Advertising and Marketing

Product placement in Chinese films: raising the bar for marketing in China?

Ada Shen has been working in the film industry for several years in Beijing, Shanghai, LA and Peurto Rico. Prior to that she was the art director of the sadly defunct print weekly Beijing Scene.

Shen recently wrote an article about the rise of product placement and embedded marketing in Chinese films. The article is reproduced with her permission below. It was originally published by Variety on September 26.

Marketers vie for pic promo ops
Chopsocky laffer makes waves at Toronto

By Ada Shen

China's film marketers are beginning to catch on to Western tactics of embedded marketing and promo ops.

Just prior to its premiere at the Toronto Film Fest, ad agencies, their clients and press were invited to screen Stephen Chow's latest laffer, "Kung Fu Hustle." Producers hope the pic, a followup to regional smash '"Shaolin Soccer," can be used for promos including star endorsements, co-branded merchandise, events and wireless and Internet tie-ins.

Pic opens Dec. 23, during the lucrative "golden" release period in the weeks leading into the Chinese New Year, a slots generally reserved for Chinese films.

Producers pitched examples such as recent tie-ins between Sony products including mobile phones and HDTVs with "Spider-Man 2." Advertisers and media were then given photo-op time with helmer-star Stephen Chow.

Integrated marketing plans are just barely taking hold in China, where market data has been only collected for a few years and is far from comprehensive.

"The reaction was very positive," says Chow Li, general manager of Columbia TriStar Film Distributors Intl., which is handling the film's distribution in China. "The media response was that this was something new, something they hadn't seen before. It raised the bar for marketing in China. They want to see what we do next."

Up to now, product tie-ins have been basic -- for example, some one-sheet posters for "Big Shot's Funeral" displayed consumer products prominently alongside images of the film's stars Ge You and Donald Sutherland.

Says Li, "Before, the only thing sponsors would get was their logo on posters. Now, it's more innovative. Stephen Chow is open to promoting consumer products, and, for the right brand, could even do endorsements. Sponsor reaction has been very enthusiastic."

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives