Hong Kong taps Burson to up US interest

WASHINGTON: The city of Hong Kong has chosen Burson-Marsteller to take over its long-running campaign to attract US business investment.

WASHINGTON: The city of Hong Kong has chosen Burson-Marsteller to take over its long-running campaign to attract US business investment.

The two-year, $500,000 effort aims to portray Hong Kong as the most independent and business-friendly of Chinese cities, as the "New York and London of Asia." By reassuring American investors of the city's independence from the Chinese socialist system, Hong Kong hopes to position itself as the gateway to doing business in the region.

The goal will likely be complicated by the recent emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in the city.

Richard Mintz, Burson's director of public affairs, conceded that it would be hard to communicate other messages until the SARS matter is resolved.

"First, we want to help the city communicate through this crisis," he said, by reassuring Americans that the city is working closely with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, and is home to some of the world's best doctors.

Hill & Knowlton most recently held the business, but chose not to repitch after the contract expired in February. The account has turned over every two years since it was held by Ogilvy in the 1990s. Ketchum and Edelman have both held it in the interim.

Sources within those firms cited similar reasons for the turnover, specifically a lack of funds provided to achieve the client's goals. Said one, "The political situation (in Hong Kong) just isn't conducive to giving a lot of money for communications."

Mintz, who worked on the account while at Ogilvy and ran other programs for the city in his current role, said, "We can deliver significant value here in the US with the budget and scope of work they provide."

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