SINGAPORE: An increasing number of brand owners in the Asia-Pacific region, including Volkswagen and Jim Beam, are moving away from relationships with single network agencies to embrace cross-agency partnerships and joint ventures.

Australian industry figures said the development was a result of the growing number of channels and consequent fragmentation of advertisers' messages. By taking on more agencies, they suggested that brand owners can widen the pool of skills they are able to access.

"Two to three years ago, there wasn't even a thing called a social media agency," Jeff Estok, managing director of Navigare, a Sydney agency, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.

"These days social media is a specialisation," he added.

And Damian Pincus, creative director of The Works, a Sydney communications agency, compared the approach to the situation that prevailed twenty years ago before the major international agencies emerged.

"It probably died off and now I think it's back," he said.

The Works is part of a joint venture, with Strawberry Frog in the US and Jung von Matt in Germany, brought together to develop a global campaign for Jim Beam whiskey.

"By creating a joint venture, there are no issues over who gets what revenue and no need to hire extra staff," said Pincus.

Volkswagen is a major brand adopting the cross-agency route for its China operation and Proximity Beijing is one of the half dozen agencies involved, all on separate contracts, and all with specific KPIs to work towards.

"The client just assumes we're one team," said Alex Csergo, Proximity's managing director. "They want to deliver more communication across more channels."

All those concerned agreed that a collaborative outlook is vital if such multi-team arrangements are to succeed and not just between the various agencies – the client also has a vital role to play.

To this end, Navigare has developed an app that teams can use to rate the client and other agencies on how well they share information and work with the rest of the group.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff