ANNUAL AGENCY RANKING;VITAL ECONOMY FUELS ASIAN AGENCY GROWTH:DENTSU, HAKUHODO RETAIN TOP SPOTS; DMB&B SOARS

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[hong kong] Japanese agencies Dentsu and Hakuhodo held onto their top two places in the 1995 ranking of agency networks in Asia. Asatsu moved into third place, pushing McCann-Erickson Worldwide down a notch from the previous year.

The performance of Asia's top 20 was so strong that each agency network recorded double-digit gross income growth except for McCann and Clemenger/ BBDO, the Australian shop that's minority-owned by Omnicom Group.

SAATCHI `LEVELS OUT'

But none managed to repeat Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising's stunning 1994 gains of 55.5% over the previous year. Saatchi leveled out last year to a more modest 17.6%.

The highest growth rate was notched by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles at 34%. DMB&B ranked 18th, with gross income of $61.1 million.

Asia's agency leaders attribute their robust performance primarily to new accounts in existing markets and strong economic conditions. The area's growing economies supported stronger currencies in '95, inflating returns when converted to dollars.

A Dentsu spokesman said a major factor in the positive Asian results is the greater transference of the production of goods and services from Japan to other locations in the region. This has created improved labor conditions and stronger purchasing power, which have combined with strengthened political leadership to create thriving economic climates, he said.

BILLINGS TREBLE

DMB&B Asia Pacific President Roger Winter said his agency's billings had trebled in the last three years in existing Asian markets. Pacing the growth were wins across the region in late 1994 and 1995, most notably Coca-Cola Co. and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton's Hennessy cognac. Hong Kong and China were DMB&B's hottest markets in Asia last year, and they continue to pace growth this year. The Philippines and South Korea also have shown exceptional strength.

Hong Kong remains a hot spot for Leo Burnett Co., which posted an almost 50% growth there in '95. That spurt triggered a 26.1% advance in overall gross income for Burnett in Asia.

Burnett Asia Pacific Regional Managing Director Jeff Fergus attributes regional growth to new clients, particularly McDonald's Corp., and no losses. Other new Burnett business came online in Taiwan and Malaysia, including a state-owned oil company, Petronas, and an assignment from Coca-Cola.

Driving the next stage of Burnett's strategy will be expansion into new markets this year, Mr. Fergus said.

J. Walter Thompson Co., which rose from seventh to fifth place this year with growth of 20.3%, attributed its success to steady gains across the region "rather than a big blip in one or two markets," said Grace Atkinson, JWT's Asia Pacific exec VP-deputy regional director.

CHINA AND INDIA LUCRATIVE

Developing markets in China and India proved particularly lucrative for JWT. Ms. Atkinson said JWT had consolidated its multinational client business and picked up some solid local business across the region.

"Equally important," she said, "we have not lost any significant existing business."

Contributing factors to Ogilvy & Mather's Asia/Pacific growth rate of 13.5% in 1995 were particularly strong performances in Thailand and China, as well as healthy activity in the lower growth markets of Hong Kong and Singapore, according to Miles Young, O&M Worldwide's Asia/Pacific president.

O&M's start-up operation in Japan was reflected in the figures for the first time.

"Historically, the agency's lack of presence in Japan has always distorted the overall Asia/Pacific ranking," Mr. Young said.

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