Welcome to the Agency world in Vietnam (part 1)

For this post, I  would like to list down as many as I could different Digital agencies operating in Vietnam. The barrier to entry for Digital Marketing agency is low so there are literally hundred of agencies in Vietnam, from one man shop to hundred of employee firm. I will miss out many agencies so please leave the name under the comment section and I will put them in.

Note: My comments (if any) about these agencies are strictly coming from my limited understandings and may not be the true reflection. Feel free to drop any comments and I will try to address the concerns.

Digital agencies in Vietnam fall under a couple of big segments.

Please note that the below categorization is far from correct because majority of the agencies claim that they are doing everything and they are all full service agencies. Also agency could change from time to time as well. The purpose of me putting a list together so that you could have a broader view of the agency world in Vietnam.

1. Big agency group

1.1 WPP group

WPP group has a strong presence in Vietnam, if not the strongest presence among international agency groups in Vietnam. With 23 offices under the group in Ho Chi Minh alone, WPP group does cover a lot of ground. However, they don’t own 100% of these agencies I guess. Many of the agencies below are not Digital agencies but since it belongs to WPP, I just put them here for reference.

The below are from WPP’s own website:

  • Asatsu – DK
  • Bates
  • G2
  • Grey
  • GroupM
  • JWT
  • Kantar Media
  • Kantar Worldpanel
  • Maxus
  • MEC
  • MediaCom
  • Millward Brown Vietnam
  • Mindshare
  • Ogilvy & Mather
  • Ogilvy Public Relations
  • OgilvyAction
  • OgilvyOne Worldwide (Who Digital team)
  • TNS
  • TNS Media
  • Who Digital
  • Wunderman
  • Xaxis
  • Y&R

6 offices in Hanoi:

  • JWT-G
  • Landor Associates
  • Ogilvy & Mather
  • Ogilvy Public Relations
  • Smart Media
  • TNS

From Digital capabilities point of view, in my 2 cent, only OgilvyOne (essentially Who Digital team) and GroupM have some digital capabilities in-house. While GroupM mostly do media planning and buying, limited Search Engine Marketing work, OgilvyOne mostly do strategy & production work & Social Media.

From my limited knowledge, Y&R and Wunderman handle Coca cola and Nokia accounts. However these clients normally just adapt regional campaigns to Vietnam. Nokia is going downhill fast so we haven’t seen much buzz from their online initiatives this year 2013.

Update from Mina Menon: “I am from Wunderman Vietnam and I read the rather startling one-line review of us, so I just wanted to add a clarification. Y&R and Wunderman operate under one YR Group umbrella in Vietnam and have offices in Hanoi as well. Together, we have all the digital capabilities of a full-fledged Wunderman office, and the integrated marketing ones of a Y&R office. Apart from Nokia, our clients include Emirates, Colgate-Palmolive, Ovaltine, Nutifood and Ford. Of these, Nokia, CP and Ford are global alignments, the rest are local relationships creating campaigns locally. Coca-Cola has a roster of agencies in Vietnam that they work with depending on the project and Wunderman is one of them”

1.2 Omnicom Group

Until 2013, Omnicom didn’t have a strong presence in Vietnam I guess. However it seems that starting this year, 2013, Vietnam has received more focus from Omnicom Media and the digital team is having more specialists compared to previous years.

  • Focus Asia
  • OMD Vietnam
  • XPR-Campaigns Group
  • PHD Vietnam (TNHH quảng cáo Phương Cách (Method Advertising)
  • BBDO
  • DDB
  • TBWA: Biz\Tequila, Focus, TBWA\Vietnam, Vira
  • OMG

1.3 Publicis Group

There are five offices in Vietnam, all in Ho Chi Minh city according to the Group website:

  • ZenithOptimedia Vietnam
  • Starcom MediaVest Vietnam
  • Publicis Vietnam
  • Saatchi & Saatchi Vietnam
  • Leo Burnett Worldwide
  • Vivaki Vietnam
  • Performics. This would be the main Digital arm for Publicis Group in Vietnam.

From what I heard while Performics doesn’t have a big team, they handle some of the bigger digital account in Vietnam and their capability in Search Engine Marketing is quite good. They are one of the few agencies in Vietnam using Marine I guess. They outsourced Social media, production and other work to other agencies.

1.4 Interpublic

  • Draftfcb
  • initiative: media services, communication planning
  • Lowe + Partners: Advertising, CRM/Direct. Lowe outsourced the majority of their digital work out, they play the role of the brand agency and project management only.
  • UM – Curiosity works: media services, communication planning

1.5 Havas

  • MPG Vietnam
  • Mai Thanh company

1.6 Aegis

Globally, the agency has five brands under the group namely:

  • Carat
  • iProspect
  • Isobar
  • Posterscope
  • Vizeum

As for presence in Vietnam, from my limited understandings there aren’t much activities at this point. While this may change in the future, the coverage is less than desirable compared to GroupM or Vivaki.

1.7 Dentsu

Dentsu has Dentsu Alpha, Dentsu Media and Dentsu Vietnam. If I am not mistaken, Dentsu combined all Digital specialists from the three offices to one department not too long ago. However they still outsource majority of the digital work out like Social media marketing, production, search engine marketing etc.. and mostly do media planning in-house.

Dentsu completed their acquisition of Ageis globally not too long ago as well so it’s unclear what would be Dentsu’s strategy for Digital marketing in Vietnam.

Update 27Apr 2013: There is one feedback from someone at Dentsu that the three Dentsu teams have their own digital teams, not combining all teams into one. What do you think?

1.8 Other Japanese/Korean agencies

There are Hakuhodo, Chuo Senko or Asatsu DK, Daiko Vietnam. However I don’t think they do a lot of digital work in-house also.

CyberAgents, Mediba and a few other companies set up their rep offices and invested in a few local agencies.

2. Local agencies, ad networks in Vietnam

2.1 Media agency

    • Dat Viet Media
    • TKL
    • ADT
    • Golden Media
    • Goldsun Group
    • Mekong communication: through their official partnership with Cheil Wordwide, I guess you could consider them strongly related. Mekong has partnership with other companies like Emerald and DNA as well but I haven’t heard any official announcement, just rumor from the street.
    • FS communication
    • TV Plus
    • 5i Media
    • Youth Advertising
    • 365 Days Advertising

2.2 Ad Network

  • Innity
  • Admax
  • Ambient
  • Ad micro
  • Pixel
  • Moore

2.3 Search Engine Marketing agencies

These are Google Small and Medium Business (SMB) partners:

  • Clever Ads
  • VCCorp – Ad micro
  • Nova Ads

For Google certified partners, you could find them using Google Partner Search

There are so many Google Certified Partners in Vietnam now so I won’t list down any names here.

It is important to note that Google welcomes any agencies who want to be Google certified partners as long as they have at least one employee who is a current Google Qualified Individual and the media spend for 3 consecutive months with Google is more than US $10k.

If you want to find out who is Google qualified individuals in Vietna, please use this link. You could search for qualified individual from each country and based on different certifications (search advertising, Display advertising, reporting and analysis, Google Analytics qualified individual etc…)

2.4 Search Engine Optimization agency

I am reluctant to put together this list because from my limited experience I don’t think our capability in this area is strong in Vietnam.

Anyway, I put some names here based on reader’s comments:

  • manseo (previously known as lamseo)
  • Vinalink
  • Thietkeweb

2.5 Social media / PR agencies

  • Click Media: it is known for a while now that Click Media and Sofresh are well under way to be acquired by GroupM. It makes sense because Unilever represents a big part of GroupM/Mindshare media business in Vietnam and Click Media and Sofresh are doing Social media + Production work for Unilever as well.

Update Dec 2013: GroupM agreed to buy majority stake in Click Media.

  • King Bee Media
  • E Brand
  • AVC Edelman
  • Le & Associates
  • OhYeah Communications

Update 1: added in OhYeah Communications

2.6 Production

  • Sofresh:  it is known for a while now that Click Media and Sofresh are well under way to be acquired by GroupM. It makes sense because Unilever represents a big part of GroupM/Mindshare media business in Vietnam and Click Media and Sofresh are doing Social media + Production work for Unilever as well.

It would be interesting, however, to see over time whether the relationship and status of the core Sofresh team would be like Who Digital and OgilvyOne. There are not that many people from the core Who Digital team at OgilvyOne after 2 years from what I heard.

Update Jun 2014: XM Asia, a JWT agency, agreed to buy the majority stake in So Fresh.

  • Glass Egg
  • Sutrix Media
  • Splash Interactive
  • Media Gurus
  • HD Digital
  • April Digital
  • Ozerside
  • Itsy Bits Mobile Application

Update 30 Apr 2013: add in Itsy Bits Mobile Application based on comment from reader.

2.7 Market Research

  • Cimigo
  • comScore
  • Kantar Media
  • TNS
  • Effective Measure (they no longer have anyone based in Vietnam)
  • AC Nelsen

Update Sept 2013:

  • Millward Brown

 

2.8 Brand Strategy

  • Left Brain Connector
  • Red Brand Builder
  • Phibious
  • Purple Asia
  • Ambrand
  • Ambrosia Vietnam
  • Brandtalk
  • WildFire Collaborative

Update 1: Move Purple Asia from Production to Brand Strategy based on feedback from Matt Millard.

Update 30Apr2013: added in Ambrand, Ambrosia Vietnam, Brandtalk Vietnam

Update 02 May 2013: added in WildFire Collaborative.

2.9 Mobile marketing

  • Gapit
  • Idee
  • Viet guys
  • Mobile Solution Services MSS
  • VHT
  • So Smart (part of Goldsun Focus Media)
  • Fibo sms

2.10 Integrated agency (doing a bit of everything)

  • Notch: many people from Notch left and set up a couple of agencies (DNA, Echo etc…)
  • Golden Digital: from what I heard, Tony Truong, which was one of the founding members of Golden Digital left the company not too long ago.
  • Quo Global
  • Climaxi (update 02May 2013, moved from Production category to Integrated Agency)
  • IO Media: the majority of the previous core team left to join other agencies
  • Cheil Vietnam: through their partnership with Mekong Communication I guess these two companies are strongly linked.
  • Buzz Digital
  • eBrand
  • Edge Marketing
  • River Orchid
  • IDM Vietnam
  • FPT Media
  • Maro Media
  • Ringier
  • StormEye Creative
  • Vietbuzz Ad
  • D Square
  • IMS (Integrated Marketing Solution)
  • Emerald
  • G2 Asia Pacific
  • Time Universal
  • MVV Digital
  • etc…

Update 29 Apr 2013: Moved Emerald from Social Media/PR agency to Integrated agency

Update 30 Apr 2013: added in G2 Asia Pacific which has a Vietnam Office.

Update Oct 2014: Added MVV Digital, founder by Huy Pencil.

2.10 Outsourcing agencies

  • Pyramid consulting
  • Studio 60

Some personal observations about digital agencies in Vietnam:

“Jack of all trades, master of none”. This is the common problem with the majority of Digital agencies in Vietnam.

Everyone is saying they are offering full digital services from strategy, creative to execution, from Search engine marketing to Email marketing to Social Media etc… However, the plain cold truth is that we do not have enough specialists in Vietnam for so many firms to offer everything in-house. It does not make business sense to have every thing in-house as well because the overall budget is often quite small.

This generalist approach from the agency is partly because big clients often want to work with a few contacts and ideally only one or two firms.

Agency could differentiate itself by becoming a specialist in a particular service,  going after certain verticals, only working with other agencies as a sub contracts and many other ways.

It is important to take note of the client segment (SME, MNC, local clients) that an agency serves i.e. how many percent of its clients are small and medium businesses and how many percent are MNCs/big local brands.

Agencies who serve SMEs (small and medium enterprises) or SMBs (small and medium businesses) are not sufficiently equipped to work with MNCs or big local brands. The business development or the Director of the agency may paint very appealing pictures. However they are not the one who carry out the execution. SME world and MNC world are miles apart.

The nature of SME agencies is that under normal circumstances they only employ relatively junior employees due to the fact that SMEs’ concerns, budget, decision-making, working culture are not that sophisticated. SMEs do not often work with complex marketing plan that involves multiple channels (offline and online) or having their own creative agency, pr agency etc…Brand guideline and the like are not often discussed with SME clients. Then it is not the same level working with MNCs and local big brands.

English fluency is another major concern facing “specialists” from SME agencies and even bigger agencies. Next would be communication skill and I am talking about the basic communication skill so that both parties would be able to understand each other in English.

Another point worth mentioning is the difference between working with government-owned firms, private ownership firms and foreign firms in Vietnam. While relationship plays an important role everywhere in Vietnam, with government-owned firms, that is even more prominent. The sales cycle for government-owned firms is hence very long.

Working culture in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh is very different from each other as well. Generally sales cycle in Ha Noi is longer compared to Ho Chi Minh. The majority of MNCs are in Ho Chi Minh so they set the working scene in Ho Chi Minh as compared to government-owned firms setting the scene in Hanoi.

That’s enough from me for today. Do you think some other names need to be in this list? Message me.

Cheers,

Chandler

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