Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

This is a special version of it this week. Happy Chinese New Year! or 新年快乐

CNY

Whilst Christmas is the big ad time in the UK market and the Super Bowl dominates American advertising – the Sinosphere is dominated by lunar new year. You see Chinese new year adverts (in the Motherland obviously), Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. They are generally exceptionally sentimental and mawkish, but beautifully shot. It is a time for for family get togethers and when childhood memories are made. Things that symbolise Chinese new year include special food, getting given money in red envelopes and wearing new outfits for the first day of the new year.

Here are some examples I have found of this years ads.

KFC

A film director goes back in time to see his younger self and tries to give him advice. I found this interesting given the Chinese government’s ban on time travel in dramas.

Apple

This was done for Apple China by Peter Chan and reposted on Apple Singapore’s social channels. They’ve done a really good job of capturing the gruelling journey home that many Chinese make every year.  Shenzhen’s main railway station is anarchy at this time of year.If this one doesn’t wring your tear ducts out you’re one heartless bastard.

Digi Telecommunications

A mobile carrier in Malaysia. the largest shareholder is Telenor. This one has a slight twist in the tail. I was expecting it to be a family matriarch – but it touches on wider connections and childhood memories. Education is much more highly prized in Chinese culture than British or Irish culture.

Maybank – Malaysia’s largest bank

Nothing quite like a bit of TVB style family melodrama to be squeezed into this four and a half minute film. A family in financial hardship gets pulled apart as the daughter grow up and ambition put a rift in the tight family unit.

AirAsia

My favourite one is this ad by AirAsia, who managed to weave in a deft bit of storytelling through the camera PoV and reference the symbolism of the Chinese horoscope for this year through the main character Ah Boy.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Benedict Evans on ten-year future predictions (well as good as anyone can)

YouGov | Who is on top in the Nike vs. Adidas battle? – UK only data

The bitcoin drugs trade is highly centralised | FT Alphaville – looks that the cryptocurrency bubble could burst pronto

How an unknown Chinese phone maker became No 3 in India by solving the oily fingers problem | South China Morning Post – “Big companies which sell smartphones in more than 100 countries are too global to care for one single market,” Chowdhury said in an interview in Shenzhen. “The core strategy for us is to become the favourite mobile phone brand in emerging markets.”

HSBC’s Amy and other soon-to-be released AI chatbots are about to change the way we bank | South China Morning Post

Why Uber Can Find You but 911 Can’t – WSJ – one can understand the reluctance of technology companies to get involved

The Pet Shop Boys are the face (and sound) of Christian Dior’s men’s collection this summer.

Luxury group Kering to spin off Puma to shareholders | RTE – not terribly surprising it fits awkwardly with the other brands

Google Plans to Vet YouTube Premium Video Content – Bloomberg – guessing the News International media campaign and Logan Paul debacle is starting to have an impact

How China’s market economy has fuelled a prostitution boom | South China Morning PostMy grandma was always grateful to Mao, mainly because she was upgraded from a concubine to a wife under the Communists “one wife” rule. – There is also the shredding of culture and community during the cultural revolution probably ruined community / support mechanisms

Reuse, re-edit, remix and recycle | 重新使用,重新编辑,混合和回收 | 재사용, 재 편집, 리믹스 및 재활용

I have been working on a couple of briefs over time that have suddenly seen budgets cut quite dramatically. It’s often a struggle to pare the list of requirements back to a minimum viable campaign. One thing that tends not to happen too often is seeing assets reused and recycled effectively. I saw that being incorporated into thinking at Unilever making TV assets more easily localised in different countries including adapting end slides and one shot for culturally appropriate product uses.

Mexico

Germany

But perhaps the best example I can recall was one that used to show repeatedly on cable TV when I was in the final year of my degree. I would have the TV on in the background, whilst I slowly but steadily cranked out my final year series of assignments and essays.

BreathAsure seemed to have given their London advertising agency very little to work with, but this cheeky voiceover turned the ad around and was an insiders nod to how awful the original American creative was. I am guessing that this probably would not have passed muster if it needed sign off by an American global marketing supremo.

In case you’re wondering what ever happened to BreathAsure, it seems that soon after this ad campaign originally ran Warner-Lambert took them to court in the US regarding their product claims.

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day:

Ford’s video spot for the Mustang is emblematic of the craft in ad planning. Ford realised that a loud noise, that emblem of sporting automobiles can be beneficial or damaging in the wrong social context – like waking your neighbours up early on a Sunday morning. What was interesting is how this became a central part of their campaign.

Contrast this with the approach that Toyota took in marketing the Lexus LFA to Americans back in 2010

Back in the late 1980s through through the 1990s Alex Cox or Jonathan Ross would have screened a series of these films on BBC2 or Channel 4 late one night. Mubi tries to do this curation, but fails miserably – it feels like an intern cobbled together the posts by raiding the BFI book shop. Video intros are definitely needed, both Cox and Ross have genuine passion. There is a space for Netflix or Amazon Prime to pick this format up and run with it (but for the fact Amazon makes some godawful film picks).

Instead we get this documentary from Vice that just scratches the surface and hints at the gold beneath

Whilst we are talking about films, I can recommend Alex Cox‘s book 10,000 Ways To Die which is one of the best works I know on the Spaghetti Western genre. It is free to download from his old website.

Tim O’Reilly on his vision of the future

This week I have been listening to:

This new David Morales track

An amazing mix of funk influenced Thai music

China marketing agency landscape changes

Chinese poster

The Xi-era of China has seen the end of the go-go years in economic growth which was one of the factors picked up on Arun Sudhaman’s analysis of the market for PR services.

Arun also noted that the fortune of domestic and multi-national firms diverged.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Multi-national PR agencies often led with corporate communications and public affairs expertise. This meant that their businesses were led by leaders who paid lip-service to digital at best. My experience trying to sell digital internally was one of the most painful processes that I have ever done. It was one of almost insurmountable cultural differences: not Irish-Chinese, but analogue-digital.

To be fair many corporate and public affairs specialists in London are still trying to get to grip with what digital means. They know it’s important, but they don’t have a clue how it all comes together.

That mean’t that they didn’t really get social media beyond being a publishing platform. Chinese KOL (key opinion leader) work whilst effective, is paid media. PR agencies generally don’t have the depth of tools and analytics to provide comprehensive planning and execution for KOL projects. It is hard to get management teams to invest adequately in tools and talent.

Premier Xi has changed the landscape for public affairs practitioners. The government is less flexible, it feels that it no longer needs to be. China is on the ascendence in the face of western existential crises and America in rapid retreat from the world stage. Hence, new laws that discriminate against foreign technology companies as part of its wider approach to cyber sovereignty.  Public affairs still has a place in terms of research to provide understanding, but their foreign multinationals won’t like what the results will likely tell them.

Digital has hit the industry hard. It moved at an accelerated pace compared to other industries. Unlike the west were television isn’t in decline but has stopped growing, Chinese TV isn’t undergoing the golden age that we are seeing in the west. The government has made it less entertaining – which has only helped the acceleration of digital marketing channels in China. Government control of television content has meant less reality shows or remakes of Korean drama stories and more content extolling Chinese Communist Party values. Worthy content, but not particularly engaging.

May online marketing

In China, the major digital platform companies try and go direct to clients for social media advertising cutting out the media buying agencies. This gives media and digital agencies extra incentive to go and grab the paid engagements of key opinion leaders. These are often performance-related deals with directly attributable online sales or online-to-offline voucher redemption. Digital and media agencies are better equipped to handle influencer relations than their public relations peers. It is less about influence and more about performance.

Multinational PR agencies also have problems with their established client base of international brands. Under Premier Xi we have seen a more confident China. This confidence is manifested in Chinese board rooms. The way strategy and goal-setting works in Chinese companies illuminates this difference:

  • Big board meeting where outrageous unrealistic targets are set by the Chairman
  • Planning department turns the ridiculous goals into plans
  • Management goes to arrange funding

The business then goes to staff up and do whatever is needed. They will build massive conglomerates – what is known as building the eco-system – something that is frowned up in the West as being bad for shareholder value

Chinese entrepreneurs care about market share more than profitability. And sometimes they fail spectacularly like LeEco.

A lot of it reads like bubble-era corporate Japan. While it seems insane to outsiders, corporate China is much more closely knitted into the government than the keiretsus ever were. Corporate China may go pop in the future, but it won’t happen at the moment.

By comparison, multinationals are worried about activist shareholders and meeting their quarterly numbers can’t be as aggressive in comparison to their Chinese peers. This type of aggressive pursuit of growth would also be an anathema to the likes of WPP, Omnicom, Publicis and IPG who suffer from a similar risk of activist shareholder shenanigans as their multinational clients.

Which is why Chinese brands have been blowing up across sectors. 91 percent of smartphones now sold in China are from domestic brands. Apple has somewhere around 7 per cent share. Foreign FMCG brands are being slaughtered, even Amazon has only a few percentage points of market share.

Quite simply, multinational PR firms have generally bet on the wrong horse. China is the one market were American scale and capital actually diminishes in impact over time as the Chinese domestic market picks up. Multinationals in strategic business areas were always going to lose over time.

Where Chinese brands have wanted to expand globally, they have taken on foreign PR agencies. Part of this process was knowledge transfer. If one looked at an organisation like Huawei, you can see how they have learned and built internal capability with Chinese characteristics in their corporate communications function over time. It would be a similar process in other companies.

Even foreign luxury brands have struggled to be as agile as their Chinese customers. Between the crackdown on corruption and the rapid development of experienced luxury consumption – the only constant in the luxury market has been change. It is only a matter of time before China has its own answer to Michael Kors or Christian Dior. Western luxury brand problems will affect the agencies that work with them with massive fluctuation in marketing budgets.

A second transfer of capability from foreign to domestic is the move of multinational agency talent into local agencies. You combine that Chinese entrepreneurship and foreign agencies look vulnerable. Clauses that have kept western agency staff in check from plundering clients and talent don’t hold up as well in China.

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