6 APAC agencies to watch out for in 2021

In a year of hope and recovery, these (fairly new) agencies are working against the odds to grow and adapt in the region.

Top: (L-R) Manifest Melbourne co-founders Jessie Bowers and Isabel Thomson-Officer; Bottom left: Duo Studio team; Bottom right: Saskia Kendall, APAC head of health, Sandpiper Communications
Top: (L-R) Manifest Melbourne co-founders Jessie Bowers and Isabel Thomson-Officer; Bottom left: Duo Studio team; Bottom right: Saskia Kendall, APAC head of health, Sandpiper Communications

Sandpiper Communications

In late 2019, CEO Emma Smith led a management buyout (MBO) of MHP Communications, leading to the formation of Sandpiper, which she claims is now "100 percent employee-owned".

In just a year, Sandpiper has grown rapidly as reputed healthcare specialist, which makes it a promising player in a year of Covid vaccine rollouts. Saskia Kendall, head of health for APAC, has a task ahead of her in a critical year for healthcare comms. Plus, last year, the agency launched its health practice in Hong Kong which will be led by Jenny Jackson. We're excited to see how Sandpiper maneuverers current healthcare challenges, and to chart it continued growth in the region.

Hope Communications

Former HSBC leader Victoria Coplans Hope launched Hope Communications late last year, specialising in employee engagement and communications, change and leadership communications, and redundancy communications advisory.

We've seen how the pandemic has driven employee comms further up the agenda, and we expect Hope's services to be in high demand in 2021. Based in Hong Kong, Hope has partnered with Ashbury Communications—led by Adam Harper—to deliver integrated internal and external communications propositions for corporate change processes in Asia.


The dynamic content marketing agency launched in Melbourne late last year, marking its first step into APAC. The new office will be led by Manifest Melbourne co-founders Isabel Thomson-Officer (managing director) and Jessie Bowers (creative director). According to group chief executive Alex Myers, the decision to open in Melbourne was fuelled by a need to expand that reach to the southern hemisphere, giving clients access to a 24-hour creative operation.
While Manifest will be headquartered in Melbourne, its intention is to grow the team "far and wide" to source the talent from across the country. This nationwide recruitment process is already underway.

Duo Studio

This boutique social media agency may be small in size but is slowly gaining ground in Singapore by working with clients such as BreadTalk, Toast Box, ParkRoyal Collection, American Express, Disney Southeast Asia, FNN (NutriSoy, NutriWell), and KAO Group.

Early last year, it expanded into Malaysia which founder Stephanie Phua says is a "first stop in [the agency's] regional expansion roadmap". She adds: "Social media market maturity across Malaysia is quite uneven. While there are great campaigns, but we also see some brands struggling. We see an opportunity to help MNCs stay relevant and upskill mid-sized companies to be able to compete with impactful campaigns."

Companion Communications

Lifestyle PR veteran Dominique Backhouse has extensive experience working with travel and hospitality brands, most recently as regional head of comms and PR at COMO Hotels. In 2019, she set up Companion Communications to specialise in "regionally relevant" PR.

The hook of Companion is that it employs no junior staff and instead enlists members with a number of years of experience across comms modalities such as regional positioning, content creation, and social media. Clients include names that fall in Backhouse's wheelhouse such as Teardrop Hotels and Ovolo Hotels.

Citrine One

The Kuala Lumpur-based agency has made great strides in 2020, pointing to continued expansion this year. In June, it launched its international Citrine One Global to provide multi-tier strategic comms services in multiple territories in Southeast Asia (SEA) and Australia.

Citrine One Global is positioned as a gateway for Malaysian businesses seeking comms services in new markets, and for international businesses looking for a footing in Malaysia and other SEA markets. Affiliates within the alliance include Ardent Communications (Philippines & Vietnam), Ying Communications (Singapore), IMAGI PR (Indonesia) and Bass PR (Australia). We personally like to see homegrown Southeast Asian agencies make it big abroad.

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