Behind APD’s open approach to finding a partnership to fuel growth

Asia Pacific Digital

Asia Pacific Digital (APD) is on the hunt for the right partnership to help fuel the next stage of the agency’s growth.

Last month APD announced to the market that it had received informal interest from a variety of potential partners and it appointed Kym Pfitzner, former head of M&A for Dentsu Aegis, to its strategic advisory board.

The Drum spoke to APD’s chairman Roger Sharp about the announcements and the decision to be so open about its process in finding a new partnership.

“Several multinational agencies, consulting and technology firms have informally approached APD. Their M&A sweeps of the region have revealed it as the only scale Indie in APAC that could help them to fulfill their ambitions to expand in the world’s fastest growing digital market,” he said.

According to Sharp, the decision then to open up to the market about this was down to transparency for its staff and shareholders.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the degree of unsolicited interest in what we are doing. As we started to engage with potential partners to explore the seriousness of their intent, we felt it necessary to be transparent with both our employees and our shareholders about the process we are going through. We feel strongly that this is a people business. We have a strong team culture and it’s very important that our people are informed and have the opportunity to participate in the process,” he explained.

According to Sharp, many bigger agencies and holding groups have digital requirements from clients that they can’t service in APAC and are still looking at acquisition as a way to scale. He said he couldn’t disclose who APD were in discussions with but said “the really interesting thing is that they aren’t necessarily the usual suspects at all - we are seeing firms from non-traditional fields getting very interested in providing digital services to their clients.”

APD were recently one of the agencies featured in The Drum’s Singapore Innovative Agency Guide and called itself an underdog. But with offices in nine countries and nearly 400 employees, it’s somewhat of a Great Dane in the underdog world. Sharp believes that underdogs can still survive the industry without partnerships and said that if the right agreement couldn't be met, it wouldn’t continue with the process.

“APD doesn’t have to do anything – if the results of the process aren’t going to create a great leap forward, we certainly don’t need to take a leap into the unknown,” he said.

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