Freescale Semiconductor ( FSL) kicks off a yearlong global advertising campaign Thursday, the latest move in a string of announcements signaling that the world's ninth-largest chipmaker is emerging from the shadow of Motorola ( MOT). "We decided that one year of being under the radar to get our operating performance and financial performance clicking is sufficient," said spokesman Tim Doke. Freescale was spun off from Motorola last year and its stock has quickly and quietly outpaced its peers and the market. Shares have drifted lately, but are still up almost 80% since the IPO. They closed Wednesday at $23.23, up 11 cents. However, the company has struggled to make its presence known beyond the designers and immediate buyers of its semiconductors, which get placed into an array of automotive, consumer, industrial, networking and wireless products. To remedy this, on Thursday the company launched ads in print, online and in airports in 12 countries. They will be targeted at hardware designers, their higher-ranking executives and retail investors. Also this week, Freescale announced a $500 million share-repurchase plan, the sale of a minor business unit for $35 million and the appointment of a chief information officer, Sam Coursen, who had served in the same role at NCR ( NCR). Doke wouldn't specify how much the campaign will cost but says it is "a substantial investment for our company. We think it's well worth it, because part of our ability to grow as a company is fueled by how aware people are of us and what we can do for them." The company is no small player in the chip business, but its competitive position since the spinoff has been clouded by a new identity and by a vast product base that numbers more than 14,000 items. Still, it is the third-largest chipmaker in this country behind Intel ( INTC) and Texas Instruments ( TXN). Its main competitors are TI, Infineon ( IFX), Renesas and Qualcomm ( QCOM).
Despite a good year, the stock has struggled lately on growth concerns, now that it tapped most of the benefits from the spinoff. Analysts predict the Austin, Texas-based company's sales will rise only 4% next year, to $6 billion, marginally better than the 2% growth expected this year. A key to improving growth will be the company's ability to get cell-phone carriers outside of Motorola to adopt its technology. Glaston Ford, also a Freescale spokesman, declined to be specific, but said: "We are very engaged with accounts other than Motorola, but are not prepared to announce anything yet." The company isn't shying away from the high expectations, however, and that's good news for investors. Execution and growth are two requirements that Wall Street wants to see, and with its transitional issues in order, Freescale's willingness to court attention on improving fundamentals should prove reassuring.