Elisa Harca
Feb 19, 2024

Revitalising brand engagement: The power of curated advertising in China

Amidst China's dynamic and uncertain economic climate in the advertising scene, an increasing number of brands are deviating from conventional methods and embracing personalised advertising strategies for a more precise and impactful connection with consumers. Elisa Harca from Red Ant Asia explores.

Photo: Getty Images.
Photo: Getty Images.

The Chinese market has faced numerous challenges, including the ongoing effects of the pandemic, property issues, and localised lockdowns. Despite these obstacles, the market has displayed remarkable resilience. 

China's advertising landscape has witnessed a seismic shift, necessitating a departure from conventional approaches. Traditional catch-all strategies are increasingly proving ineffective, giving rise to the need for more nuanced, targeted approaches.

As brands grapple with economic uncertainties, a curated advertising strategy emerges as a beacon of hope, offering a more precise and impactful way to connect with consumers.

These are the areas we feel brands should concentrate their efforts on:

Deep social advertising: REDefining success

Red's KFS matrix: A strategic paradigm shift

In social advertising, Xiaohongshu (Red) is a powerhouse often hailed as China's answer to Instagram. The KFS matrix, a trifecta of KOLs, Feeds, and Search, presents a strategic paradigm shift. Brands must recognise that 55% of users make decisions based on viewing feeds, while 45% prefer a more deliberate search process.

Feeds in Red: Crafting virality with precision

Feeds offer a cost-effective avenue for brands to build viral content rapidly. By strategically leveraging four dimensions—essential attributes, interests, recent engagements, and labelled crowds attributes—brands can tailor their messages to a particular audience.

SEO in Red: Seizing opportunities in the search racing track

In essence, the Search aspect within Red's advertising landscape functions as a strategic manoeuvre to capture the attention of individuals actively seeking information, but yet to decide. To optimise keywords effectively, we recommend focusing on four distinct categories:

  1. Brand-related words: Incorporate keywords related to the brand and specific product names to enhance visibility among users actively searching for these terms.
  1. Efficacy and using scene words: Capitalise on keywords associated with the efficacy of the product and the various scenarios in which it can be used. This ensures alignment with users seeking solutions for specific needs.
  1. Brand/product comparison words: Engage users in decision-making by including keywords that facilitate comparisons between the brand and its products against others in the market.
  1. Competitor Comparison Words: Target users explore alternatives by strategically including keywords that compare the brand and its offerings with those of competitors.

Douyin's segmented advertising tool: Tailoring strategies for impact

Douyin, a dynamic platform akin to TikTok but much more complicated in ad operation, introduces a spectrum of advertising tools tailored to meet diverse promotional needs. However, the platform demands a more localised content and strategic approach and a substantial budget for impactful results.


Qianchuan caters to those with aspirations to establish their own Douyin store. Leveraging its deep integration with e-commerce, this tool taps into Data Management Platform (DMP) data, orchestrating a seamless loop from product management to traffic generation. Navigating through the Douyin account/content, store, and the Qianchuan backend ensures a comprehensive transactional experience. This involves managing capital and qualifications to foster an environment where short videos and live streaming seamlessly convert into transactions.

Ocean Engine

With a primary objective of acquiring user information for offline transactions or directing them to alternative e-commerce platforms like T-mall and JD, Ocean Engine strongly emphasises creative content, landing pages, and audience targeting. This advertising tool finds its spot in industries such as education and training, life services, catering, and e-commerce stores or Douyin accounts, aiming to attract followers. Its strategy involves eliciting user engagement through compelling content and directing them to external transaction platforms.


Positioned as a content-boosting platform, Dou+ is designed for content curators seeking to enhance the visibility of their content, fostering greater engagement and follower growth. This format is the most flexible option, catering to personal and brand accounts with a modest budget. By investing in Dou+, creators can strategically amplify the reach and impact of their content within the Douyin ecosystem, making it a versatile choice for content enhancement.

Channel native utility advertising

WeChat Red Pocket:

The WeChat Red Pocket feature remains a cost-effective advertising option for brands. By offering "red pockets" to existing followers and potential customers, brands can drive engagement and follower acquisition.

A successful case study is Trudon, which launched a WeChat Red Pocket campaign with a captivating video cover, resulting in 9,000 red pockets collected within a night.

Carrier Freres has also successfully utilised the WeChat Red Pocket function.

Curated KOL sponsorship

Influencers and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are crucial in advertising in China. Brands should consider integrating KOL collaborations into their advertising strategy to ensure a balanced mix of owned, earned, and bought media.

Working with KOLs can take various forms, including dedicated posts, shopping list posts, and livestreaming. Shopping list posts, in particular, offer good value for money, especially when linked to critical sales moments such as 618 and 11.11. These posts allow brands to feature content focused on specific shopping moments, capturing the attention of curious readers.

For example, Amika was featured in an 11.11 shopping list post, resulting in significant engagement and sales. 

A call to curate for success

In conclusion, as brands navigate the challenges posed by economic uncertainties and a dynamic market, a curated advertising strategy emerges as the catalyst for success.

Redefining social advertising, leveraging Douyin's segmented tools, embracing channel native utility advertising, and seamlessly integrating curated KOL sponsorships propel brands towards a new era of engagement.

The call to action is clear: Embrace the power of curation and revolutionise your brand's advertising strategy to not only weather the storm, but emerge more robust and more resilient in the dynamic landscape of China's market.

Elisa Harca is the founder of Red Ant Asia.

Campaign Asia

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