Former Golin SEA lead Tarun Deo launches Progressive Communications

Tarun Deo, former MD, Singapore and Southeast Asia of GOLIN, has launched Progressive Communications which touts itself to adopt a data-driven, earned-first PR and communications philosophy. Progressive has raised SG$500,000 from external investors at a SG$3,000,000 valuation. The new agency is already working with Dole Sunshine Company on retainer across Asia, offering services in PR strategy, planning, executive profiling, and counsel across Asia.

Deo (pictured) told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that with the funds, it has enough working capital for the next 18 months, which also gives the company the runway to find its feet. "While many agencies get launched, I can't think of any other agency in Asia, in the last 12 months, that has launched with a SG$3,000,000 valuation and half a million dollars in the bank," he explained.

Progressive currently has five employees and has inked partnerships with Peppercomm in the US and UK, as well as First Partners in India. The aim is to offer clients in Singapore with key multi-market perspective and scalability. Progressive's data-centric and consumer insight offering is brought to life via its partnership with Simply Thought, a communications strategy consultancy based in Copenhagen. Deo explained that the proposition of an earned-first PR and using data analytics to fuel multimedia creatives, as well as a mix of traditional and online media is a proposition that he has trialled and errored during his time in the industry. At the same time, the partnerships he has inked form a robust network for Progressive outside of Singapore. 

Currently, there are no plans to expand into other Southeast Asian countries or even Hong Kong just yet because Deo believes its headquarters in Singapore has the capabilities to do "a fair amount of initial strategic work" that covers these markets. Dole is one good example. Nonetheless, Deo is not ruling out the possibility of expansion or future partnerships in those countries, depending on its future clients and their demands. 

Deo left Golin last November after seven and a half years. He told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE previously that he was hired to build a modern and progressive PR firm from the ground up in Singapore and "the last seven and a half years have been terrific in that regard". He joined the agency in 2013 from FleishmanHillard (now known as Omnicom PR Group). At FleishmanHillard, he last helmed the role of SVP, managing director and senior partner, Asia Pacific. During his time there, he ran the Southeast Asia and India markets. Before FleishmanHillard, he was with Text100 (now known as Archetype) for more than nine years, last helming the role of VP, new business, Asia Pacific.

According to Deo, the name "Progressive" symbolises what the firm will be in the industry. "We want to be a progressive public relations counsel and partner to our clients, empowering them to tell their stories in a simple yet compelling and persuasive way across platforms and mediums. Consumer insights, data analytics and creative excellence will fuel our approach in designing online and offline audience interactions that matter," he explained.

Among the list of services Progressive offers include communications strategy, crisis management, employee engagement, purpose and impact strategy, public affairs, creative strategy as well as social media marketing. Progressive's website states that its ultimate goal is to help brands and staff grow with clarity and purpose. It emphasises values such as finishing the race, going beyond expectations, and ubuntu, which also means bringing out the best in others.

When asked who Progressive's competitors are, Deo explained that he has yet to give plenty of thought about whether the agency is going to be competing with the boutiques or the multinationals. "I'm really focusing on what our proposition is and finding the right kind of clients that would effectively work with us because they like what they see. It's a clean slate and we can put together a proposition that any client wants, which is what we have done for Dole," he explained. To raise awareness about Progressive, Deo is eyeing speaking and sponsorship opportunities to engage with individuals outside of his network too.

Founder and CEO of Peppercomm, Steve Cody, said being able to support Dole's needs in Asia, and Singapore specifically, had become increasingly important as both parties expanded their relationship together. "We knew that finding a partner in the region who would match our culture, understand our storytelling approach, and be able to hit the ground running was critical," he explained.

According to Cody, Deo and his team at Progressive have quickly and seamlessly become an integral part of the Peppercomm team.

Meanwhile, founding partner of First Partners, Atul Ahluwalia, said it has been looking at opportunities to expand internationally with a virtual agency model. "We are glad to have found in Deo a great partner with shared values, a track record as an industry leader and a commitment to deliver cutting edge, industry-defining work besides looking at novel ways of growing the agency business. The coming together of this partnership brings alive a vibrant network of specialists with footprints in India, Singapore/Asia and the US, allowing us to offer a unique proposition to our clients," Ahluwalia added.

At the same time, founder and director of analytics and strategy at Simply Thought, Kristian Hoareau Foged, said wherever its partners are in the world, they share the agency's vision of communications that is led by data and human insight. This is why they enjoy partnering with Deo and Progressive.

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