Sing Praise: The top 10 creative agencies in Singapore (part 2)

Y&R Singapore's 'Kites of Hope' campaign for Roshni helpline helped reunite missing children with their families

Who are the most successful agencies in Singapore? In The Drum magazine's latest Creative Cities supplement, we profiled the city state's 10 most awarded shops as ranked by the most recent Big Won report. See part one here.

BBDO

For BBDO, the starting point for success is always creative and this has driven its success in Asia Pacific, according to the region’s chairman Jean-Paul Burge. In a recent interview with The Drum, Burge articulated what was needed to drive success in a world that is more complicated than ever for clients.

“An advertising agency has to create magic, which is great work,” he said. “We also create a factory that delivers this, and all of us do the same thing, all the networks are doing those two things. But the important part is: what is your starting point? Is your starting point to create a factory or is your starting point you create the magic?”

It’s a point of view that seems to be bearing fruit: at this year’s Cannes, BBDO won Network of the Year and Clemenger BBDO won Agency of the Year. Specifically in Asia Pacific, awards were won from India to New Zealand and by both Australia and Thailand, with the Singapore office acting, as with many other agencies, as a hub where leadership and network leaders are based.

The Singapore office is not short of its own creative clout, however, with BBDO leading the creative charge for brands such as Guinness. Recent work includes an extension of the ‘What Are You Made Of?’ brand platform, creating a film about Luke Landrigan, a surfer who went from a small fishing village in the Philippines to global success. Echoing Burge’s points, Richard Fraser, president of BBDO for Southeast Asia, told The Drum: “We are continuously evolving our agency and our capabilities to meet the needs of an ever-changing environment, including launching Flare, our in-house branded content offering.”

An image from BBDO's campaign for Guinness as part of the 'Made of More' positioning

Kinetic

Kinetic stands out from many others on this list, despite its 500+ creative accolades, because it is both a Singapore-born agency and still independent. With just short of 6 million people in Singapore, one key issue for agencies is making the small domestic market work in terms of scale.

Co-founder and creative director Pann Lim says: “We are one of the few independent Singaporean agencies to make a mark on the international scene and we continue to push the boundaries and ourselves. When it comes to anything creative we are always game to take it on, be it in the fields of design and advertising or digital and events, or even retail and curatorial.”

One reason the agency has stood the test of time and been around for 18 years is its innovative approach to creativity and a constantly evolving business model. One of its most recent projects is its own retail and community arts business.

“In 2015 we set up K+ Curatorial Space, a multi-concept store encompassing an art gallery as well as a retail-cum-community space,” says Lim. “This has allowed us to further shine the spotlight on local artists and designers by giving them a platform to showcase their works in the heart of Orchard Road.”

With so many others unable to create a sustainable model or having to seek acquisition, what has Kinetic been doing right in this space?

“We have always taken pride in our family-like culture. We have been blessed with a great team that works really well together and our staff turnover is perhaps one of the lowest in the industry. We are also happy to say that many of our clients have a long-term relationship with us too.

“We don’t believe there is such a thing as a formula for creativity. Clichéd as it may sound, inspiration truly does come from everywhere and not just things labeled ‘design’ or ‘art’. Embrace the full spectrum of life, from the beautiful to the ugly... be observant, be curious and, most of all, stay open.”

Kinetic's gallery space

Dentsu

Established in 1994, Dentsu Singapore offers a range of marketing services, maintaining an in-house media arm plus a sports and entertainment content division. The agency has been a creative partner to Toyota, Panasonic, Canon and Uniqlo among many others. In May, Christina Lim took up the post of managing director at the agency where, according to its website, “the folks are cool and coffee is always served piping hot”.

With the mantra of ‘Good Innovation’, the agency aims to exceed expectations with its integrated approach to creative problem solving.

“At Dentsu Singapore, we don’t do things that are different for the sake of being different,” says Lim. “We have a proven track record of winning hearts and minds and this is evident from our portfolio of happy clients and our track record of winning pitches. It stretches across all types of brands, from consumer electronics to FMCGs, government ministries to statutory boards and agencies, and financial institutions to non-profit organizations.”

The agency has recently been given a creative brief for Subway, while Land Transport Authority (LTA) has tasked it with supporting its public transport campaign for the fourth year running.“Over the next year we are injecting fresh perspectives and new capabilities into our talent base,” says Lim. “Our recent new hires bring to the table valuable business perspectives as established brand marketers. We have also strengthened our digital consulting capabilities to support our clients in their journey for digital transformation.”

Dentsu's commercial for Toyota: 'Do the Wakudoki'

TBWA

Last year, The Drum’s Singapore agency guide wore a slightly different hat and focused purely on the city’s most innovative shops. Including TBWA in the guide, an agency driven by its ethos of disruption, was a no-brainer. But with this year’s list being dictated by creative awards won as per the Big Won rankings, it gives additional credence to the agency’s focus.

For the agency, disruption is something that has led to a new process in creative thinking and helps it create ties between its clients and cultural moments. “It’s our system for identifying triggers in culture that are meaningful to our clients’ brands,” TBWA\Singapore managing director Ara Hampartsoumian explains. “We interpret these in real time and then determine the course of action in order for the brand to be responsive and relevant. That course of action could be a tweet or a PR stunt or the beginning of a campaign or a new product development. It can be anything.”

For TBWA, work that helps show this in action includes Michelin’s ‘Driving Passion’, which tells the story of Mike Newman, the fastest blind man on earth, who followed his dream to become a racing driver. Work for Maybelline titled ‘Be Your Own Filter’ saw a ‘Snapchat hack’ by two Singaporean influencers who recreated the famed Snapchat filter using Maybelline make-up, teasing the content using videos and behind-the-scenes information.

“Both won Gold at Singapore Markies for Best Male Audience Idea and Best Female Audience Idea, respectively. These top awards indicate our success in becoming one of the most culturally connected companies in Singapore, providing the insights that help locate and involve our clients’ brands in modern culture. The Maybelline campaign won additional awards at both APAC and Singapore Effies,” says Hampartsoumian.

In terms of what’s next for the agency, it will be looking to build on work it has been doing in linking to the tech and digital sphere in Asia Pacific by undertaking branding workshops as part of tech conference Slush’s pitching competition, as well as allowing winning startups to join its TBWA\Brand Accelerator program that launched last year. It also became the first agency to partner with Facebook to train every employee on the newest mobile tools.

“We’ll be ramping up training courses and development programs as we focus on nurturing talent and building future leaders from within.”

'Driving Passion' for Michelin

Y&R

‘Resist the Usual’ is the philosophy with which Y&R Singapore approaches work. As a provider of creative solutions for brands including Land Rover, Colgate and the Singaporean Navy, the agency encourages employees to experiment and collaborate in an environment where ideas thrive.

“We empower our teams to seek the road less traveled and explore uncharted territories without fear of failure, so we can provide new ideas that solve our clients’ problems in unexpected ways,” says Troy Lim, the executive creative director who moved to the agency from Publicis Singapore earlier this year.

“We live in an age where new technologies and innovations are surfacing every day, and creativity is how we connect the dots in new and surprising ways. What this means for us is that we need to collaborate more with different partners to create exciting bespoke solutions for our clients.”

Recent work by Y&R Singapore includes creating the world’s first consumer astronomy camera for TinyMos, with the aim of making astrophotography accessible to a broader consumer base. The product was recognized at this year’s Cannes Lions for mobile and product design.

The agency has also helped Guide Dogs Association of the Blind improve the quality of life of the visually impaired with an audio-based app that complements canes and guide dogs, in order to help people get around independently.

Y&R appointed Shirley Tay from the Singapore office of Australian creative shop Zoo in April as chief executive officer. She says: “Embracing diversity is one of the strengths of Singapore. The melting pot of cultures from talents drawn across the world creates an environment where new ideas and innovations inject vibrancy into our economy and society.”

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Robyn Darbyshire

Robyn Darbyshire is a content editor at The Drum, writing and editing across print and digital editions as well as helping to manage production processes. She looks after Creative Works, Trending and Shelf Life in the magazine.

All by Robyn