Two of Hakuhodo DY Holdings’ largest agency networks are teaming up to create a new APAC-wide digital service network called H+, in a bid to export Japanese know-how and expand their technology offerings across Asia.
Hakuhodo Inc. (Hakuhodo), the holding company’s largest creative and brand agency, and D.A. Consortium (DAC), its leading digital media agency, plan to focus on Asia-wide digital growth with team members from both networks across the region collaborating in the new cross-company organisation.
H+ will be led out of Thailand by DAC executive officer and head of its Global Business Group, Michihiko Suganuma, together with Yusuke Miyabe, Hakuhodo’s global business transformation division and Asia DX division leader. Both have relocated from Tokyo to Bangkok where Suganuma will lead H+ operations and supply, while Miyabe will focus on growth and demand.
“APAC has always been a fantastically dynamic region of the world, and now in particular is rapidly making up for lost time and looking for innovation and opportunity again,” Suganuma says. “Across advertising, owned media, commerce and CRM, clients are looking to have engaging conversations with consumers. With data and technology at the core, H+ is focused on empowering our clients to do just that.”
While Hakuhodo’s agency network alone has nearly 100 companies in Asia-Pacific outside of Japan, both Hakuhodo and DAC have identified 22 of their digital-first companies to form the H+ network initially in ten markets across APAC.
Although the H+ network represents a collaborative service offering between agencies, rather than a new entity or agency brand, H+ will be hiring new staff in these companies to coordinate and facilitate H+ services, while also choosing existing select staff from Hakuhodo and DAC to work on each project.
Getting employees across different Asian markets and agency networks to cooperate and work seamlessly work together is “the difficult part,” admits Suganuma, but says Miyabe, himself and others headquartered in Japan are committed to seeing each client’s needs through to completion.
“For instance, let’s say there is a client from Japan aiming to reach 10 countries that we’ve plotted here, then we will make a special task force unit to support the client. We will appoint key members in each business to realise their request,” Suganuma says.
In Bangkok, H+ will be led out of the same location as Hakuhodo-owned Winter Egency and now expects collaborate with DAC-owned I-DAC Bangkok to a much greater degree than before.
Suganuma tells Campaign this was one of two main motivations behind starting H+, to not only raise sales revenue but also to realise the goal of integrating their agencies’ services. “We want to be united. That is why we made a consolidated brand in H+”.
Expansion across Asia
Of course, this integration is not merely expected in-market, but on an Asia-wide level. Hakuhodo has been steadily growing its ability to help clients with digital transformation (DX) in the region. Last week alone, Hakuhodo invested in Japanese artificial intelligence company Laboro.AI for exactly this reason, then also bought an 80% stake in leading Malaysian digital agency Kingdom Digital, adding it as a subsidiary.
“Continuing to accelerate our growth outside of Japan has always been a key priority for Hakuhodo and DAC,” said Shuntaro Ito, head of Hakuhodo international. “This is why we feel that launching a new group offering, which can strategically power all of our in-market companies, is the perfect decision at this time.”
DAC, meanwhile, is looking to replicate its digital media success in Japan, where it claims to have 12% of the market share, by expanding its extensive adtech and publisher partnerships across Asia, backed by the operational strength of 500 traders, 350 engineers and 50 data scientists.
“We are trying to bring this know-how in building client success to all the regions," Suganuma says. We have been taking care of Japan clients asking us in Hakuhodo or DAC to cover several regions, but we are going to put more focus on acquiring clients overseas. Eventually H+ will spread past Asia but for now the focus is Asia.”
The H+ offering
The H+ logo helps illustrate its new integrated service portfolio. The four different colours on the + symbol represent its four main business areas: digital advertising, owned (brand asset and social channel support), commerce and CRM (including data services). In each area, H+ says it has key partnerships in place with major platforms, tech and data providers.
The ‘H’, we’re told, represents both ‘Hakuhodo’ and ‘human-centric’ nature of the offerings. Those familiar with Hakuhodo will know it does not refer to consumers, but ‘sei-katsu-sha', a Japanese term for more a human-centered consumer as a multi-faceted individual.
This approach, Suganuma says, “is what drives us to look at people as a sum total of their lives, preferences, aspirations and dreams; and to seek out the evolving lifestyle experiences that will inform engaging communications.”
Based around this approach is a proprietary technique called ‘InsightOut’ that Hakuhodo developed more than a decade ago to turn data into ideas. The leaders of H+ says both concepts are at the core of its unique planning process, which uses all its data and technology partnerships to convert the underlying motivations and behaviour of sei-katsu-sha into actionable insights for clients and society.
“We start from a sei-katsu-sha insight to find a new opportunity in the market and then we work on a digital solution or with media agency to increase media efficiency,” Miyabe tells Campaign. “We need to provide both to clients. This is the concept”.
The core of H+, its leaders say, is symbolised by the center point in the + sign where all the offerings come together.
Says Suganuma: “We are here to bring all these four areas into one central nodal point.”