VW appoints Skoda agency

And other news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--Volkswagen Group has appointed Grey Global Group’s Shanghai office to create the launch campaign for its Skoda passenger car in China, the world’s third-largest auto market after the U.S. and Japan.

VW is producing three Skoda models for the Chinese market--Octavia, Fabia and Superb--through Shanghai Volkswagen, its joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC). The first cars will appear in dealer showrooms in the first half of next year, but a brand campaign is expected to launch in the fall.

Skoda, a VW subsidiary based in the Czech Republic, will help the German automaker widen its portfolio in China to better compete against rivals, particularly General Motors Corp., which has won market share from VW in China in recent years with its three models produced in the mainland, Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac. Besides the upcoming Skoda cars, Shanghai VW manufactures Santana, Passat, Polo, Touran and Gol cars for the Chinese market.

Grey’s appointment followed a pitch against several agencies, including Ogilvy & Mather, Saatchi & Saatchi and local shop WE Marketing Group. Grey already handles creative for Passat in China as well as corporate branding and relationship marketing activities across the VW portfolio.

Carlsberg's Asian campaign to run globally
HONG KONG--Carlsberg’s latest global ad campaign was developed in Asia as a collaboration between the company's international headquarters in Copenhagen and its offices in Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as the Hong Kong and Singapore agencies of DDB Worldwide.

Supporting the tagline, "It doesn't get any better than this,” the TV and below-the-line campaign is airing in Hong Kong and Singapore, but the company plans to run it in around the world.

An extension of Carlsberg’s "World of Friends" brand platform launched in 2002, the creative seeks to further strengthen Carlsberg’s loyalty with customers by connecting its brand with good friends and great moments.

Alongside the new TV spot, Carlsberg has developed sleek packaging for a new “label-less” bottle to enhace Carlsberg’s premium positioning in Singapore and its presence in the upscale clubs and bars there. The advertising launch in most markets coincides with a series of below-the-line activities, starting in Singapore, where the Danish beer marketer is sponsoring a contest on a MediaCorp radio station.

Time tests Sports Illustrated with trial issue
BEIJING--Time Inc. launched a trial issue of its Sports Illustrated magazine in China last week to test the waters of a murky publishing environment. The Chinese-language title, featuring basketball star Yao Ming on the cover, costs US$1.25 (10 RMB).

The official launch of the twice-monthly magazine, slated for September or October, depends on whether Time Inc. and its local partner, SEEC Media Group, gain approval to publish the magazine from China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP).

The government agency has banned the publication of foreign magazines except titles about science and technology. Until recently, that rule was largely ignored by foreign publishers of lifestyle magazines that steered clear of political news and other sensitive topics.

But recently the government has started cracking down on newcomers, most visibly by temporarily stopping publication of a local-language edition of Rolling Stone produced by Hong Kong-based publisher One Media Group and Wenner Media in the U.S.

Despite the country's long-standing fears about the influence of foreign media, Time is betting that China’s government will be hesitant to block an international sports title just two years before hosting the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Time is also getting around the legal impediments by calling its relationship with SEEC, publisher of successful titles in China like Caijing magazine, Securities Market Weekly and PC Magazine’s Chinese edition, a “content and branding cooperation rather than a copyright cooperation,” according to a Sports Illustrated executive in New York.

Like all foreign titles, the Chinese edition of Sports Illustrated is published through a license belonging to a local magazine; in this case, a defunct sports magazine published by China Sports Daily Publishing House called Tiyu Huabao. Even so, the sports magazine is being introduced with a trial issue and minimal fanfare, clearly an effort to appease GAPP officials.

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