Uni-President switches agencies ahead of Olympic ad season

And other news in Greater China

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HONG KONG -- Taiwan’s food and beverage giant, Uni-President Enterprises Corp., has awarded the creative business for its Olympic marketing and all of its instant-noodle brands in China to M&C Saatchi in Shanghai. The $26 million assignment will be the independent agency's largest account in China.

The win followed a pitch against WPP Group’s Grey Global Group, Nitro, Meigao and Hakuhodo that began last November. Previously, the business was handled by the Interpublic Group of Cos. hotshop Can Create. The company already has four brands for sale in China, Uni-president 100, Laiyitong, Qiao Noodles Shop and Haojinhao, and it plans to introduce two more brands in China this year.

Instant noodles are major food category in China, generating enormous sales revenue even though most packages are priced below $1. Inexpensive, tasty and easy to prepare, they are popular among a broad range of Chinese, from factory employees and laborers to office workers to students to families in rural areas.

In a surprising decision by the Beijing Olympic Games Organizing Committee in 2006, Uni-President became the first Taiwanese enterprise to become a national sponsor of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing, beating off competition from Master Kong and Nissin Hualong, the first- and second-largest instant-noodle makers in China, respectively.

Master Kong, also known as Kangshifu, is produced by another Taiwanese food conglomerate, Tingyi. It dominates China’s noodle industry, with more than 43% share of the market, according to CIMB-GK Securities. The Sino-Japanese joint venture Nissin Hualong has a 14.2% share, followed by Uni-President with 10.5%.

Uni-President has charged M&C Saatchi will developing creative to raise sales and brand awareness, in particular by utilizing the company’s Olympic sponsorship, according to Angela Hsu, M&C's general manager in Shanghai, "as well as helping them launch new products coming up this year."

Carrefour hands digital marketing to Euro RSCG 4D
SHANGHAI -- Carrefour has moved its digital-marketing business in China to Euro RSCG 4D, Shanghai. Previously, the account was handled by Agenda. Carrefour did not disclose the name of the other participants in the pitch, but they are believed to be Hylink Advertising and EscaADs.

The Havas-owned agency will update Carrefour’s Chinese-language website, develop online campaigns and maintain Carrefour’s e-shopping site to improve the French retailer’s brand equity in the mainland as well as improve member loyalty. Carreour launched its website two years ago and its traffic is ranked No.1 in China’s retail industry, according to Alexa.com.

Chery and Quantum ally to explore international markets
HEFEI -- One of China’s most successful local carmakers, Chery Automobile, plans to explore the European and U.S. auto markets through a new joint venture with Quantum, a U.S. subsidiary of Tel Aviv-listed Israel Corp. Quantum will invest $225 million for a 45% stake in the new entity. Chery, based in Wuhu in central China’s Anhui Province, will provide technology and land for the remaining 55%.

Called Chery Quantum Automobile, the joint venture is expected to start production of cars designed for international markets in 2009, and aims to produce 150,000 vehicles a year. China’s fourth largest automaker in 2007, Chery is expected to sell a record 480,000 units this year. Sales grew 25% year on year to 381,000 units in 2007, largely through sales of its subcompact models like the QQ. Chery plans to raise its annual sales to one million cars by 2010.

Motorola finalizes Soundbuzz acquisition
BEIJING -- Motorola has finalized its acquisition of Soundbuzz, Asia’s largest online and mobile music company, completing a core component in its evolving mobile-entertainment strategy in Asia/Pacific.

Singapore-based Soundbuzz has a presence in 13 countries in the region and licenses with Sony BMG, EMI, Warner Music International, Universal Music Group, and more than 45 independent record labels. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal opens the door for Motorola to extend its local-language music platform in Greater China, MotoMusic, to India and Southeast Asia. The U.S. handset company’s library now has over 750,000 songs and half a million mobile music derivatives, such as ringtones, available for download through the internet or a mobile device.

Motorola once controlled half of China's mobile phone market but now trails Finnish rival Nokia and faces stiff competition from popular models made by Asian companies such as South Korea's Samsung Group. To reverse its market share slide, it created MotoMusic in early 2006 to make its brand more attractive among young Chinese who set trends and spend the most on downloadable extras like wallpaper images, ringtones and songs, and services such as SMS and MMS. It also signed up Jay Chou and began offering themed services around the Taiwanese pop star, such as downloadable content, and launching one song pre-loaded on Motorola’s ROKR phone before general release.

Artificial Life launches mobile game version of America's Next Top Model
HONG KONG -- Artificial Life, a Hong Kong-based provider of 3G mobile technology and applications, has launched the latest round of a mobile game based on U.S. reality show "America's Next Top Model" on its m-commerce portal, www.botme.com. The game lets mobile users pretend they are the backstage manager for a fashion show. Avatars in the game are modeled after the real models from the show, which was created by supermodel Tyra Banks..

Time Out to arrive in Hong Kong
HONG KONG -- Rubicon Communications will launch the 24th edition of Time Out magazine in Hong Kong in late April, in conjunction with Time Out International. Time Out, created in London in 1968, has expanded to more than 20 cities worldwide, including New York, Chicago, Moscow, Sydney, Dubai, Beijing and Shanghai.

The arts, entertainment and listings magazine will be published twice a month in English and sold at local retailers such as Dymocks, Bookazine, HMV and Page One, as well as selected newsstands and supermarkets. Rubicon, a Hong Kong-based media company, will also publish a dedicated website supporting the title at www.timeout.com.hk. Leo Burnett will create the launch campaign. New creative is expected to break in mid-April.

Nielsen will launch Homescan in China and Taiwan
SHANGHAI -- Nielsen Co. will launch its Homescan panel in China later this year to track Chinese consumers' buying behavior and help advertisers formulate and fine tune marketing strategies. Its geographic footprint will be similar to its Retail and Media Measurement services, including key cities and provinces.

Nielsen already conducts its Homescan panel in Hong Kong, and plans to introduce it in Taiwan this year, providing full coverage of consumer purchasing behavior in Greater China. Many marketers such as such as Procter & Gamble, Nokia and PepsiCo manage Greater China as a separate division within Asia/Pacific.

But the China panel will cover 40,000 households in the mainland, created through “significant investment," making it the largest research panel there, said Mitch Barns, Nielsen’s president, Greater China in Shanghai.
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