The Holmes Report recently shorted-listed our Asia Pacific team as Tech Agency of the Year in the region.
As an agency that competes against companies 50+ times larger, this type of industry recognition is important. It reminds the outside world that bigger isn’t better (said the guy who tips 5 foot 4 on a good day).
Stepping back in time for a moment, we were the first U.S. tech consultancy to set up shop in Asia in 1996, bringing together domain expertise in the tech sector, the sophistication of a large agency and the high-touch of a boutique. This proposition served us well for many years. Still, human nature gravitates toward the status quo. We concluded a couple years ago that it was time to reshape our Asia Pacific operation.
Of course, after 20+ years in the region, the Agency had several fundamental assets: independent (not consumed by financial performance), critical mass, a culture that cares about people and a real focus to deliver for clients. The idea was to build on this foundation with fresh eyes starting with Caroline Hsu who took the reins as Asia Pacific MD in May 2017.
Disrupting continuity starts at the top. In addition to Caroline, we hired Jason Cao as China GM, Miranda Lee as GM of Korea, Marc Sparrow as GM of Hong Kong, and promoted Maureen Tseng to GM of Singapore. If Maureen’s name sounds familiar to those who have followed our Asia journey, that’s because she was the first person we hired in Asia in 1998.
These folks joined Shingo Nomura, head of North Asia, and Lydia Lau, global VP ops to explore the questions, “What can we do better than competing agencies?” and “What do today’s clients want from their communication partners?” That served as the basis for retooling our AP operation.
Fast forwarding to today, we’re back to enjoying a leadership position in Asia.
We saw revenue jump 19 percent in 2017 with strong growth projected through 2018 and beyond.
Looking at our Asia Pacific topline revenue going back to the beginning, you see a journey that doesn’t always go according to plan. There’s truth to the cliché that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’m taking our team in an arm-wrestling contest regardless of opponent.
We’re supporting a range of clients ranging from big brands like Adobe, Blackberry and Johnson Control to startups and everything in between. In many cases, we’re implementing campaigns across multiple markets which brings me to another point. We believe we can implement multi-market campaigns in Asia and throughout the world for that matter better than any other agency on the planet.
Our DNA features a collaboration chain (that high school biology class finally comes in handy). This also involves our U.S. leadership team, Steve Burkhart, Kymra Knuth and Steve Jursa, as well as our European MD Mark Pinsent. Combine this collaboration with an infrastructure that doesn’t worship individual office P/L, and the result is thinking and content that naturally flow across geographies. People want to help their colleagues succeed. What a concept!
More than traditional PR, the work often includes social media, digital marketing, SEO and even varied forms of paid media. With that said, I want to make a point that applies not only to Asia, but to all of our teams around the world. Media relations still matters. The third-party validation that comes from media coverage builds equity in the client’s brand. While I could write a book on why we’re particularly good at it, the short version is we think like journalists and construct content accordingly.
As far as footprint, to fortify our Greater China offering, we recently opened an office in Taipei and launched an office in Jakarta last year that anchors our long-term Southeast Asia strategy.
Regardless of how the Holmes Report award plays out, we’re going to keep pushing and evolving to help our clients win.
Did I mention bigger isn’t better?
If you’d like more information on our Asia Pacific operation, drop me a line at LHoffman@Hoffman.com and I’ll send our AP credentials deck your way.
Note: In celebration of our 20th anniversary in Asia, we put together the following video. My parents hijack the story with a cameo appearance at the end (watch past the signoff).