Middle-Aged Man Buys Himself an Agency for Christmas

What do successful men with decades of experience in their fields buy for themselves as mortality creeps ever closer? Some buy sports cars; some buy motorcycles and matching leather jackets; some donate millions to charity; some “buy” newer, younger wives.

Chinese mega-investor Oscar Zhao just bought 80-something percent of London digital agency We Are Social, and Richard Edelman deemed the event important enough to rank it #3 on his 10 most important events of the year list this week.

OK, but why?

First of all, Zhao is the founder of Blue Focus, the largest agency in China—and he’s clearly looking to expand his outsized influence on the “third largest PR market in the world.”

In Edelman’s words:

“The emphasis on non-PR activities in recent deals is interesting, as if to say PR is only the heritage business.”

Zhao is one of the few guys we can legitimately call a “thought leader” (still hate the term); in September the Holmes Report noted his comments about the quick rise of China’s own social networks and the need for all firms to “go digital” in order to reach that massive audience. And in case you missed it, here’s a list of 2012’s top social media branding stories from China.

The real significance, of course, concerns the evolution of the business relationship between China and the West, because this event isn’t quite the same as major firms establishing offices in Beijing. From Financial Times:

“The deal highlights the growing firepower of Asian marketing services companies, which have traditionally been the targets of western companies rather than their buyers…”

We’re not talking China’s notorious “Black PR” industry here, guys. Blue Focus already bought a much smaller stake in Huntsworth earlier this year. In other words, start familiarizing yourself with the buying habits of the Chinese public.

This was probably a better investment than the Harley—and we have a feeling Zhao already owns plenty of sports cars.

(Pic via Huntsworth)

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.