Tailored for rising stars within digital marketing in China, Campaign’s DigitalMediaWorks (DMW) workshop took place on 10 August in Shanghai, chaired by Bertilla Teo, CEO of Publicis Media Greater China.
The aim of the training, delivered in Mandarin, was to simulate a 'real-life' agency pitch scenario, with a leading brand presenting a brief at the start of the day, and delegates working in teams with mentors to come up with a proposed media strategy to present to the client at the end of the day.
The identity of the client and details of the brief—Coca-Cola’s campaign for the imminent Chinese New Year (CNY) in 2017—were not revealed until the morning of the event.
The 73 delegates who signed up were split into seven groups that worked against the clock to come up with ideas, with a specific focus on digital. Each team then had five minutes to pitch to a judging panel in a separate room. The winning team then presented its pitch again to the rest of the delegates.
The judging panel gave delegates constructive feedback along with examples of what has and hasn’t worked for the brand over the past 18 years.
The client brief
In the brief, Coke's CNY 2017 campaign objective is to have the soft drink stocked in every Chinese home during the festival, by reinforcing Coca-Cola as a beverage choice that strongly resonates with CNY values.
The target audience is 800 million drinkers aged between 12 and 50 years old, or about 400 million households in China. The decision-maker is usually the mother.
CLIENT TIP: It’s useful to present the buyer/user as
a person, to make them more human.
The consumer situation
Once a celebration of gathering and meaning, CNY today feels much less warm and festive than what people remember as children. Even though people are physically together, they are not present emotionally.
Families are drifting apart, with young people disliking being preached to and mothers yearning for the times where they had the family's undivided attention during CNY feasts.
CNY has become more of a routine, an obligation, a tiresome journey home, a hectic experience.
The brand challenge
- Build longevity of Coke's clay doll mascots (Fu Wa) as a culturally relevant brand asset for CNY, in the same way as Santa has been for Christmas since the 1920s.
- Resonate across all possible touchpoints to cut through China's massively cluttered consumer space.
- Develop differentiated CNY gifting packs to capture a fair share of the most important gifting occasion in Chinese culture.
- Seize opportunities for campaign activation, especially on transportation routes and in shopping malls.
The main competitors
Coke has a long-standing rival within the sparkling beverage category—Pepsi.
Pepsi was somewhat inactive during the 2014 and 2015 CNY periods because of its merger with Master Kong two years ago. However, the brand has made a comeback this Chinese New Year, supported by an orchestrated Monkey King campaign including a TVC, videos that went viral, sales promotions and limited-edition packaging.
A secondary competitor, JDB, maintained a high share-of-voice (SOV) during the same time period, so it can also be considered as one of the threats to Coke.
CLIENT TIP: The 2 weekends just before CNY are the
peak preparation period, so households will load up
their shopping baskets heavily.
The campaign budget
The success KPIs
- Sales volume growth: +7%
- Household incidence: +1
- Gain share: +0.3
Brand and consumer metrics:
- Unaided ad awareness: Keep the momentum from last year
- Brand love score: +0.2
- P4W consumption: +1
The common pitches
An idea that was repeatedly brought up by different teams was having witty answers to sensitive questions from parents and relatives printed on the Coke bottle labels, so the brand essentially becomes a customised communication conduit to diffuse any awkward moments.
The questions frequently asked by older folks during CNY, but deemed annoying by youngsters,
include, 'When are you getting married?', 'How much is your salary?' and 'Have you bought a house yet?'.
Proposed messages on the Coke bottles ranged from 'Yes, my mother is always right' to 'I will bring my boyfriend/girlfriend home next year...'.
- Miranda Tan, CEO, Robin8
- Major Lin, managing partner and head of digital, OMD China
- Kenneth Tan, head of digital and data, Mindshare China
- Vivian Zhu, chief digital and innovation officer, Publicis Media Greater China
- Sandy Tan, head of digital, PHD Shanghai
- Jason Hu, business director, Amnet China
- Mandy Hou, head of ecommerce and programmatic, Performics China
- Bertilla Teo (张敬鸾), CEO, Publicis Media Greater China
- Sylvia Goh (吴蕙凭), chief content officer, Publicis Media Greater China
- Shakir Moin, VP & CMO for Greater China and Korea, Coca-Cola
- Laura Xu (徐若敏), media planning director, Coca-Cola
The panel offered three lessons from the pitches it heard:
- Some teams were using digital as a 'reach' mechanism, but it does not actually evoke digital experiences. All the digital tools listed to reach consumers seem to be just a 'laundry list'. Lesson: Use digital for engagement.
- Slapping messages (nicknames, song lyrics, movie quotes) on bottle labels has been used consistently by Coke for the past few years, but to replicate that idea needs both cultural and strategic insights to back it. The message-on-the-bottle idea is certainly derived from cultural expectations, but is less strategic for the brand. There is too much 'rebellion' underlying the tactic, when just a hint will do. Lesson: Don't be overly negative.
- Some of the social challenges we assumed that Chinese consumers are facing, like delaying marriage, are not happening as we go down the tiers in China, down to the counties and villages. Coke reminded the delegates that these are problems in 'metro' or urban areas. Lesson: Don't assume.
The final winner
The winner was Team Purple, mentored by Amnet China's Jason Hu (胡宇龙). The team's core idea of “reminiscing the 'CNY flavour' ("年味") and recalling genuine connections made in the past” worked well for brand salience.
Linking the 'chemical reaction' when one drinks Coke to the 'nostalgia' of one's first time getting a bonus or first time meeting a boyfriend or girlfriend was Teo's personal favourite idea, as the link is "very strong".
Moin agreed that this team had the strongest insight into the context of Coke competing against a lot of new beverage brands in China. "We have been in this market for so long; it'll be nice to remember the old days," he said.
The creativity lies in the Chinese characters used (such as "回味可乐味"), which conjured up double meanings that matched both the values of the festive season and the brand, added Goh.
The best quotes
"Reach is critical, but memory is fragile."
—Kiki Fan (范奕瑾), general manager of planning and implementation department, Tencent
"Idea is first, tech is second."
—Vivian Zhu (朱京华), chief digital and innovation officer, Publicis Media Greater China
"Consumers are now CTOs (chief trial officers)."
—Major Lin (林明展), managing partner and head of digital at OMD China
"Better the KOL who is fanatical than the celebrity who is over-exposed."
—Miranda Tan (谭雁文), founder and CEO at Robin8
"I set a rule to not say the word 'but' during brainstorming, as Asians in general are very negative and critical of one another, causing them to be unable to integrate different ideas."
—Sandy Tan (陈葆晶), head of digital at PHD Shanghai