Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Aug 9, 2013

XM Asia acquires Designercity in Hong Kong for its 'digital ethos'

HONG KONG - XM Asia Pacific is continuing its expansion in the region with the acquisition of a majority stake in local digital consultancy Designercity, for an undisclosed sum.

Hong Kong Tourism Board is one of Designercity's major clients.
Hong Kong Tourism Board is one of Designercity's major clients.

The deal, XM’s third acquisition in 18 months, extends the company’s reach into North Asia. XM Asia, which already has offices in Singapore and Malaysia, bought Magnivate Group in Indonesia last year, and completed the acquisition of Thomas Idea in Thailand during March 2013.

Paul Soon, CEO of XM Asia Pacific, said the JWT-owned agency has solidified its position in Southeast Asia, and Designercity, being a "powerhouse" in Hong Kong, marks the start of XM's next phase of growth into North Asia.

Founded in London in 1995 by Win Mak, Designercity moved operations to Hong Kong in 2000. The company employs 108 digital specialists and has unaudited revenue of US$5.6 million (HK$43.7 million) for the year ending 31 March, with total assets of US$2.4 million (HK$18.7 million).

Designercity's client portfolio includes Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Arsenal FC, Dairy Farm Group, The Peninsula, Swire Hotels, and Hong Kong International Airport. XM, for its part claims Singapore Tourism Board, Maxis, Unilever, Nestlé, MasterCard, Malaysia Airlines, Ford and XL Axiata as clients.

Mak will stay on as managing director, reportedly on an equal footing with Soon.

Jeremy Payne, head of marketing at Designercity, revealed to Campaign Asia-Pacific that the independent agency was approached by other potential buyers, not just the WPP unit.

When asked what competitive value Designercity brings to XM, Payne said it was the "ethos" of the agency.

"We are one of the digital agencies commiited to a full-time R&D team," he said. "Also, in the past we turned down a lot of lucrative projects because we didn't have the resources to actually do them justice, and it is not in our nature to do half a job."

When Designercity won the digital remit for shopping centre Hysan Place in July 2012, it launched an integrated solution involving a website, social media, mobile, way-finding kiosks and restaurant reservations, all updated via a central content management system.

"There are people who specialise in bits and pieces of digital, but we feel individual expertise is irrelevant," Payne added. "Knowledge should be digitally agnostic. To know which is the best platform to use for a client, you have to know every form of technology available."

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