Michael Birkin Heads Back to Asia to Be Acer's CMO

In Unusual Arrangement He'll Retain Chairman Role at Acer's Agency, Red Peak

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Taiwan-based PC maker Acer is restructuring its marketing organization and has tapped the head of its branding agency, Michael Birkin, as its chief marketing officer.

It's the first client-side post for Mr. Birkin, a longtime agency exec best known for ascending within Omnicom Group. During that time he served as CEO of Interbrand and built out Omnicom's operations in Asia. The latter was no doubt an asset he brought to the role since Mr. Birkin will relocate to Taiwan early next year.

What's unusual is that even after officially moving into the marketing role at Acer -- which is effective in October -- Mr. Birkin isn't reliquishing his current position as chairman of Red Peak Group.

Red Peak CEO James Fox noted that the arrangement is indeed unusual, but it's indicative of the major commitment Acer is making to pivot the company from one that 's been traditionally manufacturing focused to one that 's more heavily marketing focused. "We've been working with them for just over a year now helping them come up with a new brand positioning," he said, and through that process, Acer senior executives became close to Mr. Birkin and asked him to join the company "for a fixed period of time to enact change." That fixed period is not months, but years, Mr. Fox noted.

Acer has not made an investment in Red Peak, the agency said.

The work Red Peak has done has included a new identity, packaging and communications that are being adopted globally, including a new tagline "Explore Beyond Limits." Some of that work became visible during the London Olympics, for which Acer was a sponsor.

For Acer, the goal to elevate itself as a premium technology brand around the world. Said Acer Chairman-CEO J.T. Wang, in a statement: "Our key objectives for Red Peak are to enhance Acer's marketing strengths and help steer the existing company mindset. In the product development stages, we will place marketing ahead of R&D and design. Our precise understanding of customers' needs will lead the way in products and services development. We will build an end-to-end marketing environment and enhance our marketing-oriented mindset."

By the sounds of it, Acer has bought into Mr. Birkin's way of thinking. Back when he started Red Peak three years ago, he told Ad Age his vision was to: "create a platform on which I could build a marketing-services business, but not in the same way others have been built -- very much going back to my trade as a branding person with my Interbrand background and put brand building, brand consulting and brand identity work at the center."

In taking over as CMO, Mr. Birkin will replace Walter Deppeler, although, in another unusual move, the incumbent won't be leaving the organization. Instead, Mr. Deppeler has been reassigned to lead a new marketing committee that 's charged with integrating Acer's global branding and marketing strategy. That's another shuffle within the organization for him; it's not even been a year since Mr. Deppeler was pulled out of a role as president of the EMEA region and tapped to lead marketing.

As for Red Peak, the agency will continue to operate with its limited list of clients. It continues to work on Intel, the first client it landed after opening three years ago, as well as well as You On Demand, China's first pay-per-view channel. It's also done work with American Express on a new pre-paid product called Serve, and is agency of record for music festival CMJ.

The shop has just 22 employees, but will be staffing up in a soon-to-open Hong Kong office. Part of the thrust going forward will be working to help Asian brands enter western markets.

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