U.K. to Chinese Marketers: Start Your Global Expansion Here!

On Mission to China, Trade Association Is Latest Group to Target Companies With International Aspirations

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The U.K.'s ad agency association is launching a practice to help Chinese companies enter overseas markets, in the latest initiative to target China's cash-flush marketers as they take their first international steps.

Nicola Mendelsohn
Nicola Mendelsohn

The International Brand Incubator from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising will draw on the expertise of U.K.-based planners and creatives to prepare reports for Chinese marketers, providing analysis of global brand environment, key consumer considerations and guidance on brand differentiation strategy.

"We wanted to find a way that we could cement and make real the desire between the two countries to facilitate advertising services," said IPA President Nicola Mendelsohn, who is also chairman and partner of independent London ad agency Karmarama. (Ms. Mendelsohn was named one of Ad Age 's Women to Watch in May).

"When brands have enjoyed huge growth the question is , 'What's next?' What's next is going global. We're suggesting the U.K. is a good place to go global from, that it's a springboard," she said in a phone interview from Beijing, where the IPA announced the initiative Friday.

The U.K. industry group is the latest to start a research and development service for Chinese marketers looking to expand abroad. The World Federation of Advertisers has been working with the China Association of National Advertisers, helping the group draw up China's first advertising code of ethics and encouraging Chinese advertisers to become members of the WFA as they begin their international marketing efforts. The WFA's first two corporate members from China are privately-owned conglomerate Fosun and petrochemicals giant Sinochem.

Earlier this month, public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard announced the formation of its Global China Practice to assist Chinese companies with global aspirations. And Ogilvy & Mather opened a New York-based China Practice, led by former Chinese diplomat Lyndon Cao, in April to help Chinese companies enter the U.S. and other international markets.

So far, no Chinese marketer has been able to build a strong brand identity in the minds of foreign consumers. The most visible up until now include white-goods maker Haier and computer manufacturer Lenovo.

The IPA is promoting the U.K. as a logical place to start international expansion, highlighting the country's cultural diversity and business-friendly environment, and pointing out that its time zone allows companies there to do business with both China and the U.S. on the same day.

The upcoming 2012 London Olympics is also an opportunity for Chinese marketers to gain global exposure, Ms. Mendelsohn said. That may appeal to the Chinese, who took great pride in hosting the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing as a debut on the global scene for modern China.

"The eyes of the world will be on London next year ... there's an opportunity also for Chinese brands to think about how they can showcase their own brands in the U.K. during that period. They've seen what the Olympics did in Beijing and how they can capitalize on this going forward," she said.

In addition to Karmarama, other U.K. agencies currently visiting China as part of the IPA effort range from small shops like Brooklyn Brothers, MBA, Addiction Worldwide and Bray Leino to RKCR/Y&R, the London office of global network Y&R.

The brand-new practice does not yet have any clients, although it's already at work. The IPA hosted a workshop on Friday attended by 50 Chinese brands, and its delegation is headed to the northern Chinese city of Shenyang this weekend to attend the China International Advertising Festival, a huge annual event held in a different Chinese city each year with thousands of attendees.

Ms. Mendelsohn declined to name potential clients but said the IPA will target the top 50 brands by status to start -- the "fastest-growing, strongest brands in China." The group is reaching out to the companies directly as well as through their local agencies and through the China Advertising Association.

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