FYI 3.03.2010

Unilever Moves Digital Marketing for Rexona to AKQA; Y&R's Tom Kao and TBWA's Donald Chan Resigned; QSL Sports Takes Control of China's National Basketball League; AdFest postponed until threat of violence has passed.

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Tom Kao has resigned as Y&R's chairman, China after two-and-a-half years with the WPP agency to return to Hong Kong for family reasons.

His position will not be filled, said Ambar Brahmachary, the agency's president, Asia in Singapore. "Tom set up the China teams as the Chairman of Greater China. At this stage we are good to go with the leadership at the Shanghai, HK, Guangzhou and Beijing market levels. We may revisit the greater China structure at a later stage, should the circumstances demand it."

Unilever has appointed AKQA to handle digital marketing for its Rexona brand in Greater China. The win follows a three-way pitch against Razorfish and the incumbent, OgilvyOne, Shanghai. AKQA already works with Unilever on other brands in China, including Lipton, Comfort, and Lux.
Donald Chan has resigned as CEO, China at TBWA Worldwide, based in Shanghai. His departure date and successor as CEO will be announced later, said Keith Smith, TBWA's Hong Kong-based president international. He describes Mr. Chan's departure as "completely amicable."
QSL Sports and the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) have forged an deal that will turn over the management of China's National Basketball League (NBL) to QSL, a local company founded by Chinese businessmen Kenneth Huang, an investor in the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Adrian Cheng.

As part of the strategic cooperation agreement, which took over eight months to negotiate, QSL will invest in the NBL. Basketball is already one of the most popular sports in mainland China, and the two entrepreneurs have ambitious plans to build a Chinese basketball league worthy of a global reputation and fan base.

The deal marks "the first time private enterprises will be able to partake at the highest level of the management and operations of a Chinese professional sports league," Mr. Huang said.

Mr. Huang has already invested in a CBA franchise, the Jilin Northeast Tigers. It was renamed the Longrun Tea basketball team last January, when Mr. Huang signed a $1.76 million sponsorship deal with the Longrun Tea Group.

"We want to create a league for the Chinese people," Mr. Huang said, although QSL also plans to incorporate international elements developed by "the best-run western sports leagues such as NFL and British Premier League. They are the world's most successful sports leagues. QSL plans to adopt the best systems from the best sports business models and rapidly increase NBL's league value among 300 million basketball fans in China."

Thanks to Thailand's stormy political outlook, which could easily turn violent, AdFest has canceled this month's festival, one of Asia's top annual gatherings for the ad industry, but hopes to reschedule the event in May.

"I'm betting against people's psychology. We don't want to throw a party and have no one show up," said Vinit Suraphongchai, AdFest's founder and chairman of the working committee in Bangkok.

Beachfront AdFest is held at Peach Exhibition and Convention Hall and Royal Cliff hotel (at left).
Beachfront AdFest is held at Peach Exhibition and Convention Hall and Royal Cliff hotel (at left). Credit: Normandy Madden
The festival is held annually in Pattaya, a seaside resort town about two hours south from Bangkok by car.

This year's dates -- March 18-20 -- are right after violent protests may take place in Pattaya.

Thailand is polarized between urban and educated Thais, including the military and business elite supporting King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's shaky, six-party coalition, and rural supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The current crisis was sparked by a move by Thailand's top court to confiscate $1.4 billion in frozen assets from the former premier. His supporters have scheduled a three-day rally in Bangkok for March 12-14 just days before AdFest was due to start.

If the political situation is resolved peacefully in the next two months, AdFest may be rescheduled for mid-May 2010.

China has become one of the key countries participating in AdFest. Last year, JWT, Shanghai won 11 awards in several categories for its Shan Shui campaign for the China Environment Protection Foundation, which AdFest named Advertiser of the Year. And JWT's Shanghai office was Agency of the Year.

China "is doing really, really well this year," said Ruth Lee, chief creative officer, DDB Worldwide, Hong Kong, last year at AdFest 2009, when she was a judge in the outdoor category.

Postponing the event leaves AdFest vulnerable, as delegates and scheduled speakers such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty's John Hegarty may not be able to go to Thailand two months later than planned. But the independent festival has strong supporters around the region.

"Last year, AdFest was affected by the economy; this year, it is affected by [politics]," said Tomaz Mok, managing director of McCann Erickson's Shanghai General Motors business in Shanghai. "I'm sure some people will not be able to attend in May because of scheduling. But I'm sure it can survive despite the trouble this year."

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