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WPP closes in on mystery Chinese company Huawei

Here’s an interesting one: Ad Age reports that WPP has ‘edged out’ Omnicom in what seems to have been a two-horse race for Chinese telecoms giant Huawei (‘Hway-hay’ is what you say apparently).

Huawei is a global business-to-business supplier (worth $32bn) which wants to move into smartphones and tablets. For which it needs, or thinks it needs, a compelling brand although that hasn’t held back Chinese PC-maker Lenovo and Taiwan’s HTC.

WPP’s winning line-up, if such it is, included Ogilvy (currently very strong in China under British creative director Graham Fink), media shop Maxus and fixer-in-chief to the world Burson-Marsteller.

There is, though, one rather dark cloud on the horizon which is Huawei’s links to the Chinese government and the alleged willingness of some close to that august institution to pinch other people’s technology. This, in turn, has exacerbated security fears about China in the US where Huawei does four per cent of its business.

WPP companies are pretty expert at picking their way through these particular minefields; as well as PR outfits like B-M (and indeed Ogilvy in some of its guises) WPP has a formidable line-up of political lobbying companies in the US. As a British-domiciled company (Irish actually but it’s supposed to be returning to Britain soon) it may seem a better bet to the Chinese than US-based Omnicom.

WPP also recently won Samsung’s B2B business too, which looks like a fairly obvious account conflict with Huawei. That sweet-talking Sir Martin Sorrell (left) will be off to Shenzhen (where Huawei is based), Beijing and Seoul to sort this one out pronto – if the report is correct.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. It is actually pronounced ‘Wah-Way’.

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