Motorola mounts push to retake lead in China

Edgy ads, hot handsets aim to lure trendsetters lost to Nokia, local rivals

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[beijing] Determined to regain the lead it once enjoyed in China, Motorola Corp. is launching bold-and downright racy-ads positioning some of its trendiest products like Slvr, Razr, Z and Ming as fashion accessories in the world's No. 1 mobile-phone market.

Such is China's growing dominance as Motorola's second-biggest market, after the U.S., that some of the ads will run globally. Unlike the U.S., Motorola in China had fallen behind Nokia and aggressive local brands in appealing to young trendsetters. The company's share of the Global System for Mobile Communications market that accounts for 90% of cellphone sales in China fell from more than half the total market in 2000 to a mere 12.8% by early 2005, according to Norson Telecom Consulting. That's inching back up-to almost 14% today.

Now Motorola's Razr is the best-selling phone in China and it's updating its brand image and product line under Ian Chapman-Banks, who used to run Apple's marketing in Asia. He joined Motorola last year as general manager-marketing and business development, mobile devices, for North Asia.

Some of the provocative ads, which he describes as "'Blade Runner' meets 'Kill Bill,"' feature striking consumers, such as exotic-looking Africans and Eurasians, in ways that connect them to the various phones. The angular theme of Z ads, for example, illustrates the phone's "slider" opening mechanism.

sliding bodies

To dramatize the Z phone, said Nils Andersson, executive creative director of Ogilvy & Mather, Beijing, and the agency's regional creative director for Motorola, "We literally slid peoples' bodies out of place."

Ads running in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong for Ming, a phone with state-of-the-art Chinese handwriting recognition, suggest its high-tech attributes can help its owner see both sides of a person's personality. In one execution, a woman's outfit is divided vertically. She wears a stylish red dress and designer handbag on the left side and a red dominatrix outfit on the right.

All four campaigns were designed to resonate with youthful trendsetters who spend the most on fancy new handsets and lucrative non-voice services. That demanding demographic expects stylish, well-designed and entertaining phones, as young Chinese see them as fashion accessories, music players and miniature game consoles rather than tools for talking. "My personal mission is to make Motorola wearable," Mr. Chapman-Banks said.

Of the 1.5 billion mobile phone subscribers around the globe, more than 330 million are in China. Although 60 million new customers enter China's mobile-phone market every year, less than 30% of the country's total population has a cellphone today. By 2008, China Mobile, the country's dominant service provider, estimates it will have 500 million mobile phone users.

"There's still a huge amount of work to do," said Mr. Chapman-Banks. "There's still a billion people in China who don't own a Razr."
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