Coke launches natural tea line

And other news in Greater China

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HONG KONG--Coca-Cola Co. is continuing its rollout of healthy, non-carbonated beverages with new teas created specifically for the Hong Kong market. Called Authentic Tea House and sold under Coke’s Nestea division, the ready-to-drink product line has no added sugar, artificial colors, additives or preservatives. It is sold in Golden Oolong Tea, Yulu Green Tea and Shuxian varieties in 500ml bottles for $1.50.

“This approach is in line with consumer needs in Hong Kong [for] healthy, natural products, linked with tea category. Not just natural, but really pure and with no additives,” said Karen So, Coca-Cola’s regional manager for Hong Kong and Macau.

“It’s part of a trend, not a sudden change in the market. We were looking for healthier, more natural, product ideas, and saw a clear opportunity using traditional Asian tea brewed from whole tea leaves. There was interest in such a product but there were no other teas in the market with this proposition.”

Authentic Tea House is marketed as an opportunity to escape the “hustle and bustle,” she added. “Drinking tea is a big part of daily life in Hong Kong, yet most people don’t have the luxury to sit back and have a sip of good tea.”

Television, print and outdoor ads developed by McCann Erickson star Hong Kong actress Karena Lam with a “back to the origins” theme, supported by sampling activities and supermarket promotions.

The TV spot was filmed in Chengdu, one of China’s most picturesque cities and home of the country’s famous panda bears. In the spot, Ms. Lam passes over a variety of comic book-like mechanical pandas, panda balloons and stuffed toy pandas in favor of live pandas in their natural habitat.

Ms. So said that the idea behind the commercial is that just as Ms. Lam prefers real pandas over toy ones, Nestea Authentic Tea House “will appeal to consumers who prefer the taste of authentic, traditional tea over trendy, flavored teas.”

Authentic Tea House could be rolled out in other Asian markets including mainland China and Taiwan, she added. “I would say natural no-additive teas are would be well-accepted by the Chinese consumers, but [whether we sell Authentic Tea House in China] depends on the market’s development. Hong Kong is much more developed.”

Coca-Cola sells another natural beverage brand in Hong Kong called HealthWorks, a ready-to-drink product it acquired in the Chinese territory in 2005. HealthWorks applies the wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine to an herbal tea format in unusual flavors like sugarcane sea coconut. Besides the ingredients in its name, the tea contains rhizoma imperate, a herb commonly used in Chinese medicine to reduce internal body heat to an optimal level.

Alibaba launches advertising exchange platform
HONG KONG--The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has quietly introduced a service to buy and sell online advertising called Alimama. It is similar to U.S.-based advertising exchange platforms like Adwords and Adsense but is a first for China.

Although Alibaba executives declined to provide details about the site, it has drawn attention from blogs and community sites in China dedicated to mainland’s digital media industry, where online ad spend has been steadily climbing.

“While I wouldn’t bet either way on whether or not will succeed, I do believe that with Alibaba and Yahoo China behind it, the new exchange has solid odds for success,” said Beijing-based Kaiser Kuo, Ogilvy & Mather’s group director, digital strategy for China and one of the architects of Ogilvy China Digital Watch.

“Now that Yahoo has finished its acquisition of the U.S.-based ad exchange Right Media, I’ll wager there’s been considerable sharing of expertise on how to run an exchange. The question of whether they succeed aside, I personally hope they do: ad exchanges bring increased transparency and efficiency to the online ad business, and both these things are in short supply in China.”

There is “distance” between marketers and dot-com companies. Alimama “solves a lot of issues, particularly for foreigners looking for a one-stop shop to put ads online in China,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai. “Right now, it’s so hard to know which web site to partner with and how much to pay. Alimama is a middleman that makes it easier for media buying agencies and foreign marketers to place ads online.”

China Unicom and Global Music to launch mobile music platform
BEIJING--China Unicom NewSpace Co, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of China Unicom, the smaller of China’s two mobile phone service providers, will launch a mobile music platform with Global Music International, a U.S.-based company that delivers music videos and music tones to the telecom industry.

China Unicom, the third-largest mobile carrier in the world, is now broadcasting music videos from both Chinese and western musicians on a cellular network, making China Unicom NewSpace one of the first mobile telecom companies to deliver music video content. The relationship gives China Unicom access to innovative, international content in a highly competitive marketplace dominated by its rival China Mobile.

It also “reflects the fact that China Unicom is migrating to become a comprehensive information service provider from a traditional telecom carrier. This partnership will not only provide Chinese music lovers with a brand new experience, but also creates new channels of distribution for Global Music International, which allows localized and personalized service for Chinese consumers,” said Dun Huang, vice general manager of China Unicom NewSpace.
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