China's Tencent seeks to accelerate growth of WeChat outside China

The new campaign will target 15 different markets including Brazil, India and Spain

Soccer star Lionel Messi in WeChat's new advertisement

Soccer star Lionel Messi in WeChat's new advertisement

Chinese Internet giant Tencent is rolling out a global marketing campaign for its WeChat messaging app in a bid to expand the product's reach across 15 different markets, and boost its popularity among users outside China.

The new campaign will stretch into countries including Brazil, India, Mexico, Spain and Thailand, and marks the largest marketing push for WeChat, a product that lets users send messages, voice recorded notes and pictures to friends via their smartphone.

WeChat has over 300 million users, most of them in Tencent's home market of China, but increasingly users from other countries are joining the service. On Wednesday, Tencent revealed that WeChat now had over 70 million users outside of China, up from 40 million in April. The app currently comes in 18 different languages including English.

The user growth is an encouraging sign for Tencent, one of several Chinese Internet companies that have ambitions to expand their businesses abroad. Tencent is best known as the developer of QQ, China's largest instant messaging service, which has 800 million users. The company has also bought stakes in U.S. developers Epic Games and Riot Games.

So far, Chinese-developed Internet services have yet to match the global reach of Google, Facebook or Twitter. Tencent's WeChat product, however, could be among the first to gain a major international following, according to analysts.

WeChat works like other cellphone messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Line, but much of the product's marketing has been outside of mature markets, or has relied on word-of-mouth. Still, Tencent could one day try to actively promote WeChat in the U.S. In February, the company said it had put together a small team to study the U.S. market.

As part of the new marketing campaign, Tencent has recruited soccer player Lionel Messi and other international celebrities to star in advertisements for WeChat.

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