Digital360 China: Key takeaways

Key insights, quotes, comments and photos from the Digital360 China conference on digital marketing in Shanghai.

Digital360 China: Key takeaways

Campaign's Digital360 China conference took place in Shanghai yesterday, preceeding the China Digital A-List 2017 event. Here are some of the key takeaways from the conference.

Go where the post-90 are

Consumption is driven by the post-90s, who are looking for their first houses and first luxury brands. However, the bad news is that this generation is less receptive to branding exercises. Knowing where their interests lie—anime, gaming, music, novels—holds the key for marketers to court them.

In the opening session, Jeff Kwek, general manager for key accounts and channel business in the Online Media Group at Tencent, said brands have to venture into 'The Others' (the title of his presentation), as campaigns can no longer be easily defined. Emphasising on the need to tap into unique user experience for the post-90s crowd, Kwek cited Nike, which created a personalised song list for runners based on their heartbeats on QQ Music.

"It [brand immersion] involves more people, takes a longer time and is more complicated," he said. "Things that would make your branding stand out requires a lot of energy and collaboration."

What works in China may not work elsewhere

The unparalleled success achieved by big names such as WeChat and Alibaba could be boiled down to the fact that Chinese brands have been shaping the habits of the mainland consumers, said Deepender Rana, CEO of Kantar Insights Greater China, during the "Going global: the international development trends of China's digital media platforms" session. Chinese brands who want to expand abroad have to be prepared to up their game. "Marketers may be able to get away with boring ads that simply won't fly on YouTube. Brands must learn how to make skippable ads," said Rana. Transparency is another issue that Chinese brands must tackle, as the bar is set much higher outside of China, he added. 

Seraphina Wong, APAC head of advertising and brand management at UBS, shared the same sentiment. "WeChat Pay, Alipay are big in China, but people in Germany have probably never heard of them. Realising that gap is the beginning."

Money buys content

In a session entitled "Investment takes China's industry to the next level", Amber Liu, chief brand officer of Leo Digital Network, pointed out that IP rights acquisitions can help agencies and brands create more branded content, given that the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) companies have already ventured into entertainment marketing.

"We have witnessed the evolvement in content creation from the widespread live-streaming to brands exploring open-sourced avenues to loop in consumers in the process. Getting good content is key as we can see from the data that it is what consumers like," said Liu.

Jiang Yi, senior director and head of social media and community mangement at Adidas, said although WeChat has been a great success, Chinese platforms have much to learn from Facebook and Twitter in making content look great. 

Emerging mobile habits of China's post-90s

Going back to mass media may not be a bad move for financial services firms due to the credibility factor, said Jing Pan, CMO of Dianrong, during a session titled "China's post-90s generation and the transformation of mobile internet marketing". 

"Three years ago, WeChat was just getting started and we utilised it to work with opinion leaders and share reviews with consumers," said Pan. "But then the cost became higher and more people started using this channel. We adopted mass media and the result is still very good. Almost 90 percent of our customers are mobile users not because mobile is predominant in China, it is because they use mobile to react after we have adopted mass media."

VR: Expensive but worth it

In a session on VR in China session, Wills Wang, associate brand development director at Unilever North Asia, stressed that ROI is the central question in the adoption of VR.

Alvin Wang Graylin, China President Vive, HTC Vive, agreed that the results from VR cannot really be measured by numbers, but the brand impression it creates can be immense. 

Blockchain creates transparency in programmatic

In the ongoing debate on transparency in programmatic, Gu Dawei, head of MIUI Monetization at Xiaomi, argued that blockchains remove the need for third-parties as both buyer and sellers would have the same data.

"Blockchain creates a single source of truth in an ecosystem where both parties don't trust each other," said Gu. "Since 2015, we have been excited about the development of programmatic, but China is still at an early stage and there are many issue to be ironed out."

The Chinese market is still like a black box

Picking up on the transparency issue, Charlie Wang, COO of ReachMax, said the during the programmatic transparency session that the biggest resistance in the Chinese market comes from safety concerns if their data is put on the third party. "Some also think it is a waste of fund to go to the third party," said Wang.

Panellist agree that attitude change will address the transparency issue but standards applied in the West may not be entirely applicable in China, added Wang. 

Keeping up with social media


  • Zhang Mengqi, Key Opinion Leader, Blogger, Influencer monkiyuki
  • Lawrence Wang, Social Media and Digital Director, AIG
  • Maggie Wang, Vice President, Commercial Strategy and Innovation, AdMaster
  • Moderator:
  • Ellen Hou, CEO, Carat Media China

This session began as a bit of of a popularity contest. Zhang Mengqui explains as a fashion blogger she has 15 million fans. But AIG’s Lawrence Wang notes his own popular Instagram account has 40,000-50,000 fans and counts Tom Cruise and Barack Obama among his Twitter fans.

Influencer content: balance is key

Hou asks how influencers evolve to create content for brands after creating content for themselves?  Mengqi explains you need to first invest a lot of work in your own brand before can work for them.  That means lot of self-promotion and spreading through word of mouth

Then introduction of branded content comes slowly. “I have to strike a balance in providing content for brands and content to my fans” Mengqi says.  Fans can instantly tell when a brand is promoted.  “If I advertise too much it could have negative opinions” she says, but many are used to brand exposure.

Lawrence Wang agrees.  “The most important thing is to maintain a good relationship with your fans,” he says.  “Sometimes I’m an advertiser, sometimes an influencer.” But he insists you can do both creatively, evidenced by fans telling him they’d love to see and advertisement in a certain way.   

Try to solve real problems

Ellen Hou from Carat plays a couple of video campaigns promoting instant noodles suited well to social media given the cultural practices of eating hot food as a shared activity.   One video involved setting up a noodle shop for Chinese athletes competing abroad.

“You need to excavate real problems,” Hou said, “and solve tangible issues”  - this one solves the problem of knowing what to eat when abroad, while the addition of high-profile athletes helps engagement.

Celebrity still sells

“Entertainment has been king for years.  This has not gone out of style,” says AdMaster’s Maggie Wang, noting that using key KOLs and celebrities continue to increase campaign reach exponentially and boost ROI rates.  This is especially true in livestreaming, but Weibo’s comeback as a social media platform also owes much to open platform sharing of strong doses of entertainment.

Track, refine and mix up your content

Maggie Wang emphasizes the importance of tracking social media activities and refining as you go.  Hot ads on WeChat won’t stay that way for long if they’re not optimized.   Sometimes ads are social, sometimes brands need to be embedded in surrounding media to be effective.

Lawrence Wang agrees, noting AIG has to refine its KPI’s constantly.  Sometimes a platform is chosen for its suitability for a product, and it does well at the start of the year, but by the end of the year its simply out of touch.

Converting users into sellers still isn’t easy

Lawrence Wang notes it takes a long time to convert a social media user to a buyer.  “There are many links in the chain,” he notes. “If one breaks you lose the buyer.”

You try to can use traffic to try to drive consumption, Mengqi says, but “content is more important than traffic.”  An article can be read a hundred or a thousand times and generate much praise, she says, but may not be translate into real selling incentive. 

The future of marketing

  • Derek Kwok, head of data insights & solutions, Greater China & Korea, Google

Kwok clearly sees Google as a marketing enabler of the future in China as he laid out some of its latest tools, from its AI ‘deep’machine learning program AlphaGo, to its latest Google Translate version in China that instantly recognizes languages viewed through phone cameras.  He sees more of these tools applied to marketing to help identify audiences and improve customization for each individual.

Kwok goes on to outline how Google helps marketers to:

Reach the right audience – via universal app campaigns (UAC) that help discern mobile user type and behaviour to identify high value users likely to make purchases.  Says Lazada saw big uplift through having Google help automate this process.

Improve creative customisation – can source data from third party suppliers to make campaigns more dynamic.  Cites how Netflix got viewers interested in watching reruns of the hit 90s TV show “Friends” by tagging top video searches on YouTube and inserting short prerolls related to the search topic.  So those searching lipstick in Japan might see a short spoof featuring Friends character Joey applying lipstick.

Scale relevant media and content – here’s where Kwok makes a short nod to Google’s recent work on brand safety noting the move to bring in third party verification

Automate optimization – Kwok details how Google helps place ads in the right spots depending on time, location and device.

e-Commerce: after the carnival

  • Jane Yan, GM Cross-Border Trade ecommerce, Walmart China
  • Susan Ren, Customer Engagement Marketing Director, Unilever
  • Tony Shen, Chief Marketing Officer, Alimama
  • Tom Wang, CEO, Xibao
  • Swing Shu, Data and CRM senior manager L’Oreal China
  • Moderator: Lareina Cheng, Marketing Director, Your Next Car

11.11 e-commerce levels aren’t sustainable, brands need to work at them

Alimama’s Tony Shen refutes the notion that 11.11 simply concentrates e-commerce activity to a short timeframe to the detriment of the rest of the year. “Even if [activity] slips, it still remains at a high level.”  Says brands need to leverage the event to sustain sales while working hard at brand loyalty.

L’Oreal’s Swing Shu agrees, saying 11.11 provides a way to aggregate your consumers and followers.  Then you need to work with that group to promote cross-brand sales to consumers

Buzz phrase: ‘High Efficiency Interaction’

Alimama’s Tony Shen said the key to sustaining traffic is identifying the best modes of consumer interaction with those window shopping online.  Of hundreds or thousands of interactions consumers have, very few are memorable, depending on their environment and experience.  Storing consumer data, reanalysing it and  applying later on is key to raising the number of ‘high efficiency interactions’ where the right things are said to the right consumers.

Xibao’s Tom Wang agreed saying from a service perspective retailers benefit enormously after the first few interactions by reusing past data to serve up far more relevant links to consumers.

Swing Shu said high-efficiency interactions need to be direct and precise because only when customers feel that real sense of delight will they be keen to return for more.

More platforms please

L’Oreal’s Swing Shu said that while Alibaba can accommodate all products, it would be helpful to have more other platforms.  Some other platforms like JD focus selling electronics but more platforms and more shared data would be useful.

Don’t forget offline

Walmart’s Jane Yan says that while they continue to use big data to optimise customer experiences online, they still see a bright future offline.  A key focus remains on linking their online and office experiences.  “In future, we see many will shop offline because they want that experience” she said.

The rise of sitting room economy: How OTT brings a new climax to programmatic

  • Colin Han, Chief Product Officer, hdtMEDIA
  • Vivian Zhu, Chief digital and Innovation Officer, Publicis Media China
  • Moderator: Xuan Su, Chief Technology Officer, Bluefocus

The promise of OTT

“This is the age of multiple screens and OTT is connected to the largest screen,” HdtMedia’s Colin Han began.  Not only does it mean for advertisers that visual effects can be more profound, but like traditional TV, you can reach multiple viewers in families at once. 

Publicis’ Vivian Zhu agrees that sitting room scenarios can be really conducive environments to decide on purchases, but the panel agrees more technology is needed to improve conversion rates.

OTT’s programmatic challenge: better viewer data & interaction interface

While data exists on which demographics are connected to OTT and smart TVs throughout the day, there are still challenges in getting a more accurate segmentation of OTT viewers on each screen, Han said.

Zhu said advertisers can make use of time slots demographics and user searches to target whether a male OTT viewer might be interested in a car purchase and push a BMW ad, for instance.

But Zhu said the real OTT opportunity lies in finding that moment when a Dior ad might be targeted to a boyfriend and girflfriend watching a show and the boyfriend can instantly click through the smart TV to buy her what she wants.

What’s holding that back, Han says is a lack of a user friendly interface.  Right now, the key interface with smart TV’s is a remote control which is not user friendly.  Bluefocus’ Xuan Su pointed to voice recognition technology in future that might help solve this problem.

Body recognition technology key to future OTT programmatic

Su and Zhu talk about how facial recognition technology may hold the key to OTT’s programmatic future.  Cameras that can recognize what kind of moods viewers are in.  Combined with audio andvoice recognition, advertisers could target audiences based on real-time scenarios in their sitting rooms.

Interestingly, no one on the panel raises the issue of privacy concerns.

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