The new joint venture will be finalised at the end of 2011. It will be based in Hong Kong, with offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
Engauge was established in 2007, is one of the largest independent agencies in the US, and is a portfolio company of Halyard Capital. Its client roster such as Nationwide, Cisco, Coca-Cola, UPS, Brown-Forman, Nestlé and Champion Spark Plugs.
WE Marketing Group is an independent marketing communications agency with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing. WE's social media division was started in June 2011, with clients including Mars M&Ms, Cisco, Kjeldsens Butter Cookies, China Car Rental, and Stroili Oro.
Viveca Chan, chairman and chief executive officer, WE Marketing Group will also become chairman of WE Engauge. Hugo Chan will act as the managing partner of the joint venture's China operations, while Rick Milenthal, executive chairman of Engauge, and Raghu Kakarala, managing partner of WE Engauge will continue to be based in the US.
Milenthal told Campaign Asia there were some significant factors behind Engauge's decision to choose WE Marketing and the China market.
China has become the world's largest social-media market, with 295 million users in first half of 2011, he said. As of November this year, Sina weibo alone has 250 million registered users.
Chinese users spend the most amount of time on social platforms (40 per cent) compared to the rest of the world, and there are more active users than those of the west. Social media has profound impact in China's society and even the government has taken up social media. That's despite some of the best known platforms of the West - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ - not being available on the mainland.
“This all translates into a tremendous opportunity for brands to create brand preference and affinity,” Milenthal said, “Given the country’s adoption, social media represents the most powerful way to do this. However, as other international social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are banned in China, a solid local understanding and operation of Chinese social media is essential, and there is no one taking the leadership position on how brands leverage on social media in China,”
Chan said that combining Engauge's client and research and analytics capabilities with WE's local social media expertise will help position WE Engauge as the leading international social media agency with an "east-meets-west" best practice platform.
Milenthal said that Enguge is planning to undertake more joint venture partnerships in Korea, Japan, India, Brazil, Germany and the UK over the next six months, using the China joint venture as a benchmark.
In addition to the annoucement of WE Engauge, WE Marketing Group was also appointed by China Telecom (Hong Kong) International, as its full service agency in August. The account includes branding, creative and media, and has just rolled out its first major print and online campaign in Hong Kong, for the dedicated virutal private network solution targeting the retail industry.