Huaweis $350M branding contract

Chinese telecom giant Huawei has signed a contract with branding firm Wavemaker worth $350 million in advertising spending — putting the firm among the worlds big spenders on ad buys.

Wavemaker, a London-headquartered media agency, won the previously unreported contract with Huawei in early 2019, according to a document from its parent group WPP presented to investors last August.

The contract provides a window into the otherwise opaque funding efforts that go into Huaweis public affairs and marketing operations around the world, as it aims to fend off or limit restrictions in Europe, the U.S., Australia, Japan and other Western countries.

The contract with Wavemaker allows the marketing firm to spend $350 million on marketing Huaweis products, including its consumer phones. Media campaigns would span more than 65 markets worldwide, including regions in Europe, according to the presentation and a recent job posting to work on the account.

The Huawei contract dwarfed other deals WPP agencies struck in the first half of 2019 with companies like LOréal, GSK, Adidas and others, the presentation showed.

The only deal bigger than that with Huawei in that period was with jewellery giant Signet, for $360 million.

“Huawei is a top three client for Wavemaker, and likely to become our largest client by the end of 2019,” the job posting also said, adding that “WPP has an Advertising and PR relationship” with Huawei.

A spokesperson for WPP declined to comment and referred questions on the contract to Huawei.

The Chinese telecoms giant also has separate contracts with other WPP agencies like Ogilvy to serve certain European markets, including Brussels.

In addition to contracts with outside firms, the Chinese giant has an internal media and communications budget allocated to each of its local subsidiary offices. The budgets can range from about €1 million to several million euros, two people with an intimate understanding of the company told POLITICO.

Opaque lobbying spending

In periodical disclosures to authorities, Huawei reported spending millions to lobby Brussels and Washington lawmakers.

It recently entered the top 10 of corporate spenders on lobbying in Brussels after updated spending figures showed it had laid out €2.8 million in 2018, trailing U.S. tech giants Google, Microsoft and Facebook. Its spending is likely to have risen considerably in 2019, as the firm faced wide public pushback across the world.

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