China Calls And The World Listens

When Motorola’s late CMO, Geoffrey Frost, first saw the Razr work produced by Ogilvy & Mather in Beijing, he thought it was a big idea, worthy of use in more than one market. The office has produced 12 global Motorola campaigns since 2004—and it serves as one example of how China, with its size and market potential, will become a critical focus of innovation for marketers, who may increasingly take those local ideas around the world.

Ian Chapman-Banks, Motorola’s gm of marketing and business development for mobile devices in North Asia, says this is just the beginning. “There is now 30 percent mobile phone penetration. In 20 years there’s going to be a billion phones in China,” he predicts. “This is the start of a consumer revolution that’s going to change the world—whether it’s phones, cars, houses, biscuits.”

Motorola, which had more than half of China’s mobile market five years ago, plummeted to only a 12 percent share by 2005, as Nokia and Chinese companies began to gain share. Nokia and Motorola now have 33 and 22 percent share in China, respectively, according to Gartner Group. Grabbing back share has been no easy feat in a country Chapman-Banks describes as “the most brutally competitive mobile market in the world.” There are 70 international and local brands, 2,000 models and over 70,000 retail outlets. In tier-one cities, there is very high churn, with many white-collar consumers changing phones every eight to 12 months. Even in rural areas, consumers may spend half their income on a cell phone.

Nokia made quick inroads into China by positioning itself as a fashion brand, and the Razr’s stylish ads can be seen as a response to its competitor’s success. Ogilvy Beijing ecd Nils Andersson says he found inspiration as he walked through the Milan airport and looked at high-end retailers like Cartier: “I wanted to create something jewel-like, Porsche-like, to justify the high price.”

The Beijing office’s initial pitch featured stylish shots playing off visual puns using razor cuts and shaving. “I wanted to give the campaign attitude and a certain kind of power to the idea,” Andersson explains. “We wanted it to look confident about the product, to show it boldly and not make it apologetic.”

Motorola also created Motomusic, mainland China’s first music download site, and allied with Jay Chou—the region’s Justin Timberlake—to boost its image among young consumers. Chapman-Banks wanted his brand to appeal to “global tribes” who share interests, whether in Beijing or Baltimore. “We had to completely reposition the brand,” he says. “Phones are no longer just phones. Motorola needed to become a fashion and music brand. It’s all about entertainment.”