China's Biggest Site Wants to Be the Most Influential Too

World Expo Sponsor Tencent's Latest Campaign Shows QQ Offers More Than Gossip

By Published on .

SHANGHAI ( -- Tencent Holdings is using the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai to remind Chinese that QQ isn't just for gossipy teens.

QQ's chubby penguin logo is known across China
QQ's chubby penguin logo is known across China
The Chinese media company has launched a national marketing campaign around the event to establish, an instant messaging platform that has evolved into a major online portal site, as a mainstream media brand recognized by both advertisers and audiences.

Tencent wants to demonstrate that's online platform offers a greater Shanghai World Expo experience with print and out-of-home ads running in Beijing, Shanghai and Guanzhou showcasing different cities in a reflection of the China Pavilion's shadow, supported by the tag line, "Enjoy Expo from anywhere in the world."

Tencent, a 2010 World Expo sponsor, has attracted enormous traffic through QQ, since the company was founded in Shenzhen in November 1998.

At the end of March 2010, according to the company's public data, Tencent had 568.6 million active instant messaging user accounts, and 428 million active user accounts on Qzone, a social networking site created by Tencent five years ago. It operates additional sites for online games, chatrooms, internet dating and other services.

Two months ago, hit a milestone when it passed the 100 million mark in terms of simultaneous users. About 20% of QQ users access accounts through mobile phones rather than computers, but they comprise about half of the total messages passing through QQ each day.

But QQ "faces the strong bias as a low-end teenager gossip brand," said Emiko Nagai, acting general manager of TBWA Worldwide, Beijing, which created the campaign.

Tencent knows QQ is the most popular web site in China, said Isabel Liu, VP and general manager of the company's public relations department. Now it wants to be "China's most influential internet portal, no small task."

Tencent has won over advertisers too
In addition to mainstream advertising, Tencent recently appointed Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in Beijing to help promote its sponsorship of the World Expo and its integrated one-stop shop for online lifestyles. Ogilvy PR is responsible for developing the communication strategy and managing all Shanghai Expo media communications until the end of 2010.

QQ's impressive growth over the past decade is based on more than the sheer number of Chinese netizens. Under-30 Chinese, particularly those with white-collar jobs and enough disposable income to afford foreign brands, are bored by the content on TV and obsessed with digital media. Smart marketers look online for the best properties to reach those consumers, and they often land on

"Tencent has a powerful and well-respected brand," said Scott Kronick, president, China at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in Beijing.

The result is a long line of online promotions involving microsites, e-coupons, branded games and user-created content that advertisers like Procter & Gamble Co., Ford Motor Co. and Unilever have woven into broad integration campaigns.

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