Live from Digital360Festival in Shanghai

Text, images and video takeaways from the Digital360Festival, which took place March 28 in Shanghai.

Live from Digital360Festival in Shanghai

This is an archived of live coverage of the 2019 Digital360Festival, which took place March 28 in Shanghai. Our editors on the scene posted takeaways, images and videos throughout the day, liveblog style (newest stuff at the top). 

You just don’t understand me! Says the post-95 Generation Z
Posted 5.26pm

No, no Gen-Z in the room said that to a marketer like a rebellious teenager to a parent, but everyone on this last panel for the day admitted they felt anxious when prepping to speak, because they could not remember the last time they talked to someone in the post-95 generation about their hobbies and interests. Liana Yu, digital marketing director of Abbott Nutrition Greater China, describes it as a “distant, yet close relationship”.

Animation, comics, gaming (ACG) stuff seem incomprehensible and a waste of time to adult (read: aging) marketers, but Daniel Wu, head of marketing for Little Red Book, clarified how these activities energise the GenZ and how they are using these channels to fulfil their dreams.

But many advertisers are trying to target young people for the sake of it, to be brutally honest, says Linna Zhao (pictured below), head of insights at Wavemaker China. Yes, they do have some spending power, but are we looking at their short-term direct conversion rate, asks Zhao, or their long-term customer lifetime value?

The Little Red Book appeared more prominently in the marketing space last year, says Wu. Its positioning before this was surrounding young, beautiful Chinese women but then got repositioned in 2018 to include all young (not sure whether still beautiful) people, who are attracted to Little Red Book because of its celebrity partnerships. What matters though is not acquisition but retention, says Wu, thanks to the improved stickiness of the platform after it ventured into ACG entertainment. 

"Data is not God"
Posted at 4.10pm

L-R: moderator Vincent Wang, Jonathan Beh, Cyril Shi and Summer Zheng

Without the right talent, any data is basically dead, said Summer Zheng, North AP ecommerce venture manager at ExxonMobil, on a panel dissecting how to turn big data into ‘big value’. The bundle of data used by a brand can include both first- and third-party data, she continued, and brands like her own have to guide the third-party data providers they use to provide them with better services. “They need to have a strong business and statistical sense. Only with these can you turn data into insights and actions.”

Presenting the platform’s perspective, Cyril Shi, head of partnership, BlackDragon of, said that brands hoping to use to achieve efficiency need to appreciate three principles, the first being that data security is key at Secondly, brands need to be open to JD’s whole ecosystem, because results can be used in many different scenarios from social media to branding. His fellow panellist Jonathan Beh, managing director of Cadreon China, agreed on this point, stressing the importance of being open and collaborative to drive results. Everyone from media and ecommerce customers have different priorities, he said, but at the end of the day they all want to use data to interpret insights and apply them. 

Shi’s third principle is professionalism. “When it comes to thinking about which KOL can sell more products or which platform can have better marketing effects, all these capabilities are stored in’s platforms. If you have professional algorithms and capabilities, you will be able to use our platform.” Keep in mind, however, that JD’s data is broad, Shi warned: “Data is not God, it is not all-powerful. JD data is real but not omnipotent so you need to come up with way to make the data effective.”

WATCH: Christopher Kong, data and business intelligence director, Danone Nutrica China sounds an alarm about antiquated market-research methods simply because consumers don't say what they think and don't do what they say. 
(Posted at 3.55pm)

If you're not on social, you don't even exist
Posted at 2.39pm

Before 2012, China was essentially a follower in social media in general, but now China is considered a leader in the social-commerce model. Initially, social media was used for the amplification of brands and promotion of products—low-hanging fruit, really, with a mixed bag of results.

In recent years, talk about marketing effectiveness in the social context has seen sophisticated luxury brands work with KOLs and sell their goods in the KOL’s self-owned shops. This practice is pretty new, observed Leon Zhang, general manager and national head of social media at MediaCom China.

'If you cannot trigger a transaction, then your marketing is useless’ is not a mandate for Almond Board of California because it is a non-profit organisation. To Patrick Xiao, the board’s China director of global marketing, social is an immersive tool and useful for the board’s partners to generate better sales figures by pulling consumers towards them. What consumers are buying is a meaningful interaction, not 'just an almond'. Consumers are also not into mass-market products anymore, added Christina Lu, chief strategy officer, Wavemaker China. 


There's more to a romantic dinner than the steak
Posted at 2.25pm

Are consumers really trading up, as we’re led to believe? They certainly are in dating terms, said Peng Chen, partner and vice president of Focus Media: pre-1990s dating was about going to look at the stars or the ocean and whispering ‘I love you’ while looking into each the eyes of your beloved. Post-’90s dating? “It’s all about buying them a big house!” said Chen.

Everything in China’s economy is driven by consumption, he continued. But following a difficult year for the Chinese economy in 2018, which saw consumer growth slow to under 10%, some consultants are debating whether consumers will continue to “trade up”, which raises many questions for advertisers and agencies. 

Chen predicted that consumption in 2019 will remain similar, but because consumers are both more “stingy” and more willing to spend money on better stuff in the current climate, ad agencies and traditional media need to create ads that are more precise, that incentivise the consumer to engage, and that produce measurable results.

Peng Chen

One key understanding in order to achieve this is to realise that premium experiences are more important to many people now than material goods, Chen pointed out. When you go out for a romantic dinner, for instance, you’re more interesting in the atmosphere and emotion of the occasion than the actual steak on your plate.

Focus Media, a traditional media firm, has tried to rejuvenate itself with these insights in mind, explained Chen. In a partnership with Alibaba in 2018, for instance, Focus put tags on every building with an elevator, installed a screen in each lift and started showing ad videos 24 hours a day, targeted to the people living or working in that building. During the 11.11 festival, these spots included ads that encouraged elevator users to shake their phone to receive red packets. 21 advertisers participated and 36% of customers who visited their stores had seen these special ads. 75% of those were newly acquired customers, explained Chen.

Consumers will engage with ads if there’s an incentive, if it’s fun, if it’s relevant and if it is simple, Chen concluded.

WATCH: Julien Oet, senior director, sales development and pricing at the supermarket brand Carrefour, which has been operating in China for 24 years, describes the biggest myth about using data for marketing in China in this short interview. 
(Posted at 2.10pm)

WATCH: What's the ideal ratio of data scientists, data engineers and data analysts to hire for a new data marketing team without anyone throwing in the towel within a month? We spoke to Edouard de Mezerac, senior partner of consulting and data at Artefact China in our quickfire interview. (Posted at 2.00pm)

Why respect and 'loving kindness' are central to personalisation 
Posted at 1pm

Read the full story from this insightful and imaginative panel here

L-R: Campaign's Jenny Chan with Henry Shen from McCann Health, Vivian Yeh from Accor Hotels Group and Zoe Zhao from Mars 

Bell-ringing? So last century
Posted at 12.05pm

Ringing a bell to draw the audience back into the room after the coffee break? Tzetuo Cheng is not impressed. “People were doing this 100 years ago,” pointed out the national GM of the marketing centre, ad and sales department, at Xiaomi, positing that in the future, with the rise of AI and 5G, people might simply be able to receive a notification on their phones informing them that the break is over.

Tzetuo Cheng

“We’ve gone from 1G to 5G in only 20 years”, said Cheng, who describes 5G as being so fast it is “like your brain”. “You can think about something, and the next second it is turning into a real business opportunity.”

Discussing Xiaomi’s work on AI, Cheng gave the example of an AI project the company carried out with the Chinese travel app Qunar to help people secure highly in-demand train tickets over the busy Chinese New Year travel period. With the AI assistant, people could tell their phones when they want to travel and the phone would tell them the best time to book for the best chance of securing tickets. “We helped over 500,000 Xiaomi fans to get their tickets,” said Cheng.

Prepare for content to take offto an even further galaxy
Posted at 11.20am

The scale and variety of content consumption will continue to grow in 2019 and beyond representing “infinite opportunities”, particularly in China’s Tier 3 and 4 cities, predicted Leo Li, general manager of the strategic management department and marketing management centre at NetEase Media. We’ll see trends such as increasing rates of membership to all kinds of sites, and people willing to pay for knowledge.

Leo Li

Li said he foresees an “ecosystem explosion”, in which many platforms and types of content will be linked, rather than content being exclusive to any one platform. This will place a greater value on the creativity and originality of the content: if it is good, you can start with one platform and then branch out, said Li, who also predicted that all platforms could become ecommerce platforms in the future, following a model already begun by sites like Finally, said Li, we’ll see the “upward influence” of content. “Three to five years ago, people were talking about the internet as a subculture,” he reminded the audience. “Now, things have changed, the biggest WeChat accounts are government accounts like People’s Daily, and a lot of people are willing to interact with the government through WeChat.” Understanding culture will be the most important thing, Li said.

Should content be created by consumers or by brands?
Posted at 11.05am

Content itself plays a secondary role in marketing. Using content adeptly is vital, but working out how to build it from the bottom up and enabling it to go wider and deeper is getting more important, agreed panellists in this session.

There are two primary filters from which Sheilen Rathod, president of customer engagement, commerce and martech for Ogilvy China, looks at content: relevance and purpose. Brands that are not doing a good job with content are those that are primarily concerned with a one-size-fits-all broadcasting style, said Rathod: this does not solve business challenges such as extending customer loyalty.

L-R: Olivia Parker, Eric Li, Sheilen Rathod

Having KOLs create content on behalf of a brand is getting expensive, without much proof of their marketing ROI, says Eric Li, Abbott Nutrition’s senior director of consumer engagement and marketing services. Roughly 3 to 4 million KOLs in China, who all want a shot of fame as young people, have reduced the credibility of influencer marketing and conversion rates. Instead of KOLs, LOLs (local opinion leaders) are more valuable, suggests Rathod.

When it’s done right, content generated by consumers or 'users'—UGC—will work, since it reflects real people's authentic habits and preferences. This is also a part of China’s culture placing more trust in social proof.

Not without its challenges, content should not be created for content’s sake, but instead for the brand’s sake, and data should be used to inform content decisions. Too often, attempts to understanding the relationship between data and content is left too far down in the process, says Rathod. Data from a DMP can feed into the content that can be produced, and agencies are well-positioned to understand the “piping” (martech solutions to deliver the content), he summed up.

Only 15% of marketing is digitally enabled now
Posted at 10.00am

Alimama was set up as a platform within Alibaba to help small businesses to advertise their products. Philip Zhang, general manager of sales and marketing centre at Alimama of Alibaba Group, says the internet giant aims to provide data analytics capabilities to partners and enable these partners to build their own ecosystems.

Alibaba’s own ecosystem has been established both online and offline, whether in logistics or cloud computing. “Behind our ecosystem, we believe in data-first marketing,” he says. Only 15% of marketing is digitally-enabled now; in the future it will be a utopian 100%, Zhang adds.

Philip Zhang

“We are performance-focused and are able to provide search engine and display ads. Clients can get access to precise targeting capabilities through our system that understands user behaviour. We can make better recommendations of products to our members rather than bombarding them with irrelevant information,” he says, upselling to the audience. Alibaba’s recent investment in Focus Media was meant to bridge the gap between offline and online data.

“Advertisers can choose between pure-exposure platforms or data-driven platforms like ours,” he says, describing a new ‘APEX’ workflow: analyse, plan, execute, expand meant to help clients dissect their businesses and help them understand how they can leverage Alibaba’s data assets.

Alipay, Alibaba’s fintech and e-payments arm, has an even bigger ecosystem with 800 million users. That hasn’t been fully commercialised yet, Zhang says, but he expressed hope Alimama can help Alipay with this aim.

What's stopping us becoming truly customer-centric? 
Posted at 9.50am

Christopher Kong, data and business intelligence director, Danone Nutrica China, kicks off the conference with four points that he says are the biggest challenges to consumer-centricity.

1) Traditional research is slow and expensive
We used to use docus groups and surveys to understand consumers better, says Kong: now we're moving towards a more lively, more digital direction, conducted via cheaper, more interactive real-time discussion on mobiles. "1,000 people walking one step is better than one person taking 1,000 steps," said Kong. "Because they are from different backgrounds, they will help you understand consumers better."

2) What consumers say doesn’t necessarily mean what they do
Before, we treated mums like respondents, said Kong. "Now we’d rather observe how they behave in their day to day lives, so what they do, think and mean." When Danone does social listening, he explained, they know much of the buzz is generated by brands and campaigns, and only around 13% is from real consumers and their words.

Christopher Kong

3) Engagement is different from listening
In the past, a market research department would listen to consumers. Now, brands can not only listen, but talk to consumers as well, for example via WeChat, said Kong. This has three advantages: Danone can tag consumers for follow-up engagement; they can find out ‘true lovers’ (people who are really passionate about the brand); and they can track consumer satisfaction. "When mums are really satisfied, they like to share. When they are very dissatisfied they also like to share: contrary to research, 85% of the people do not need any incentives before they are willing to share with us", shared Kong. 

4) Trends are only realised after they happen
Some people are faster than others to adopt trends (innovators and early adopters). Danone now has a policy to listen to these innovators to try and adopt trends more quickly. "We held an open panel of early adopters from al over China to understand future trends. Before, a lot of mums would listen to big KOLs, but now, increasingly, people listen to various KOLs, especially those who dish out practical opinions rather than high-level advice," said Kong. 

Campaign Asia

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