The Agency opened its doors in Asia on October 20, 1996.
It has been an amazing, fun, torturous, weird, satisfying, frustrating and enlightening adventure.
I made my first trip to Asia in 1994 as part of a press tour for Hyundai Electronics (now known as Hynix). After researching PR resources in that part of the world, we engaged with a Hong-Kong-based agency focused on the tech sector — I’ll leave out the name to protect the guilty — that positioned itself as a pan Asia Pacific company with feet on the street in all of the major markets. It took ownership for the press conferences, securing journalists, venue, etc.
Talk about a press conference hustle.
We staged five press conferences in five days, hitting Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Not everything went according to plan.
At our first press conference in Tokyo, no one had bothered to mention that the format for overhead projectors in Japan — yes, LCD projectors were still a curiosity back in 1994 — was different from the format of the overhead projectors in the U.S. Our client put his first foil on the projector ready to sing the virtues of the latest MPEG-2 chip only to see roughly 20 percent of his content cut off the screen.
The journalists reacted with a gasp … and then utter silence that would make a monastery sound rowdy. They were embarrassed for my client.
My client wasn’t embarrassed.
He was angry.
The only thing missing from the Tokyo press conference post mortem was a single light bulb and the client offering me a cigarette.
Eventually, I was “released,” but something of consequence went awry at every “tour stop.” After finishing up in Singapore and stocking up on knock-off Hermes scarfs, I figured out that this agency partner of ours wasn’t really a pan Asia Pacific tech agency at all. It was a HK agency that secured multi-market assignments in the region, then doled out the spoils to its affiliates taking a cut of the action. That’s why the press tour was so disjointed, and I felt like I was dealing with five different agencies.
I was dealing with five different agencies.
It got me thinking, there’s got to be a better way.
That was the genesis for launching in Asia Pacific — that we could bring the best of both worlds to the table. Existing international agencies had the dots on the map, but not the maniacal focus on tech. Tech-focused PR agencies existed in major markets in Asia, but they didn’t have infrastructure outside their home markets. We would bring these two elements together — a multi-market infrastructure and focus on tech.
Naturally, our high-level positioning has evolved over the years. Fast forwarding to today, here’s how we see our place in the communications world:
Our success in Asia as well as Europe and the U.S. in handling international campaigns comes down to the people and our collaborative environment. You might think that this dynamic exists in all international PR agencies, but that’s not the case. Their individual office P/L rewards silo behavior. Without this legacy weighing us down, content, thinking and even connections, naturally move across geographies.
The venture capitalist Randy Komisar pointed out in his book, “The Monk and the Riddle,” that companies “are like the laws of physics, neither inherently good nor evil …”
I’ll take this a step further and say that companies at their best enrich employees’ lives. The way we embrace our colleagues around the world not only serves our clients, but it often enriches our employees’ lives — like Kelly Trom, one of our account executives based in San Jose who’s currently experiencing a two-month assignment in Hong Kong.
That’s what brings meaning to the journey.