WeChat Parent Opens an Ad Bureau in Silicon Valley

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Tencent owns a number of digital properties that are very popular in China.
Tencent owns a number of digital properties that are very popular in China. Credit: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

WeChat's U.S. invasion continues as its parent company Tencent builds out ad services for American brands looking to reach Chinese consumers.

The Chinese mobile messaging giant, with 963 million monthly users, is opening an ad bureau inside its Palo Alto, Calif.-outpost to start promoting the service to U.S. advertisers.

"Advertisers can actually spend some ad budgets and get brand awareness in China," says Poshu Yeung, VP of international business at Tencent. "Targeting options allow advertisers to target Chinese travelers who are potentially going to the U.S. within the next month."

WeChat is an all-in-one mobile destination for many Chinese internet users, simultaneously rivaling Snapchat, Facebook and Messenger. It features messaging, media, payment options and other services. It's the most valuable brand in China.

The company offers similar ad formats and targeting as Facebook, which would be familiar to most advertisers in the U.S. But advertisers might not be as familiar with the Chinese market, which is why the company will offer ad services out of Palo Alto, where Tencent America already has an office.

Tencent will employ only a few reps to service the ad industry here, agencies and brands.

The announcement comes just ahead of Advertising Week in New York where Tencent plans to have a presence and discuss how brands can better reach Chinese consumers.

There are 3.5 million Chinese tourists who visit the U.S. yearly, Yeung says, and they account or $35 billion in spending.

Tencent has already worked with brands including Rebecca Minkoff, Zillow and FreePeople on targeting those visitors before they hit U.S. shores.

"A lot of Chinese people are buying in shops," Yeung says. "The interest is there, and Tencent now has a local team, helping advertisers understand the market, and how to do it effectively, especially for retail, hospitality and fashion brands."

Tencent will also enable electronic payments through WeChat in the U.S., to make it easier for its users to buy products being advertised if they're successful getting them to the stores.

Tencent has been honing its own marketing strategy in the U.S. This summer it hired Droga5 as its first creative agency to help it reach audiences here.

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