Business / Advertising boom

Firms eye Hollywood for image building

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily) Updated: 2012-07-10 10:19

Six years ago, Shanghai Metersbonwe Fashion and Accessories Co Ltd decided on something drastic to upgrade its brand reputation - something different from traditional advertising through concerts or representation by pop singers.

The Chinese mid-range clothing retailer invited the producer of the Hollywood blockbuster series Transformers to its Shanghai headquarters, and after the visit to its four-floor flagship store, the producer was impressed.

Metersbonwe's logo duly appeared, briefly, in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Its T-shirt with the authorized Transformers image notched up sales around 10,000 at a store in Shanghai in a week.

During the shooting of Transformer 3: Dark of the Moon, Metersbonwe wanted more exposure. But it didn't want its clothes damaged during fight scenes this time.

To everyone's surprise and delight, Shia LaBeouf, who played the lead character Sam Witwicky, liked its T-shirts and wore one during a scene with his girlfriend at home.

That five minutes of brand appearance on a blockbuster movie proved a triumph for the clothing retailer.

"Unlike our other marketing strategies, that brand placement in a Hollywood movie had a greater impact on young people nationwide," said Xie Wei, brand manager of Metersbonwe since 2008.

"They were exactly our target customers."

Xie said working with a US movie major has been the best marketing the company has done, calling it "small investment, big turnover".

Now half of its marketing budget is invested in this type of entertainment marketing.

Brand placement in Transformers has also involved other Chinese brands, ranging from milk products and computers to home appliances.

As Chinese brands continue to think global, and more foreign movies and TV series gain popularity in China, entertainment marketing has now become a key tool for domestic brands to raise their awareness and influence around the world, despite it being still in its relative infancy at home.

"Chinese brand placement into Hollywood movies has drawn more attention to the industry" here, said Janie Ma, entertainment-marketing director of Ogilvy & Mather Beijing.

She said that Hollywood movies, television series and online games are the most popular platforms for Chinese brands to polish their image to be more international at home, or to increase their profile overseas.

Liu Siru from Filmworks, the entertainment marketing company that negotiated four Chinese product placements with Paramount Pictures on Transformers 3, added that film placement has a bigger influence nowadays on the market than any regular marketing strategy.

But not every big-budget movie or TV series is suitable for brand placement.

The platform of an entertainment product has to be major, in tune with a brand's style and its targeted consumers, she added.

Most importantly, it has to be guaranteed to be shown on the Chinese market.

The latest example is Shuhua Milk, a product owned by Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co Ltd, which appeared in the home of Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, characters in the American hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

Liu is also working on a project to introduce some Chinese brands onto the hit American television show Gossip Girl.

Both shows are broadcast on a Chinese video website.

And she added that successful placement isn't simply a matter of exposure of brand logos anymore.

They need creative ideas that allow brands to seamlessly integrate with the show or film, and hopefully connect with consumers, Liu said.

"A really good placement is one that presents the product, without hindering the development of the story in any way," she said.

Some Chinese companies do want a bigger say in the story.

For example, an automobile company wanted the producer of Transformers to make another new transformer based on their product - but it just didn't go with the story and therefore couldn't be considered, Liu said.

Meanwhile, online games are also growing as a popular choice for the entertainment placement businesses.

A great example is the introduction by Liu's company of, the Chinese online shopping mall, to integrate into The Sims 3, a top life-simulation computer game published by Electronic Arts.

"Playing games captures a person's total concentration. They don't watch television. They don't text on a mobile phone. The games are addictive," Liu said, highlighting just what's so attractive about online games for brand placement.

"But players can go shopping or decorate their online homes while on The Sims 3, and they do that by visiting 360buy online," she said.

Xie Wei of Metersbonwe said its cooperation with World of Warcraft, a multiplayer online game, achieved even more sales success than that with the Transformers movies.

This year, its authorized clothing sold in stores at a rate 2.5 pieces per minute. And some fans even queued up from the midnight to buy, he said.

Firms eye Hollywood for image building

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