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Uber SEA creative agency dropped and others left dangling following Grab merger

The agency responsible for creating Uber’s acclaimed ‘Unlocking Cities’ campaign has been dropped following news of its impending merger with Grab.

Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors confirmed to Mumbrella the impending deal spelt the end of its relationship with the ride-hailing giant.

Last October, the agency’s eye-catching film showing an Asian city overrun by cardboard boxes made global headlines, as Uber attempted to plug itself as the antidote to the region’s traffic problems.

Agency chief executive officer Silla Levin said: “We really enjoyed working together with the Uber team. They’ve been a brave and highly appreciated client, with talented people who have become good friends with the team at F&B.

“Together we saw the good results of the Boxes campaign spread across Asia as well as globally. Now we continue our work together with our other clients in the region.”

Levin neither declined nor confirmed whether the relationship’s end affected potential expansion into Asia, amid speculation that F&B was intending to open an office in Singapore.

Meanwhile, the Grab buyout has left Uber’s other agencies with an uncertain future.

Mumbrella understands BBH Singapore, which handles Uber’s local creative account, has installed a “transitory” team to wrap up work for company.

R/GA Singapore, which recently created a mechanism that turned Uber trip data into personalised, animated music videos, is also understood to be no longer working for the company in the country.

However, the agency will continue to work with the American ride-hailing giant across other markets.

R/GA Singapore recently made the campaign ‘Year with Uber’.

In smaller markets such as Thailand and Cambodia, its respective public relations agencies TPQR and Quantum are no longer working with Uber.

None of the agencies were available for comment at the time of publication, as wasn’t Grab.

However, it is also understood that none of the agencies have been approached by Grab at this stage.

Last year, Grab’s chief marketing officer Cheryl Goh told an audience at Mumbrella360 Asia that she was sometimes reticent to work with agencies due to their slower work turnaround. 

She said Grab’s fast-paced environment meant the brand was required to bring campaigns to life within 24 hours.

On the day the deal news broke last month, all Uber’s marketing and sales team across Asia were told told to leave the office and put on three months of gardening leave until further notice.

However, the deal has recently come under intense scrutiny by regulatory authorities across the region, including in Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia over concerns that Grab will gain a monopoly in the sector.

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