J&J launches BabyCenter

And other news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--BabyCenter, Johnson & Johnson’s online resource for new and expectant parents, has launched a Mandarin-language version of its site, cn.babycenter.com, to provide prenatal and parenting information and resources in China. Twenty million babies will be born in China this year, five times as many as in the U.S.

The site includes access to medical information, a pregnancy calendar, e-mail newsletters with personalized fetal, baby, or child development information based on a subscriber's due date or child's birth date, and access to a community of new and expectant parents to share and interact with via bulletin boards.

China has more than 140 million internet surfers, according to the country’s Ministry of Information Industry. That number is expected to jump to 200 million by 2010, with average annual growth of 8%. A large proportion of Chinese netizens are young, urban adults and teenagers, current and future parents in a country with one of the world’s largest populations, and 41% of total net users are women.

The Chinese site will provide “culturally relevant” modern insights alongside “traditional wisdom” in a culture that places a high value on the family network, said Tina Sharkey, BabyCenter’s San Francisco-based global president. It remains common in China for three or four generations to live under one roof, and grandparents are often the chief caretakers of young children born to working parents, but even well-off parents commonly lack access to modern medical advice.

“We feel it's BabyCenter’s duty to give new and expectant mothers in the world’s fastest growing Internet and parenting population access to prenatal and parenting information online,” she said.

BabyCenter’s global network already includes web sites for parents in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, India, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S.. The sites reach more than four million monthly unique visitors in the U.S.--78% of all new and expectant American moms who go online--and more than six million globally.

Sina and Google form alliance, but it's unlikely to hurt Baidu

BEIJING--One of China’s leading web portal operators, Sina Corp., has formed a strategic partnership with Google. The online search giant is a market leader in the U.S. and other countries around the world, but has struggled to gain traction in China, the world’s fastest growing internet market. China's online search market is dominated by Baidu, a publicly-quoted internet company founded in Beijing in 2000.

In the new alliance, Google will provide search technology for Sina’s search box on Sina’s web pages. In addition, the two companies will cooperate in efforts to generate advertising revenue, as well news and other content areas.

The cooperation is a positive move for Sina, said internet analyst Dick Wei at J.P. Morgan Securities in Hong Kong, because it provides additional revenue. “The partnership goes beyond Google’s typical web alliance cooperation model, and as such, Google will likely pay additional fees to Sina.”

Google, meanwhile, will benefit from the tie-up in China by getting “a better brand name, higher traffic and more localized products from cooperation with Sina. The cooperation, if executed well, will likely improve Google’s usage,” said Mr. Wei. “However, we believe this is unlikely to threaten [the] current market leader’s position, given its strong brand name, localized products and experience in Chinese search technology.”

China Unicom hands GSM brands to TBWA

BEIJING--China Unicom has called on TBWA Group to handle advertising for its GSM products, including a new brand called 156, which will launch later this year. The assignment includes TBWA Worldwide, Beijing, as well as the Omnicom Group agency’s below-the-line Tequila and Agency.com divisions. The win follows a pitch against six agencies, including incumbent JWT, Bates Asia and Publicis.

An upcoming campaign promoting China Unicom’s 156 brand will run in TV, print and outdoor media, and include events, experiential marketing, sales promotion, interactive media and point-of-sale. TBWA will also handle ongoing communications for China Unicom’s existing GSM brands, including the youth-oriented U-Power and value-for-money brand Ruyitong.

China Unicom is the mainland’s second-largest mobile phone operator, behind former monopoly China Mobile Communications. It was set up in 1994 by the Chinese government and currently provides paging, long-distance, broadband data, internet and mobile communications services. At the end of April 2007, China Unicom had over 110 million GSM subscribers. Revenue at the end of last year reached $12.3 billion, an 8.3% increase over 2005, of which $7.7 billion came from its GSM business.

Starcom partners with Pier3 to develop branded entertainment
SHANGHAI--Los Angeles-based Pier3 Entertainment has partnered with Publicis Groupe’s Starcom MediaVest Group’s entertainment and marketing unit, Starcom Entertainment, to develop advertiser-funded initiatives in Asia, with emphasis on China and India.

The partnership will help American marketers working with Pier3, such as AOL, Volkswagen and Kodak, develop Asian product placement and brand integration opportunities in films, television, and music as well as content syndication, licensing and merchandising, events and celebrity endorsements.

Branded content deals are “rapidly emerging as one of the surest ways of connecting with today's time-starved and attention-challenged consumers,” said Starcom’s CEO of specialist solutions in Asia, Ravi Kiran, based in Mumbai. Starcom already connects movie producers, TV channels and music labels in Asia with brands like Western Union, Singapore Tourism Board, General Mills and McDonald's Corp.

Chinese taxi ad firm expands to Beijing
BEIJING--Beijing Northern Taxi has formed a partnership with I-level Media Group, a digital out-of-home advertising company, to install liquid crystal advertising display units in the taxi company’s 3,200 cars in central Beijing, the company's first move into the Chinese capital. I-level plans to install about 1,000 terminals per month in Beijing starting July 1.

I-level already operates in Shanghai through a contract with Jin Jiang Taxi Co. and hopes to “build a national media network” of screens, according to I-level President-CEO Aidan Sullivan in Shanghai.

FAW launches Audi A4 with online maze game
BEIJING--China First Automobile Works Group Corp. (FAW), which has a joint venture with Germany’s Volkswagen, is promoting Audi’s new A4 model in the mainland with a below-the-line campaign. FAW is running online banners and has distributed direct mail pieces designed to lead potential consumers, namely young urban professionals who enjoy playing online games, to a virtual maze mini-site (audi.cn/07A4).

Online visitors navigate the maze by answering questions about their lifestyle, personality and preferences. Responses help determine the most suitable of three A4 packages. After visitors answer all the questions and reach the end of the maze, their ideal A4 with personalized options appears on-screen. Besides pushing consumers to the web site, direct mail packs provide several channels to communicate with Audi via phone or fax. The campaign will run through the end of July.

“What makes this campaign creatively different for the auto sector is that advertising in this category tends to be features-driven, focusing entirely on the car itself. We took a different approach with this campaign by emotionalizing the benefits with the personality test,” said Dirk Eschenbacher, exec creative director, OgilvyOne, Beijing, which developed the campaign.

P&G supports HK Cancer Fund with Karen Mok ads
HONG KONG--Procter & Gamble has launched a TV and outdoor campaign starring singer and actress Karen Mok, who endorses P&G’s cosmetics brands such as SK-II, to support Hong Kong’s Cancer Fund. The “Six-minute protect a life” campaign, created by Leo Burnett, Hong Kong, was designed to educate 25-to-35 year-old Chinese women about cervical cancer and motivate them to get screened for the disease, which takes only six minutes. Cervical cancer claimed 260,000 lives globally in 2005, and it is one of the leading types of female cancer in the Chinese territory.
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