BCW's Pivot Integrated Communications wins $1m contract with Huawei

BCW previously worked with Huawei in the U.S.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

NEW YORK: Huawei Technologies USA has hired BCW Group’s newly created subsidiary Pivot Integrated Communications, in a contract worth almost $1 million.

Another BCW Group subsidiary, BCW, previously worked with Huawei in the U.S., but said in March that the relationship was a "short, time-limited" engagement, according to various media reports.

Pivot, which is supporting Huawei’s comms in the U.S. market, is based out of BCW Group’s New York headquarters. James Cook, MD and head of technology for BCW, is Pivot’s CEO, according to documents filed to the Department of Justice. It was not immediately clear if Cook will continue in his role at BCW.

Pivot will provide strategic counsel, analysis and planning in support of Huawei’s comms in the U.S. market, as well as media relations outreach and engagement, according to documents filed to the Department of Justice. Cook is the account lead.

Account work started September 19 and will continue until September 18 next year, with a renewal option. The contract is worth $939,170. Pivot registered as an LLC in the State of New York last month, according to DOJ documents.

BCW, the agency, has worked with Huawei in the U.K., EMEA and Australia, according to a source familiar with the matter. When BCW worked with Huawei in the U.S., it was hired alongside Racepoint Global to help formulate the company’s media strategy, for a one-off fee of $160,000, as part of a broader legal and media pushback "against claims it poses a threat to American national security," the Financial Times reported.

Burson-Marsteller worked with Huawei for almost 10 years before merging with Cohn & Wolfe in early 2018. Four years ago, Burson tacked on the U.S. account to its remit, but the relationship was always a tenuous one — "off and on" based on political winds. However, Huawei's consumer division, which is its fastest growing division worldwide, can unilaterally pick and choose its own agencies; as a result, Huawei phones and its millennial-focused honor brands have moved from one agency to another frequently, a source familiar with the matter said.

After the U.S. government moved to "blacklist" Huawai for being a threat to national security, the controversial client has had difficulty holding onto agencies. Edelman axed its relationship with Huawei in January after winning it in late 2018. In April, Huawei ended its nine-year relationship with APCO Worldwide in a "mutual decision."

But after winding down lobbying operations over the summer, Huawei ramped up its presence in Washington, DC, hiring lobbyists from Sidley Austin LLP, Steptoe & Johnson, Squire Patton Boggs and others.

Huawei still works with Racepoint Global, said Ben Haber, an SVP at the firm. Last year, Huawei consolidated its comms with Racepoint Global, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Racepoint’s most recent contract with Huawei indicates that it draws $55,000 per month. The agency provides "PR support for strategy, media relations, influencer relations, analyst relations, crisis, content and social media," according to DOJ documents.

Cook has been with BCW for about a year. He previously ran Edelman’s in-house technology boutique Revere and its Artificial Intelligence Center of Excellence. 

Pivot is a boutique marketing and comms agency, focused on "devising and implementing creative, integrated and impactful campaigns for brands," according to WPP's website.

Along with Pivot and BCW, BCW Group’s agencies include Benenson Strategy Group, Direct Impact, GCI Health, Palisades Media Ventures, PSB Research, Prime Policy Group, Y&R PR and AxiCom.

AxiCom U.S. was created last year after BCW merged North of Nine and the U.S. office of PPR.

Editor's note: This story was updated on October 10, 2019, with details about Burson-Marsteller's relationship with Huawei.

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