Many of our clients in Europe and US often ask us what is the best agency to run an ad campaign in the Korean market. With so many fish in the vast agency sea, picking the right one can be tricky. It is crucial for your brand to have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with your advertising campaign. An agency that is extremely effective targeting the middle-age group, may not be the best choice if your brand or product focuses on Millenials. Therefore, please take the list with caution and do your homework before contacting any of them.
As you can clearly see in the chart on the right, the two main players account for half of the Korean advertising market. Indeed, Cheil and Innocean are the only Korean agencies with an international presence. However, some of the most creative and viral campaigns come from smaller agencies. Some of them don't even make it in the Top 20 but we couldn't help to stop recommending you to have a look at their creative campaigns.
Cheil Worldwide is the undisputed leading advertising agency in South Korea. With 52 offices in 43 countries, it's also one of the few Korean ad agencies with a strong international presence. Their international expansion in the last eight years has been followed by an investment and acquisition strategy: BMB(UK), TBG(US), One Agency (UAE), McKinney(US), Bravo(China) and Iris(UK). Cheil ranks as the 18th largest agency in the world, according to AdBrand.
Their success is closely linked to Samsung, which is its biggest shareholder and the main client both in Korea and internationally. However, don't think of Cheil as a one-brand agency. Other than Samsung, among their main clients (in Korea) are Shinsegae, Cass, KT, Gmarket or S-Oil.
Market share: 36,3%
Innocean Worldwide is the advertising unit of Hyundai Motors. It's the second largest Korean ad agency in billings and it has a significant presence worldwide, with 22 offices in 17 countries.
Innocean has a reputation for being the most creative agency among the ones owned by Korean corporations and it has achieved success internationally.
Probably their most popular campaign was A Letter to Space, awarded at Cannes Lions and New York festival.
Clients: Hyundai, Samsonite, HomePlus, Kolon
Market share: 26.3%
3. HS AD
Formerly known as LG AD, HS AD is another in-house agency owned by a chaebol. They work under the motto "The Difference", a concept they claim to achieve through a 3D approach: Discover, Digital and Detail.
HS AD is part of the holding G2R, with the other LG in-house advertisement compan, LBest. As a company member of the LG group, they enjoy a strong international presence, with 26 offices worldwide.
Clients: LG Electronics, Korean Air, Korea Tourism Organization, Paris Baguette.
Market share: 8,8%
4. Daehong Communications
Daehong belongs to the Lotte group and they carry most of their brands: Lotteria, Lotte Duty Free, Lotte World, Angelinus coffee. Daehong has recently expanded to other markets, mainly in South-East Asia, to support Lotte's aggressive expansion. Among their non-Lotte clients we find Air Asia or UNIQLO.
Market share: 5.9%
SK Planet is part of the SK Group, a powerful conglomerate in energy and telecommunications. Since its creation in 2008, one of the core values of SK Planet in their marketing approach is micro targeting communication, a strategy to maximize consumer responses by crafting targeted messaging and content that is personalized to their specific needs.
The name ‘SK Planet’ is derived from the word ‘Planet’ and at the same time, it is a combined word that integrates ‘Platform’ and ‘Networking’ to reflect the company’s commitment to sharing the value of innovation by establishing an open ecosystem based on its platform.
Clients: SK Telecom, Baskin Robbins, Outback
Market share: 3%
6. TBWA Korea
The first non-Korean agency in the list is a solid firm worldwide (7th) and part of the Omnicom empire. Visa, Hite, Hyundai Card, Hite or Adidas are some of the brands that rely on their work in Korea. TBWA is well known for their disruptive approach to advertisement, although many of their campaigns may look rather conservative in Korea.
Market share: 2.25%
Group M, part of the world’s largest advertising media company (WPP) is the sixth in terms of billings in the Korean market, but with a much modest presence compared to the top players. GroupM Korea includes Maxus, MEC, Mediacom, Mindshare, Catalyst and Xaxis.
Some of their clients are P&G, Audi, Chanel, Redbull, Vokswagen and Expedia.
Market share: 1,4%
Established 25 years ago, Leo Burnett Korea employs 222 people. Its most relevant client during this period was definitely McDonalds, but this global partnership abruptly ended last September, when McDonalds decided to drop the Publicis ad agency in favor of Omnicom.
Other clients are P&G, Air Asia, Philips, Bayern.
Market share: 1,4%
Just like the previous Korean agencies in the list, Oricom is owned by -guess what?- another conglomerate: Doosan group. Oricom claims to be the oldest ad company in the country, since they began as an advertisement planning division of the Hapdong News Agency in 1967.
Their main clients are The North Face, KB, Canon and -of course- Doosan.
Market share: 1.25%
Established in 1983, Hancomm used to be the in-house agency of the Hanwha Group until in 2015 Doosan -owner of Oricom- acquired Hancomm. Most of their clients belong to the Hanwha conglomerate, Yes24, BHC
Market Share: 1%
McCann-Erickson - Universal McCann Korea Korea was founded in 1989 and it's the largest IPG owned company in the country. It emplys 87 people in Seoul and some of their main clients are Coca Cola, L'Oreal, Mastercard, Microsoft, CJ and Bayern.
Market share: 1%
12. Carat Korea
Carat Korea was established in 2001 and it's part of the Dentsu Aegis Network. They are not among the top ten agencies but they are growing fast (last year 20%). They owe part of their recent success to their appointment as media partner for Diageo Korea.
Other clients are Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Nivea, H&M.
Market Share: 0.91%
M.Hub was established in 1999 as an independent media agency. In 2005, M.Hub joined the GIIR Group, after GIIR acquired 51% of its shares. In 2016 they employ 47 people. Their main activities are media planning and ad buying.
Their main clients are: GM Daewoo, PowerComm, Woongjin ThinkBig, Tefal Korea, Somang Cosmetics
Market Share: 0.86%
The fourth largest Agency Network in the world has a rather modest position in the Korean market. Most of their clients come from the Beauty market, such as Innisfree, Amore Pacific or Etude House.
Market Share: 0.83%
15. Welcomm Publicis
Welcomm Publicis Worldwide is a subsidiary of the Publicis Groupe, an advertising and marketing group which is based in Paris. As a creative agecy, it has left an indelible trace in the advertising history with distictive campaigns. Some of their clients are Renault Samsung, Axa Direct, Kyobo life Insurance, Citigroup.
Market Share: 0.79%
Founded in 2008 by LG, LBest's main focus is the young audience. Like the other LG in-house ad agency -HS AD-, it belongs to the G2R Group, present in 14 countries.
Clients: LG Electronics, LG Household & Health Care, LG Corp., LG Hausys, LG Fashion, Hiplaza , Yuhan Pharmaceutical, Heungkuk.
Market Share: 0.76%
17. Dentsu Korea
The well-known Japanese ad agency ranks among the top 20 largest ad agencies in the Korean market. Many Japanese corporations use their ad servicies in Korea. Canon, Toyota, Asahi are some of them.
Market share: 0.74%
19. Galaxia SM
Founded in 1975, this company was known as IB Worldwide. In November 2015 it changed its name to Galaxia SM. They focus solely on Sports marketing activities such as broadcasting rights and sports sponsorship. They have a small branch in US and a medium one in China.
Market Share: 0.69%