Publicis Acquires W&K in Beijing

Takeover Gives Leo Burnett Access to Local Advertisers Such as Tsingtao Brewery in Qingdao

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W&K works with local advertisers such as Tsingtao Brewery in Qingdao, China, one of China's leading breweries
W&K works with local advertisers such as Tsingtao Brewery in Qingdao, China, one of China's leading breweries Credit: Normandy Madden
BEIJING ( -- Publicis Groupe has acquired Beijing-based W&K Communications to strengthen its Leo Burnett Worldwide network in China and help the agency win more local business.

The Chinese creative and media agency will be re-branded Leo Burnett W&K Beijing Advertising Co. and will become part of Leo Burnett's operation in Greater China. W&K will continue to be lrun by Guo Weijun, W&K's current chairman, and its managing director, Wang Yi. They will report to Michael Wood, Leo Burnett's CEO, Greater China.

Leo Burnett's Chairman-CEO Tom Bernardin called the W&K takeover a "very important step" for the network's operation in Greater China, which increases the agency's market share. More importantly, however, it gives Leo Burnett greater access to China's domestic advertising industry, difficult terrain for multinational agencies.

Founded in Beijing in 2004, W&K has offices in Beijing and Guangzhou that work with local advertisers such as Air China; Mengniu Dairy Co., the bus manufacturer Zhengzhou Yutong Bus; the Holiland Cake Shop bakery chain, condiment manufacturer Shanghai Totole Food Co.; COFCO, one of China's largest food manufacturers; China's People's Insurance Co. (PICC Group); Tsingtao Brewery Co.; and the Daliyuan food company.

The W&K deal is the second major acquisition by Publicis Groupe in China this year. In May 2008, it acquired EmporioAsia, a Shanghai-based full-service digital marketing agency. Renamed EmporioAsia Leo Burnett, that agency now operates alongside Arc under the Leo Burnett umbrella in China. The mainland is now the world's largest online market with 210 million internet users at the end of last year, according to the Beijing-based research firm BDA.

In 2007, Publicis bought Communication Central Group (CCG), then one of China's largest independent interactive agencies. The Shanghai-based company was folded into Digitas, Publicis' global digital network.

Two years ago, Publicis acquired an 80% stake in Betterway Marketing Solutions, a marketing services company with offices in 29 Chinese cities. The company handles creative, sales promotion, sampling, trade activation, direct marketing and events and has worked with companies such as Motorola, Maybelline, Philips, Johnson & Johnson and Nestle. Jenny Zhang and York Huang, Betterway's joint CEOs, remain minority partners.

In October 2006, Publicis acquired Emotion, an Asian events management group founded in 2002 in Tokyo with offices in Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Bangkok, Manila and Singapore.

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