AKA Asia has won a slew of new business during the first half of the year, the more recent ones being Viu and Tourism New Zealand. Viu named AKA its retainer PR agency in June while tourism New Zealand appointed the agency for creative PR-led retainer services, as well as to conceptualise and bring to life an integrated campaign to boost the country's aspirational appeal after a pitch held in April.
It was also reappointed by Burger King Singapore for PR and social media duties, supporting the brand in its Taste of Singapore campaign for the second year. Building on the success of the campaign that introduced social distancing crowns to Singapore in 2020, AKA has also partnered with the brand on its priorities throughout the year including the launch of the Ultimate Double Salmon Burger and its April Fool's introduction of the controversial Chocolate Whopper.
Meanwhile, William Grant & Sons also expanded the agency’s support to a regional PR remit for its portfolio of brands - The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Hendrick’s and Monkey Shoulder. AKA also supported the launch of its world-first Distillers Library, an invite-only private client suite. Dilmah Tea also retained the agency for social media services.
In addition to consumer and integrated work, AKA has also grown its corporate portfolio, with World Wide Fund for Nature extending the agency's remit spanning branding, communications, and asset creation for some of the network's global practices and initiatives. Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and Sequoia Capital India’s Surge also brought on board the agency for employee communications and engagement and PR duties respectively. On the education front, AKA continues its integrated communications support for the National University of Singapore, following the launch of the College of Humanities and Sciences last year.
AKA's managing partner Julia Wei told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that while the agency has established its reputation as a consumer agency, 40% of its work is corporate and it currently works with eight tech clients. "We look forward to more integrated communications opportunities for brands across both their corporate reputation and consumer marketing needs," she added.
According to her, many of AKA's current remits straddle both and across sectors. AKA also deliberately structure and train its team to be equipped with a breadth of capability to be able to flex to meet different objectives. "Our design and production team enables us to develop and execute a range of creative communications solutions from social media to corporate storytelling," she added.
"Whether it is corporate or consumer remits, integrated or specialist, we are applying our brand of creative communications to briefs that demand thoughtfulness, agility and bravery to solve upstream challenges," Wei explained when asked how the wins will motivate the agency.
According to her, clients have been consistent about why they appoint AKA or grow its remit. "It usually has to do with creative thinking, care and chemistry. The calibre of clients on the brand side is higher than ever before, and we see them looking for agency partners who can think and act effectively as an extension of their team," Wei said. The agency also emerged as the PR Awards Champion - Agency at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's PR Awards 2020.
Meanwhile, after close to a year on the client-side with Lazada Group, Wei returned to the agency scene last April by joining AKA. Her arrival came amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and since then, she said AKA is seeing clients value the mindset of fearless creativity, which has always been its DNA, more so now in the time of rapid change and heightened complexity.
"Clients do not always have the mindspace to relay information, brief or instruct, so initiative, proactivity and independent action on the agency’s part is key. Clients are also leaning on us more to identify blind spots when it comes to white space opportunities, potential issues or trends they should be taking note of," she added.
The pandemic has also required client-agency relationships to be a lot more collaborative in real-time. According to Wei, things move and change quickly, so clients tend to keep the agency more looped in with the business. AKA is also now using technology and tools that allow it to collaborate efficiently on planning and execution.
To build better relationships with agencies, Wei suggests brands take time to properly induct agencies in the brand and stakeholder world, as this will pay off in the long term.
Guided flexibility is key to working well together in these times - so that the agency understands the decision-making criteria and is empowered to move things forward on your behalf in the right way.
In particular, Wei said clarity on the big picture objectives, dos and don’ts, clear success indicators, and an agreed strategic framework are essential.