AKQA Readies China Outpost

NEW YORK AKQA is pushing into China in anticipation of the Summer Olympics there in 2008.

The San Francisco-based independent said it would open the office next month in Shanghai, offering creative, technology and strategy. Ho Chee Yue, general manager of AKQA’s Singapore outpost, where he was general manager, will helm the new Shanghai office opening next month. He is recruiting staff for the office now, said Tom Bedecarre, AKQA’s CEO, who expects the office to have 25 employees by the end of the year.

“Our clients are looking for us to provide our services in China,” he said. “The kind of consumer brands we’re working for are making big investments in China.”

Several Web shops are eyeing China’s fast-growing Internet market. Interpublic Group’s R/GA plans to open an outpost there in the next year. Avenue A/Razorfish, part of aQuantive, in July purchased Amnesia, an Australian shop, giving it a foothold in Asia.

Bedecarre predicted several Web shops would open in China before the start of the Beijing Olympics, which are being treated as the country’s coming out party as a major modern power.

AKQA is starting its office with a big client: Coke. The Shanghai outpost will work on the beverage giant’s Web initiatives tied to the Olympics, Bedcarre said. Like Coke, Visa, another key AKQA client, is an Olympics sponsor.

“We’re hoping the clients we have that are already on the round in China, like Nike and Diageo, will be an opportunity for us to explore in the future as well,” Bedecarre said.

The China office will be AKQA’s sixth, joining London and Singapore outside the U.S. market.

Ho founded and ran The AdInc, a Singapore creative Web shop, which was merged with AKQA, Magnet Interactive and Citron Haligman Bedecarre to form AKQA in March 2001. His prior agency experience includes stints at Saatchi & Saatchi and JWT.

Ho will act as regional director for Asia, reporting to Bedecarre.