CBI News Wrap: Didi Chuxing’s Comedy Show and Drama Placement

Didi president Jean Liu takes the stage

News From China

Didi Chuxing (aka China’s Uber) is stepping up its marketing game in entertainment. In the aftermath of a recent public relations crisis, the ride-hailing firm has launched a comedy show on Tencent Video. On “Everybody Roast Didi” (七嘴八舌吐滴滴), top comedians from one of China’s most popular comedy shows take turns satirizing the company from the passenger’s perspective. On the other side, Didi drivers and staff members, including its president, Jean Liu, try to defend themselves from the ceaseless attacks. 

Didi also scored a major product placement win in the recent hit series “A Little Reunion” (小欢喜), which follows the lives of three urban families as their teenage children prepare for China’s all-important college entrance exam. The series was acclaimed for tackling social issues such as depression and sexual harassment, as well as unemployment. When one of the fathers finds himself out of work, he turns to driving for Didi to make ends meet, creating a positive association between the upstanding father and Didi drivers in general. The brand also created social media tie-ins to its placement that linked to its driver recruitment page and used influencers to spread awareness of the campaign. 

“A Little Reunion” has also won kudos for product placements and other brand integrations, with participation by more than 15 other brands, including Ford, Ping An Insurance, Wahaha, Kuaishou, and VIPshop. 

China’s television regulator is reportedly planning to limit dramas to 40 episodes per series, a move intended to combat the “watering down” of stories with superfluous content. This would put a significant dent in revenues from advertisers for a series such as “A Little Reunion,” which ran to 49 episodes. The drama profiled in this week’s case study, “Return the World to You” ( 归还世界给你 ) had an even lengthier run of 58 episodes. 

Tencent hosted a forum on branding in popular IP on August 30, highlighting the internet giant’s multi-platform offerings, which encompass music, sports, news, film, streaming video, games, and literature. An example given is Tencent Video’s “Produce Camp 2019,” licensed from South Korea’s CJ E&M, for which it also created six official derivative programs, 55 side programs (such as behind-the-scenes videos), 257 short videos, 898 graphics, and more than 7,600 articles, increasing fan interest in the show, its stars, and sponsors. 

Ent Group released an extensive report on China’s fast growing short-video market. The report notes that as of December 2018 (ancient history in this space), the short-video audience had reached 648 million, or 78.2 percent of internet users, and already exceeded the long-form video audience by 36 million. A few other highlights:

  • Since 2018, there has been a dramatic increase in platform-generated content on short video apps. 
  • Popular formats include celebrity vlogs and “mini variety shows.” 
  • Short variety series running from 5 to 15 minutes are an audience favorite (and key vehicle for brand presence).

Another report from Media 360 looks at how brand placements on variety shows have become a major force in the ad market. They rose 16 percent in the first half of 2019 to nearly RMB 22 billion ($3.1 billion), bucking the broader downward trend in China’s ad industry. 

  • The first half of 2019 saw the number of new variety shows on streaming sites double year-on-year, to 62.
  • Reality shows led the market, accounting for almost 50 percent of the total, followed by music competitions.
  • Strong brand numbers: 546 brands placed 697 products on variety shows in the first half of the year, representing year-on-year increases of 15.2 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
  • Fast-moving consumer goods and web apps make up more than 80 percent of the sponsorship market, while the presence of previously dominant mobile phone makers has declined significantly.
  • Brands value the creation of “immersive” brand integration experiences for viewers and find greater opportunities for innovation online, along with growing acceptance from viewers.

News in English

  • Are brands less important to Chinese consumers? D. Sriram, China managing director at marketing firm Ebiquity, argues that the existing ecosystem of social media, e-commerce platforms, venture funding for new businesses, and mobile payments puts consumers, and not marketers, in charge. Campaign Live
  • Meanwhile, Chinese OEMs established to meet the needs of Western brands are building up their own names in the wake of the trade war with the U.S. Reuters
  • One key to the success of Chinese brands at home is Pinduoduo, aka “the e-commerce giant you’ve never heard of.” The app’s social browsing and deal-focused features reportedly appeal to more rural consumers who are less brand-conscious than their city-dwelling counterparts. Wired
  • China’s esports market in charts and graphs: 630 million players, RMB 94 billion ($13.1 billion) in revenue, and 100,000 professional gamers. Caixin

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