Huawei taps WPP to promote brand in the US amidst trade war

Huawei has tapped WPP to raise awareness on social media and handle PR and communications for its brand in the US. According to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing carried out on 25 January seen by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Huawei has hired Adlab to offer services for PR, issues counselling, crisis management, corporate positioning, developing consumer marketing solutions, M&A communications, and government lobbying. According to Business Insider, Adlab is under WPP's AKQA.

At the same time, the agency will also handle social creative concept and production, performance analytics, community management, paid social media management, social strategy, and brand voice. While the filing stated that the contract is for a year, the contract amount was not disclosed. FARA requires individuals doing political or advocacy work on behalf of foreign entites in the US to register with the Department of Justice and disclose their relationship, activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of their activities. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Huawei and AKQA for additional information.

This is not the first time WPP is working with Huawei in the West. It reportedly signed a US$350 million contract with Wavemaker last March for media campaigns across more than 65 markets worldwide, according to US political journalism company Politico. Meanwhile, it also brought on board Burson Cohn & Wolfe in 2019 to help define its media strategy for a one-off fee of US$160,000, the Financial Times reported. This occurred when the Chinese company was shoved under the spotlight after former President Donald Trump's ban on Huawei and the arrest of Huawei's CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

Huawei and 70 of its affiliates were placed on an "Entity List" in 2019, barring the company from purchasing parts and components from US companies without the approval of the US government, Reuters reported. As a result, Huawei now requires a US government licence to purchase American technology. Despite recently taking over as President, Joe Biden has yet to draw up any policies regarding the trade war with China. In fact, Republican lawmakers have pressed Biden's nominee to the lead the Commerce Department to spell out if she will remove Huawei from a trade blacklist "under any circumstances", CNBC said. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the government will take steps to "safeguard American telecoms networks from untrusted vendors such as Huawei that threaten national security".

Last year, the company saw a 41% year-on-year dip in smartphone sales during the fourth quarter of 2020, as a result of US sanctions, shipping out only 33 million smartphones globally. It also had to sell off the HONOR brand to Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology last November after coming under "tremendous pressure" due to a persistent unavailability of technical elements needed for its mobile phone business.

The HONOR brand focuses on the youth market by offering phones in the low to mid-end price range. Despite this, Huawei still launched new lines of smartphones including the Nova 7 SE 5G Lohas edition. At the same time, HONOR also recently unveiled the V40 smartphone, its first device since being sold off.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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