W eyes further Asia expansion after opening Singapore office

Markets such as Thailand and Indonesia likely destinations, rather than traditional territories such as China and Hong Kong

W, the UK agency that recently opened its first Asia office in Singapore, has confirmed further expansion across the region is on the cards once it is fully established in the city state.

Speaking to PRWeek Asia two weeks after we revealed the firm’s Singapore move, W founder and CEO Warren Johnson said expansion across Asia would be dictated by client needs.

"Once we have further established our hub and connectivity in Singapore then we will be exploring further opportunities in Asia," he said.

"In terms of specific locations, it’s likely to be dictated by client needs more than our desire to plant further flags in the ground. With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us move into some of the more upcoming markets such as Thailand and Indonesia rather than traditional territories such as China and Hong Kong.

"That’s definitely on the cards although the paint is still literally drying on our new office Singapore so we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves."

Johnson said the Singapore opening had been prompted by enquiries from clients on whether they could help them with their expanding businesses in the region.

"Also, with existing UK clients including MEATliquor & AppNexus now operating here too, it seemed like the perfect time to do it," he added.

The firm will initially focus on F&B, media, consumer tech, travel and entertainment, but eventually expects its client list to be as varied as in the UK where its clients include W Hotels, Hearst International (Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Cosmopolitan), Levi’s, Google, MTV, L’Oreal, Unilever and Hendrick’s gin.

W’s Singapore operation is being headed by one of its UK founding directors, Annabel Fox, who is currently recruiting additional staff.

"We were in profit before we even opened so we’re expecting to be growing quickly, with both global and home-grown brands as clients, so will need the best people to help us achieve that," Johnson said.

Despite this, he added he was fully aware of the differences and challenges of operating in a new market.

"The content distribution model is very different here and this is a key point of comparison. The national print media landscape couldn’t be more different. And the social media landscape, which is even more important to distribute content in Singapore, differs too.

"With the growing digital landscape, we will see PR agencies developing their multi-media skills in Singapore - from creating more content to finding new ways to distribute it. I think this is an area where agencies like W will have a head start, as we are already operate with this integrated and creative approach.

"Also Singapore is also booming into a cultural and media hub, unlike its perceived banking and corporate past, so we will see many more interesting brands and projects pop up. That’s why we’re here."

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