Cathay shakes up its stodgy image with digital Rugby Sevens campaign

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HONG KONG--Cathay Pacific Airways created an interactive campaign to support the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, an annual event that is immensely popular with rugby fans around the world.

Advertising is running on TV stations in Hong Kong and in outdoor media, such as billboards, bus shelters, painted trams and video ads on LCD screens in Hong Kong's mass transit MTR system and in public areas like Times Square in Causeway Bay. The campaign is built around the tagline "Jump into the world's most fun sports event."

The ads drive consumers to a web site, www.cxhk7s.hk, published in English and Chinese. Visitors can learn about the tournament and the teams, view photos and videos from past tournaments, play games with other web surfers and watch a TV spot promoting Cathay's sponsorship of the tournament, all through an avatar they create on the site with their photo and user name. The characters move through the site as if they were bouncing balls.

Cathay created a competition in which local rugby fans can guess the number of balls stuffed into a decorated Hong Kong tram that is traveling around the city in the two weeks before the three-day tournament starts on March 28.

Cathay Pacific, a sponsor of the event, creates a campaign every year for the tournament, which attracts visitors from all over the world. Last year, the campaign had a kung fu theme and the year before that, a rugby obsession motif.

"Look at how many people fly into Hong Kong for the Sevens," said Thierry Halbroth, senior creative director for the Cathay Pacific Central Team at McCann Erickson, Hong Kong, which developed the campaign. "They are mainly frequent business travelers. The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens also give Cathay a chance to lighten up and have fun, since normally it's a quite serious corporate advertiser."

In a technical feat that McCann Erickson claims is a global first, surfers can view the entire website and even play games on banner ads for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens site that appear on other websites. "This has never been done before worldwide," said Mr. Halbroth.


Focus Media accused of prolific spamming by CCTV
SHANGHAI--Focus Media has come under attack in China for allegedly sending millions of spam messages by mobile phone.

One of China’s largest outdoor-digital media companies, Focus was accused of sending “about 200 million short messages to mobile users each day,” according to a report recently on China Central Television (CCTV) March 15.

The company’s subsidiary, Focus Media Wireless (FMW), provides services such as WAP-based advertising service, short messaging service (SMS) and multimedia messaging service (MMS) and other mobile, interactive and Bluetooth-based mobile services. China, the world’s largest mobile phone market, added 8.5 million mobile-phone subscribers for a total of 555.8 million at the end of January 2008. The dominant player, China Mobile, controls about two-thirds of the mainland's wireless market.

Focus Media’s mobile handset advertising revenue grew 355.8% year-over-year and 14% quarter-over-quarter, to $16.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, out of total revenue in the quarter of $184.6 million. In 2008, the company expects revenue from mobile advertising services will continue to grow steadily.

Focus Media, one of China’s most profitable media companies, does not deny FMW possesses personal information for millions of mobile phone accounts in China, such as gender, age and income, but in a statement issued after the CCTV report, it denied any wrongdoing.

FMW “provides advertising services for business customers by delivering advertisements to mobile phone users in China through their mobile handset devices,” said the statement.

“Focus Media does not approve sending advertising messages to mobile users without user consent [and] has established an internal policy to strictly prohibit sending SMS or MMS messages without the explicit consent of the receiving mobile user.” FMW also operates a toll-free customer service number in China for spam reporting.


Louis Vuitton opens largest store outside Paris in Hong Kong
HONG KONG--Louis Vuitton opened a flagship store in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui district on Canton Road, one of the city’s top shopping districts, particularly for mainland Chinese visitors to the territory.

The store, which opened its doors for the first time on March 16, is the largest Louis Vuitton retail outlet in the world apart from its flagship store on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, where the French luxury goods giant is based. The Hong Kong store occupies nearly 1,800 square meters on four floors and took nearly one year to complete. Louis Vuitton, a subsidiary of French luxury goods group LVMH, also operates a large store in Hong Kong’s Central district.


Bank of China appoints Euro RSCG and Havas Sports
BEIJING--The Bank of China has appointed Euro RSCG and sibling Havas Sports to develop its Olympic marketing strategy. The two Havas-owned agencies will promote the Bank of China’s official partnership with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) and its sponsorship of China’s national badminton team. In the final round of the pitch, Euro competed against the incumbent, Dentsu.

Euro and Havas Sports are developing a print and TV campaign for the bank built around the theme “Pursuit For Excellence,” which will be launched within the next month. Euro already works with another Olympic sponsor, and China’s leading dairy, Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group.


Omega Resists Clooney's Charm
LONDON--Omega will not reconsider its involvement with the Beijing Olympic Games or speak out against China's foreign policy, despite pressure from one of its most prominent ambassadors, actor George Clooney.

Mr. Clooney, who advertises the Swiss watchmaker around the world, has repeatedly spoken out about the crisis in Darfur and has visited the region to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis there.

He told the BBC website, "I have talked with Omega (about China) for over a year and will continue to talk to Omega. I have and will continue to ask China to use its considerable leverage with the government of Sudan."

An Omega spokesperson said, "We have indeed discussed the Darfur issue with Mr. Clooney. We have full respect for his strong engagement in the fight for the good cause and share his opinion, especially concerning Darfur, and we are proud to work with a person who has such high ethical values."

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million forced from their homes during five years of conflict in the Sudanese province, where pro-government Arab militias are accused of carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Arab groups.

China is a major trading partner with Sudan, and Beijing has resisted United Nations attempts to force Sudan to accept U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.

The Omega spokesperson continued, "We are, of course, well aware of the controversy with respect to China hosting the games. However, political issues will always come into play regardless of where the games take place."

Omega stressed that it is not a sponsor of the games; it has been paid to provide time-keeping and data-handling services at the Olympics since 1932, including the boycotted Moscow and Los Angeles games in the 1980s.

"It is our policy not to get involved in politics because it would not serve the cause of the sport, which helps create understanding and peace all over the world. We are partners of the athletes and the I.O.C., not of governments, which is why we were present during the boycotted games of 1980 and 1984."

Omega said there is no indication Mr. Clooney might terminate his relationship with the watchmaker over the issue. In a statement, Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek said that the "relationship with George Clooney was never as good as now," and that Mr. Clooney "wants an even closer relationship with the brand."
--by Ad Age reporter Emma Hall in London


Mattel adds staff in China to monitor vendor plants
TAMPA, FLA.--Jim Walter, the head of quality for Mattel, which recalled millions of China-made toys last year over lead paint and small magnets that pose a hazard when swallowed, said Mattel has increased the number of people in China who monitor vendor plants there.

Mr. Walter said the world’s largest toymaker is following the policy of “trust, but verify.” Mattel sources half its global products from independent contractors, and half from Mattel’s own plants in Guangdong Province in China.

Mattel has hired 80 to 100 additional people to monitor vendor plants in China, Mr. Walter said March 10 at the Plastics News Executive Forum in Tampa. He said Mattel has long-standing relationships with a number of vendors in China. “And we do trust them. We work very closely with them whether they be in China or anyplace else,” he said. “But there is a sense that you do have to be present. And Mattel took steps, for example, to ensure that we had a presence in every single one of our vendors. Every day.”

The problem of lead paint came when some subcontractors used paint from non-certified suppliers--a failure to follow Mattel procedures, Mr. Walter said at the forum.

As Mattel’s senior VP-worldwide product integrity, Mr. Walter is in charge of product quality, safety and reliability.

The lead-paint problem involved a very small number of contractors, out of the total supply base, and a small number of toys relative to the number of products Mattel makes, he said. The lesson is that companies with global manufacturing operations need to have direct involvement on a daily basis, Mr. Walter said.

“It emphasized to me, the fact that you cannot be 99% accurate here. You cannot be 99.9% accurate here. You have to be 100% accurate, 100% sure. And that requires a level of vigilance that, frankly, us and number of people in our industry and other industries were not exerting at the time,” Mr. Walter said.

“I also want to emphasize, as far as I’m concerned, this is not a China issue, for us. This is not a Mexico issue. This is an issue associated with manufacturing, and manufacturing in places where you may not be, every single day of the year. And it’s a way that companies like Mattel have to manage business while operating in various places around the globe.”

He said Mattel officials are checking and documenting materials, including paint, and manufacturing processes. “We have much greater control on sub-contracting. We must visit, and we must train every single subcontractor prior to use.” Also, every production run gets tested, to ensure toys are safe.

Mr. Walter, who gave a keynote speech to kick off the forum last week, also participated in a panel on sourcing products in China.

Mattel voluntarily recalled the toys in question. Lead is considered a health hazard. He called hazards of small, powerful magnets “an emerging issue” for toy safety that the industry is now recognizing.

During his speech, Mr. Walter showed several clips of television news reports about Mattel’s recall. The company was blasted by the media blitz. Reporters grilled Mattel Chairman-CEO Robert Eckert.

“The press coverage was unprecedented. The impact on a number of people at Mattel, myself included, was unprecedented,” said Mr. Walter, a chemical engineer with an MBA in finance. “We don’t pretend that that wasn’t deserved, and we took steps to address those issues.”

Mr. Walter currently serves as chairman of the Toy Industry Association’s safety standards steering committee. He said that group wants the industry regulations to mesh well with new toy safety legislation expected this year from the U.S. Congress.
--by Bill Bregar, a reporter for Plastics News, a Crain Communications publication
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