highlights, pointing to a ‘China Masters Exchange Program’ as a way to "incubate" digital talent.

Supply chains and cyber security are two areas you might not expect to find PR firms operating but FleishmanHillard also boosted business by establishing these practices in 2014. Through a partnership with risk-management firm Kroll, FleishmanHillard launched an enterprise network and security service, putting prevention, investigation and response for cybersecurity and data-breach mitigation at the core of the offering.

"With big data comes big breaches," Davis says, framing it in straightforward terms. But for APAC in particular, she explains: "Too often companies are siloed in their approach to cyber security and privacy policy. Either they leave it to IT departments, or they have a number of departments approaching it from different perspectives without tying it all together." Such piecemeal methods mean companies often "learn too late that what makes sense in the legal department may conflict dramatically with audience expectations or the needs of advocates within government".

Another area where FleishmanHillard pushes the PR envelope is with digital hubs, a trend Campaign Asia reported on in its December 2014 issue.

These units combine talent and tools from a range of agencies—including creative, media and PR. The Philips Asia Digital Command Center (PADCC) in Singapore is an example and Davis explains her firm -- as part of the OneVoice Connect team -- helped develop the methodology, framework and processes for it. Since it went live in late 2014, her teams have led staffing and engagement priorities among the agencies and worked with Philips to execute real-time marketing campaigns. From the brand’s perspective, APAC CMO Damien Cummings told Campaign Asia that the PADCC’s intent is to lead trends, not just follow them.

And leading digitally is just where Davis wants to be. She reports that APAC digital revenue is already up 51 percent YOY for 2015, with some of the biggest advances coming from Japan and Greater China.

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