WPP's Kantar Buys China Social-Media Intelligence Expert CIC

Agency Helps Marketers Make Sense of China's Fragmented Digital Landscape

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WPP Group's Kantar Media is stepping up its digital game in China, acquiring a pioneering local agency that helps marketers leverage the power of social media.

CIC is a leader in providing analysis and insights based on information gleaned from China's vibrant social-media outlets. Its ability to collect and analyze chatter about a certain product or brand in real time has made it highly valuable to marketers seeking ways to better engage with Chinese consumers online.

Some of CIC's longterm clients include PepsiCo, Nike , L'Oreal and Dell. The company was founded in 2004 and has more than 60 social-media consultants. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

China has 513 million internet users, up 12% from a year earlier, according to the latest government figures. More than 70% of them are on social media, said Sam Flemming, founder and chairman of CIC.

"It's more than just eyeballs, it's also hearts and souls and feelings and people expressing themselves, engaging with each other and brands. So it provides a huge opportunity to engage consumers and get in front of them in very unique ways," Mr. Flemming said.

The challenge in China is that the social-media landscape is highly fragmented. Facebook and Twitter are routinely blocked by the government, but Chinese internet users have a vast array of home-grown choices such as the Sina and Tencent microblog services, social-networking sites such as RenRen and highly popular online message boards.

"It poses a real challenge for marketers, what to do and where to do it. And that 's what we can help marketers better understand," Mr. Flemming said.

Information provided by CIC can help brands gather market research in the form of millions of online comments, track the performance of a new campaign, help inspire better creative work, or understand which social-media sites are better for pinpointing target consumers, Mr. Flemming said.

"CIC will enrich our global digital expertise in capturing millions of online conversations and 'making sense of the buzz' in order to provide interpretation that informs strategic decisions and leads to action," Jean-Michel Portier, global CEO of Kantar Media, said in a statement.

CIC will keep its offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and its management team will report to Mr. Portier.

Kantar Media is the media research and insights division of Kantar, WPP's consumer-insight arm. Kantar Media has existing partnerships in China with agencies including CSM and CTR.

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