China's BlueFocus Communication Group is announcing its first U.S. deal today, a multi-year partnership with Clear Channel Outdoor to promote Chinese brands using digital out-of-home media in Times Square and at U.S. airports.
Helen Fu, San Francisco-based president of BlueFocus Communication Group of America, said the company was seeking a digital platform in the U.S. for Chinese brands.
"BlueFocus is one of the biggest communications groups in China, and we have about 1,000 Chinese clients," she said. Many are interested in the digital billboards in the U.S. "from tourism to consumer brands as well as entertainment such as big movies. Chinese companies are like Japan in the past; we want to be perceived as innovative and high quality."
Beijing-based BlueFocus made its debut this year in Ad Age's ranking of the world's 50 largest agency companies, at No. 17, and is the first Chinese company in the ranking. BlueFocus -- which got its start in PR and is the closest thing China has to a WPP or an Omnicom Group -- has clients ranging from Lenovo to BMW to PepsiCo to Procter & Gamble Co. Its revenue, boosted by acquisitions, in 2013 surged 68% to $579 million.
The company recently bought a stake in London-based Huntsworth, a PR and health-care agency company, and acquired digital agency We Are Social, also based in London, but this is the Chinese company's first U.S. deal.
"The U.S. is our highest priority," said Ms. Fu, who joined BlueFocus about 18 months ago. She said Chinese brands will start appearing on Clear Channel Outdoor sites "almost instantly. We're doing some testing behind the scenes."
For instance, the premiere of a Chinese movie was recently featured on a Times Square billboard, to highlight its well-known director, Zhang Yimou.
Initially the deal will cover Times Square, and airports in San Francisco and New York, with more airports added later, Ms. Fu said.
In a new feature, the Chinese clients will be able to log-in and view their creative running in real time using cameras set up in Times Square.
"It's for the brand to be in the media center of the world, in Times Square, and for clients to understand we're lifting their brand to the next level," she said.