China’s innovation-driven growth was a hot topic at this year’s Cannes Lions, and wrapping up a week of conversation surrounding the subject was the panel discussion “A world of digital innovation from China”, featuring some dependable voices in the industry.
The propagation of AI, big data, video and homegrown apps were all on the discussion docket, “It was almost like the whole country got into digital all of a sudden”, said Wilson Yao, group CEO at Allyes Group.
With Tony Feng, vice president of Vipshop, offering insight, the massive push towards ecommerce integration in particular was shone in the panel’s spotlight, “One of the trends in China, ecommerce platforms are creating a new ecosystem for the advertising industry, we’re becoming a competitor as well as a partner for media agencies” said Feng. Much of this dynamic will depend on how players plan on leveraging data, but an inherent relationship is certainly forming here. Yao followed up, “It’s all about data. That’s what we’re leveraging now, and in the future, to help our clients. That’s the agency’s role.”
Pick your platform wisely
The areas for growth are clearly quite broad, thanks in great part to China’s ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ initiative proposed in 2017, but nevertheless, broad growth shouldn’t signal haphazard adoption of platforms in China’s case. Yao explained, “Brands need to declutter their media vehicles. For every campaign, you need to choose what’s most effective to communicate with users.”
“Don’t try short term communications. Even if you’re catching eyes, you’re not being active or positive. I always encourage brands to combine brand building and ROI and build positive energy in their communications”, said Feng, who pointed to a recent case study in KOL media as an example, with an unnamed brand first relying on short-term, one-and-done methods in using the fashion KOL’s platform. Vipshop later transformed the campaign to something more long-term and meaningful, integrating CSR through a children’s charity into their strategy.
The state of creativity
While there’s no arguing China’s capacity for growth, keeping up on the creative front has long been on the to-do list of the country’s brands. “Catching up with creativity should be the purpose of any company,” said Feng. “For young consumers especially, it’s not just about what a brand can do, but what a brand can say. China needs to catch up in that respect.”
Yao took a more industrious approach to China’s betterment of creative work, “At Cannes, we’re newcomers, we come here for inspiration,” he went on, “when we’re talking about creativity, and it all comes down to understanding what market you’re launching in, and deep analysis of consumer data in those markets.”
Video stood out in the conversation as a growing medium, one that needs even more attention and more budget for Chinese brands searching for new audiences, and one that should perhaps elevate China’s standing as a creative pioneer on the global stage, “In China, short video is really popular, and it’s helping brands connect with consumers. We have so many short video platforms here, and I think that's something we could share with the rest of the world”, explained Feng.
Other areas in which China is creatively excelling are the varied application of mobile payment, the use of artificial intelligence, and the implementation of data in propelling campaigns to new heights. From whatever angle you view the shifting digital marketing landscape in China, domestically or internationally, it’s becoming quite clear that the country’s movement from follower to frontrunner is underway.
Taking the global stage
With over 20 years in digital marketing, Allyes has seen the once budding sector in China blossom into something most couldn’t imagine two decades prior. Making its debut at the 2018 iteration of Cannes Lions, the occasion also marked Allyes' first venture into the international arena, showing off both their unique perspective and distinct style.
Fiona Wang, marketing general manager at Allyes said of the occassion, "Cannes is no longer a purely creative activity, more and more, IT companies are involved." She went on, "Allyes is at its core a local advertising company, and in our view, the use of advertising is a form of cultural communication. We're bringing China to the world! As a leading agency, we want to provide customers with diversified digital marketing programs to help them gain more business value."