For the past decade, agencies have rushed to open up offices in mainland China to cater to western multinational clients who wanted feet-on-the-ground and local knowledge in this fast-growing region. Now, WPP's Ogilvy & Mather is doing the reverse: setting up a China practice based in New York to help Chinese companies enter the U.S. and other international markets.
For Ogilvy, a global network with a penchant for setting up practices in different areas, China is just the beginning of a broader initiative for the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries. Miles Young, Ogilvy's global CEO, said an India practice is forming, and that he has just relocated a Brazilian, Paulo Fogaca, to New York to work with him on Brazil. Mr. Fogaca was previously based in Miami, where Ogilvy coordinates Latin American clients and a fledgling Hispanic practice called Ogilvy Rojo.
Lyndon Cao, a former Chinese diplomat and most recently general manager of the English-language newspaper China Daily in the U.S., will be the director of Ogilvy's China Practice.
"Many Chinese companies have just started operations in the U.S., and want market research, and to know about government relations and regulatory issues," Mr. Cao said. "These are their first steps, before talking to consumers."
In addition to branding and marketing, the China Practice will offer help with investor relations and government relations, and how to position companies. One client, a large, privately-owned Chinese conglomerate called Fosun International with interests in steel, pharmaceuticals, real estate and tourism, started a $600 million private-equity fund with Prudential in January and is interested in corporate finance in the U.S., he said.
Ogilvy, one of the biggest agencies in China, works there with clients ranging from computer marketer Lenovo to a branding effort for the city of Chengdu.
The China Practice's Mr. Cao was a diplomat for six years at the Chinese Foreign Ministry and later the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations. Then he spent two years at Ogilvy Beijing as director of public affairs. For the past four years, he has been general manager of the North American operations of the government-owned China Daily, responsible for marketing, circulation and branding. At China Daily, he opened several U.S. printing sites for the newspaper, improving distribution and boosting circulation.
"It's a cultural shock for many Chinese companies, and they have to understand [the U.S.] is a very different market," Mr. Cao said. Like U.S. businesses that became multinational marketers decades ago, companies from China, India and Brazil are figuring out the rules of globalization, and how to then localize their approach.
"They're looking for a friendly, guiding hand," Mr. Young said.