WPP Set to Pick Up Global Branding Work for China's Huawei

Holding Company Will Try to Help $32B Telecom Giant Become Global Brand

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WPP has edged out Omnicom to handle global corporate branding for Chinese telecom giant Huawei, according to an executive in the region with knowledge of the situation. The decision comes after a pitch process at the holding company level.

The pitch had previously included Dentsu and Interpublic Group of Cos., with each holding company drawing teams from a combination of agencies.

Another person close to the matter said it was "far too premature" to call a winner, likely because the decision was made last week but the parties involved are still working out details. A WPP spokeswoman said the company had no comment and referred questions to Huawei, which also declined to comment.

The full scope of the account was not known. The WPP team involved in the pitch was believed to have included Ogilvy, Maxus and Burson-Marsteller.

Huawei builds communications infrastructure and has grown into a $32 billion empire as a global B-to-B supplier. But the U.S. Congress has warned against doing business with Huawei, saying the company has ties to the Chinese military and that its products could be used to spy on Americans and disable or disrupt key infrastructure.

The global corporate branding account presents a rare opportunity for ad agencies to shape the public image of a $32 billion Chinese business with projects around the world. Huawei (pronounced hwah-way), based in the southern city of Shenzhen, is making the marketing push as it expands its business into consumer products such as smartphones and tablets.

Huawei's business interests in the U.S. are relatively small, with only 4% of revenue coming from that market, according to the Wall Street Journal. Most of its business is in emerging markets.

Huawei has worked with a range of shops including Ogilvy, Fleishman-Hillard and MS&L. B-to-B agency ReichesBaird handled Huawei's advertising during the London Olympics.

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