Lenovo highlights foreigners' contributions with torch relay spots

And other news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--Lenovo Group is using its Olympic sponsorship to shine a spotlight on people the company believes contribute to Chinese society, including several prominent expatriates who work in China in advertising and media.

As one of three sponsors of the torch relay, alongside Coca-Cola Co. and Samsung, Lenovo nominated 1,500 people as torchbearers in China and another 127 overseas. In China, there is almost no higher status these days.

"The torch relay creates so much emotion and is so engaging for consumers, the torchbearer nomination campaign has attracted many people through their desire to participate," said Alice Li, VP-Olympic marketing in Beijing for Lenovo, which acquired IBM's personal computer business for $1.25 billion in 2005. The flame will enter the Olympic Stadium as part of the opening ceremony on Aug. 8, 2008, after being carried by more than 21,000 runners around the world.

JWT’s Tom Doctoroff, China CEO and area director, Northeast Asia, was selected by the Chinese PC maker, one of the agency’s top clients. He carried the flame about 100 yards in Shanghai on Saturday, May 24. (Watch the video on YouTube.)

“We’ve been cooperating with Lenovo for a long time, and it was a token of appreciation,” said Mr. Doctoroff, an American who moved to Shanghai from Hong Kong in early 1998. He was impressed by “the unbridled passion of both torchbearers and spectators at the relay, who really were proud and excited. It wasn’t propaganda, it was genuine bottom-up excitement at the meaning of what the torch is for them, particularly as a declaration of determination. It was moving, and meticulously organized.”

Lenovo also picked two senior ad executives at another Lenovo agency, Ogilvy & Mather, Beijing. T.B. Song, Ogilvy's chairman for Greater China, and Kaiser Kuo, group director, digital strategy, will carry the torch on June 2 in Jingzhou in Hubei province. So will Chris Renner, Beijing-based China president of the sports marketing consulting firm Helios Partners, which works with Lenovo and other Olympic sponsors like Volkswagen.

Mr. Song, a Taiwanese who has lived in China since 1992, has penned best-selling books about marketing in Chinese and served as a university lecturer across the country, helping train a new generation of marketers in the mainland.

Mr. Kuo, a Chinese-American writer and rock musician, is a fixture in China’s contemporary music scene. During the 1990s, he was lead guitarist of Tang Dynasty, considered the first heavy metal band in China, and later formed another heavy metal rock group, Spring and Autumn.

Lenovo also selected Dashan, the Chinese stage name adopted by a freelance performer, Mark Henry Rowswell. Although the Canadian is unknown in the West, he is a media celebrity in China, where he has performed on television in fluent Mandarin since 1988. Dashan will carry the torch in Shangqiu in Henan Province. His grandparents worked in that city in the 1940s, and Dashan is an honorary citizen there.

Eight of Lenovo’s foreign torchbearers were picked in a joint project with China Daily in which people nominated themselves starting lin September 2007 and were chosen by voters online. The contest rapidly led to e-mails flying around China as would-be torchbearers lobbied for votes. The list of 100 finalists included a Malaysian, Peter Tan, national director, consumer insight and market intelligence at McCann Worldgroup in Shanghai and a Beijing-based American, Dan Brody, VP, business development at the online video portal, Tudou.com.

But most of the media and advertising personalities like Mr. Doctoroff in Shanghai and Messrs. Kuo and Renner in Beijing were hand-picked by Lenovo, said a company spokesman. The PC company “wants to nominate some expats living in China who had contributed to the community here, as Kaiser did as a rock musician in his Tang Dynasty days, [while] Mr. Song is the godfather of the Chinese advertising world and a true celebrity."

Bates 141 acquires Chinese digital shop Evision
SHANGHAI--WPP Group’s Bates 141 has acquired a majority stake in Chinese digital hot shop Evision. Shanghai-based Evision specializes in interactive design, mobile marketing, CRM and online media planning and buying. Founded in 2003, the agency works with brands such as Nike, KFC, Sprite, Intel, Wyeth and Mentos. It also has partnerships with six of China’s largest portals--Sohu, Sina, Netease, QQ, Mop and MSN.

With the world’s largest, and growing, internet and mobile markets, China “is undergoing dynamic changes” in the digital space, said Jeffrey Yu, chairman, Asia/Pacific of Bates 141 in Hong Kong. “This acquisition will allow us to strengthen our overall integrated offering to clients, to help them change their consumers’ mindsets and shopping behavior.”

Leo Burnett adds to Arc with EmporioAsia acquisition
SHANGHAI--Publicis Groupe has acquired the Shanghai-based full-service digital marketing agency, EmporioAsia, which will be renamed EmporioAsia Leo Burnett. The agency’s current CEO, Vincent Kobler, will continue to lead the agency. It will now operate alongside Arc under the Leo Burnett umbrella in China, which had 210 million internet users by the end of last year, barely surpassing the U.S. as the largest internet market in the world, according to the Beijing-based research firm BDA.

EmporioAsia, founded in 1999, specializes in online strategy and creative work, search marketing and analytics. The agency works with advertisers in China such as Hilton Hotels, China Eastern Airlines, Philips Electronics, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and ING bank.

Chinese focused on status and fun, says GfK
BEIJING--Chinese are adopting more of a “striver” or “achiever” mentality. The number of Chinese consumers who place importance on personal values such as wealth, power, material security, and status significantly increased since 2000, according to a recent global study by GfK Custom Research. GfK interviewed more than 30,000 consumers above the age of 13 in 25 countries. In China, GfK conducted 1,500 one-hour, in-home interviews.

The shift in China, led by the country’s growing middle class, is altering purchase behavior in the mainland. Four key themes define the mindset shift underway in China. The first is a focus on striving--for success, wealth, power and material security. More than half (59%) of Chinese consumers say they look upon their earnings as a statement of their success, compared to 51% of the global population.

The second shift is a renewed focus on self. Individuals are paying more attention to health, beauty, freedom, and individuality. The majority (65%) of Chinese consumers agree that people who don’t care about their appearance don’t care about themselves, compared to the global average of 56%.

Desire for indulgence is the third core change. Though Chinese are working harder to reach their goals, they also want to reward themselves. “Having fun” is one of the fastest-growing values among Chinese consumers. In 2007, fun ranked No. 15 among the most important values on a list of 60, compared to No. 21 globally.

Social consciousness is also evolving. Preserving the environment is a key issue, with 42% of the Chinese population listing pollution as one of their three main concerns, behind recession and unemployment (both 43%). Just 22% of the global population cited environmental pollution as a top-three concern. Also, 65% of Chinese car owners say it’s important for their vehicle to be environmentally friendly, versus just 40% of the total global population.

Consumer confidence in China has soared in recent years, with 82% of respondents agreeing they will be better off in the next 12 month, second only to India (84%).

In comparison, the U.S. ranked fifth (68%) behind India, China, Mexico (72%) and Canada (71%). This rise in consumer confidence reflects Chinese consumers’ increasing focus on personal achievement and financial success, ultimately impacting purchasing decisions.

With a burgeoning middle class that Goldman Sachs estimates will reach 520 million by 2025, the Chinese market is shaping up to be “the greatest growth opportunity” for marketers in recent history, said Michael Mueller, GfK’s vice general manager for China in Beijing. “China is only just beginning to open up to foreign business, providing enormous white space as compared to the U.S. and Europe.
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