New ads cash in on web se­ries

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Business - By LIU YUKUN li­uyukun@ chi­nadaily.com.cn Nine Princess Agents, The Mys­tic

Cre­ative ad­ver­tise­ments on­line are be­ing in­creas­ingly used in streamed Chi­nese se­ri­als, and are ex­pected to sur­pass 2 bil­lion yuan ($311 mil­lion) in sales rev­enue this year, up from 800 mil­lion yuan in 2016.

Prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ers and ser­vice providers are tap­ping this rel­a­tively new form of ad­ver­tis­ing for brand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. They part­ner with web se­ri­als’ pro­duc­tion teams to cre­ate spon­sored con­tent closely re­lated to the orig­i­nal sto­ry­line.

This is how the so-called cre­ative ads work: In a 2017 web se­rial an an­cient Chi­nese royal ex­presses his love to a princess, only to be re­buffed yet again. Next, he en­coun­ters a hand­maid dressed in a typ­i­cal an­cient Chi­nese out­fit, who, sur­pris­ingly, whips out a smart­phone and in­tro­duces him to an on­line dat­ing app – and the au­di­ence takes a while to fig­ure the artistes are part of an ad for the app.

Ac­cord­ing to data from En­tGroup Inc, a con­sul­tancy spe­cial­iz­ing in China’s me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, cre­ative ads usu­ally fol­low orig­i­nal con­tent and fea­ture the same artistes in their on-screen cos­tumes, mak­ing the ad al­most in­dis­tin­guish­able from the orig­i­nal con­tent for the first few sec­onds — long enough to hold the au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion and pique their in­ter­est.

“That’s good enough to let spon­sor­ing brands to pay,” said a busi­ness in­sider from Tal­ent Tele­vi­sion and Film Co Ltd who sought anonymity.

Data from Youku, a video-stream­ing site owned by Alibaba Group, also sug­gests that cre­ative ads may have con­trib­uted an av­er­age 30 per­cent growth to rev­enues of stream­ing plat­forms. It cited news web­site peo­ple.cn in its re­port.

“The price (of such ads) surged over 10 times in the past two years,” said the busi­ness in­sider. “For brands, it’s all worth it as cre­ative ads work more ef­fi­ciently to grasp the au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion and keep them watch­ing. Peo­ple are in­trigued at first, and then laugh if the ads are imag­i­na­tive or cap­ti­vat­ing. Mostly im­por­tantly, they’ll talk about the ads, which helps spread word-of-mouth and reaches even those who don’t watch such shows, like a meme.”

Ac­cord­ing to peo­ple.cn, the rate-card for cre­ative ads has reached an av­er­age 1.5 mil­lion yuan for a 15- to 30-se­cond com­mer­cial on Youku. The fig­ure is even higher on iQiyi, which is also a video stream­ing web­site and Youku’s ma­jor ri­val — be­tween 2 mil­lion yuan and 2.5 mil­lion yuan for a spot on web se­ries com­mand­ing traf­fic of over 1.5 bil­lion vis­its.

“Usu­ally, the pro­duc­tion team seeks an agency to con­tact po­ten­tial ad­ver­tis­ers and write for the sketch,” the in­ter­vie­wee said. “But some­times the pro­duc­tion team does all these on its own. It all de­pends on the si­t­u­a­tion.”

In ad­di­tion to cre­ative ads, video-stream­ing plat­forms may have their own ad breaks. “Cre­ative ads weren’t that pop­u­lar when they first came to the mar­ket,” said the source. “The turn­ing point was

(an ad­ven­ture web se­ries) in 2016, which earned about 50 mil­lion yuan from cre­ative ads.”

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