David Blecken
Dec 7, 2017

Ogilvy breaks TBWA Hakuhodo’s AOY run in Japan

Investment in data and people propelled agencies to the top in the Agency of the Year awards for Japan and Korea.

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<< 2017 Agency of the Year Awards home page

No one can stay at the top forever, and there were some important changes in this year’s Agency of the Year awards for Japan and Korea. In Japan, Ogilvy & Mather finally ended TBWA Hakuhodo’s reign as the dominant creative agency. TBWA did however climb to the top in Korea, where WPP agencies and Cheil also stepped up to replace last year’s winners.

Ogilvy has staged something of a turnaround in recent years, especially in terms of creativity. This year, the agency stood out for its combination of local insight and global resources, and for making its investment in digital strategy, content and data consulting pay off. TBWA Hakuhodo remains strong nonetheless, thanks to its commitment to technology and innovation. And McCann’s efforts to innovate the way it operates have served its staff and clients well.

See the full Japan / Korea Agency of the Year winner list

In the Independent Agency category, Wieden + Kennedy Tokyo climbed to the top after delivering consistently strong creative work for a combination of demanding international and local brands.

A newly formed partnership between JWT and Y&R proved successful in Korea, impressing the jury over the market’s biggest agency, Cheil, which took Bronze. Cheil grew this year after working to consolidate its digital, retail and experience teams and strengthening its data-driven services. Cheil did emerge as the top digital agency in Korea, however. In Japan, the crown went to Accenture Interactive, which has risen rapidly to offer services that more established digital marketing service providers are struggling to match. In PR, PRAP showed that it has adapted well to digital in a market where PR is often too traditional.

There was a change of direction in the Media Agency category too, with UM and MediaCom coming out on top in Japan and Korea respectively. Data gave UM an edge while MediaCom benefited from integrating its digital team into the planning process.

Commenting on the winners, Marc Pinsard, a senior marketer at Asics who has judged the awards for three consecutive years, said the best entries showed strong understanding of consumers’ pain points and how their clients’ products or services can address them; and an ability to use data to generate creative solutions.

The extent to which digital and social are embedded in agencies, as well as tools enabling clients to measure their marketing campaigns were also key success factors, Pinsard said.

Shoko Suzuki, CMO of MetLife Insurance in Japan, said she also put emphasis on analytical capabilities and the ability to manage change, as well as talent development. “Some entries impressed me with their focus and creativity on talent and people development,” agreed Thomas Sailer, VP of marketing for adidas Japan. “As a client I cannot stress enough how important this factor is.”

<< 2017 Agency of the Year Awards home page

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