Although his exact title has not been determined, Mr. Hui, 42, will relocate to Shanghai next month from Hong Kong as PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. He succeeds Richard Lee, who is moving to New York for a new global role at the U.S. food and beverage company.
He has big shoes to fill. Mr. Lee, 41, transformed Pepsi from an underdog to one of China's hottest youth brands. An aspiring filmmaker when he was growing up in Hong Kong, he joined Pepsi in 1997 as brand manager for China and soon doubled the company's market share to 22%. Tapping into his film experience, he developed TV commercials for Pepsi that resembled popular kung-fu epics. Mr. Lee was named one of Advertising Age's Global Players last year.
This year, he has made user-generated content the centerpiece of Pepsi's marketing strategy in China with the Pepsi Creative Challenge. The contest allowed Pepsi consumers to help develop the company’s next TV commercial with Asian pop star Jay Chou by sending scripts to a web site. Within six weeks, the page received almost 27,000 scripts, which were judged by other surfers. Mr. Chou and a panel of Pepsi executives picked the top five ideas every two weeks from the top 100 entries.
“User-generated content like blogs, SMS and MMS messages and other types of new media present new and great opportunities to connect with young consumers,” said Mr. Hui. “Richard [Lee] has created a culture of success and business innovation. I’m excited that they’re already wired that way, and it’s part of what attracted me to the job.”
It’s also the reason Pepsi approached him a few months ago to help the brand continue growing in China. Although local competitors pose little threat to marketers of carbonated beverages and sports drinks, the company’s global rival, Coca-Cola Co., has stepped up its marketing investment and expertise in the mainland. In the past year, it has increased Coke’s brand awareness by sponsoring online games like World of Warcraft that are popular with young Chinese.
“China is a very exciting market for the beverage category, so I see this as a growth industry in a growth market,” said Mr. Hui. China is “the second-most important market to the Pepsi organization” following the U.S., he said.
Finding itself in a more competitive environment in a critical country, Pepsi went outside the beverage category to find a marketing leader it hopes can preserve and grow the company’s connection to young consumers.
China's marketing landscape is changing rapidly, said Mr. Lee. "We look for people that will complement the times and lead the future. Harry is such an individual. He has great creative capabilities and a track record of business innovation. As such, he is well suited to navigate the increasingly complex media landscape and engage the increasingly entertainment savvy consumer."
Until September 2006, Mr. Hui spent five years as the Hong Kong-based president, Southeast Asia, of Vivendi's Universal Music, where he led the company's aggressive digital-media strategy. Before that, he was executive VP and managing director, North Asia at Viacom's MTV Networks, responsible for the channel’s developments in China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.
“I’ve spent the last 12 years working closely with young people in China, through a lot of focus groups and marketing promotions, trying to understanding who they are, what they eat, drink, wear, talk about and chat online about. That’s one aspect where I hope I can complement and add value to the team,” said Mr. Hui. “My experience has been about business innovation, consumer insights and new ways of doing business to enhance corporate value.”
While the MTV job running Greater China first put Mr. Hui in touch with young Chinese through initiatives like creating the first Asian MTV Awards show in collaboration with China Central Television (CCTV) in 1999, the Universal Music role rapidly expanded that relationship. The job placed a special emphasis on marketing programs like a popular music reality series created by the music company three years ago called “My Show.”
It airs on Shanghai Media Group’s Dragon TV channel, which has national distribution through Chinese cable networks. During the past season, “My Show” became the highest-rated program nationwide during prime time on Friday among 15-to-35- year-old consumers, according to ACNielsen. (The show was so popular that Mr. Hui, who was one of the judges, got fan mail and became the focus of hundreds of chat rooms and blog sites.)
Each year, 40 contestants selected from over 100,000 applicants attend an eight-week training camp in Shanghai, where they are groomed and trained in singing, dancing and acting, including firsthand tips from pop stars signed by Universal Music in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The winner gets a singing contract worth $120,000.
Cathay Pacific Airways’ Dragonair division, a local fashion retail chain, and, ironically, Coca-Cola's Sprite brand, sponsored the last season. The sponsorship deals include TV spots during commercial breaks, product placement and sponsored segments within each episode, brand visibility in a national road show to drive contestant applications and internet exposure on Sina.com, one of China’s leading portals.
Mr. Hui isn’t sharing any hints about his plans to follow up Pepsi’s success last year with the online contest. “I’d like to get the brand into more platforms than music, but I have no presumptions at the moment. It’s too early to say what my focus is, but I believe that company has tremendous assets and some incredible brands, and the team has done a great job. The people I’ve met in the company are excited about innovation, creativity and process improvement.”
Other people news in Greater China
[hong kong] McCann Erickson has appointed new managing directors for its offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.
Eunice Wong takes on the position in the agency's operation in Shanghai. Most recently, she was marketing director for the Jardine Restaurant Group, based in Hong Kong. She has held senior marketing roles at PCC Skyhorse and Citigroup Asset Management and served as VP and general manager, Greater China for DDB Worldwide for three years. Margaret Chan is promoted to the managing director role at McCann's office in Beijing from head of business development. In Hong Kong, Spencer Wong has been appointed managing director of that office in addition to his existing duties as exec creative director exec VP, China.
In addition, Sharon Kum, who leads McCann's integrated communications team for Intel Corp.'s advertising business in China, will take on another role at the agency, chief operating officer, China at McCann Worldgroup. The new structure follows the decision by Don Norris, McCann's managing director for China based in Beijing, to resign from the network after 11 years.
[hong kong] BusinessWeek has promoted Christina Lee to managing director, Asia from regional director, Asia. She will remain based in Hong Kong. In her new position, she will direct sales, marketing, business development and strategic efforts for the business magazine, as well as expanding its local-language business and partnerships in China. Before she joined BusinessWeek, she worked in sales at Yahoo Inc., Star Group and Avenue magazine.