Tarun Deo launches agency, signs Dole as first client

The industry veteran—known for his leadership at Golin and FleishmanHillard—unveils a new venture valued at SG$3 million.

Tarun Deo launches agency, signs Dole as first client

Tarun Deo (pictured above) is not the first PR leader to give up a fancy title at a large network to start an indie. But he definitely is in the rare category of PR start-up founders who are set to stay in the medium-term, thanks to an impressive SG$500k (US$372k) of early funding from external investors.

The former Southeast Asia managing director at Golin this week launched Progressive Communications, a new venture valued at SG$3 million (US$2.2 million). Deo had been itching to form his own company even during his FleishmanHillard days, where he was SVP, managing director and senior partner for APAC.

"I really wanted to also be my own boss, that was a big attraction," Deo told PRWeek Asia. "There's also very limited opportunities [out there] for people of my experience. I'm really fortunate to be able to have all these components come together. And I hope to see more people do it because it can be done."

Progressive will employ an earned-first approach paired with data and analytics, which Deo said allows him to keep resources lean.

"This is the beauty of data and analytics, it's a very specific skillset" he said. "In the good old days, if I needed to have that as part of my offering, I would have to go and find somebody and pay the person a hefty salary. But with Covid and the virtual agency model, clients aren't really expecting you to have all your capabilities in one live location. "

To support the data and analytics capability of Progressive, Deo partnered with Denmark-based Kristian Hoareau Foged, founder and director of analytics & strategy at Simply Thought.

Progressive has also inked partnerships with Peppercomm in the US and UK, and First Partners in India to provide future clients in Singapore with key multi-market perspective and scalability.

Deo also created a playbook to outline the priorities of Progressive, chief of which is earned media, a "heritage component" of the industry.

"Earned-first works well on both traditional and digital mediums. And coming from the heritage of PR, that will always be our first prism to look through," said Deo.

The second part of the playbook is data and analytics, a rising demand among clients which Deo said can serve as a point of differentiation for clients.

"Data can help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace which can feed into your creative. In the old days, PR was basically about good writers but today, that can be visual, audio, multimedia, and so on," he said. "I think modern agencies need to have a data and analytics capability so that they can read the tea leaves, and they need to have a capability that deciphers those tea leaves and then be in a position to let that insight fuel the creative."

Deo added that over a period of time, the agency will probably gravitate towards a certain industry-centric specialisation. But for the moment, it will be informed by its current rolodex of leads. Incidentally, Dole is Progressive's first client and the agency will provide services in PR strategy, planning, executive profiling, and counsel across Asia.

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