China's Women to Watch

Filmworks China's Sirena Liu Gives Chinese Brands Screen Time in U.S.

Marketer Has Helped Companies Get Into American Film Franchises Such as 'Transformers' and 'Ironman'

By Published on .

Sirena Liu went to Los Angeles for an MBA, then ended up working in Hollywood.

"In L.A., if you're not in the entertainment business, you're not in business," Ms. Liu said over breakfast at an airy California-style cafe near her Beijing office.

Sirena Liu
Sirena Liu

Those industry connections were stepping stones to her current role: helping ambitious Chinese brands place their products in Hollywood movies and American TV shows. Her company, Filmworks China Entertainment Marketing, also serves as an official agent in China for several major film studios as well as Hasbro and Electronic Arts, representing licensing, promotion and sponsorship interests.

Her most high-profile deal so far was a mention of Chinese dairy company Yili's Shuhua low-lactose milk in the script of last summer's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Placement in the hugely popular film franchise gave Yili's profile a massive boost in China.

Ms. Liu's first client was Meters/bonwe, one of China's largest domestic fashion retailers. Through mutual friends, they contacted Ms. Liu and asked if she could place their brand in 2009's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," already in post-production. She got their name and logo digitally inserted onto a billboard and a truck in the opening sequence. The main character also wore one of their T-shirts in the franchise's next installment.

"Sirena's role was not so much assisting in the communication between me and the film's producers, but rather acting as a bridge between Chinese and American culture," Meters/bonwe Brand Director Zhou Long said in an email. "When working with foreign enterprises, besides commercial interests, the biggest obstacle is cultural differences. In this area, Sirena is outstanding."

Filmworks China inked a partnership deal with JWT this year. The company has also tripled in size in the past year, from a staff of four to 12.

Ms. Liu isn't content with her growing list of accomplishments. (Look for Chinese brands in next year's "Ironman 3.") She's now working with video games, a medium she thinks deserves marketers' attention.

"The audience's concentration is 99%. The players' demographic in terms of age, income and everything else fits in with a lot of consumer products. It's very easy to play a game, link to another page and finish a purchase in five minutes," she said. "You can do it on the subway, on the bus ... that 's the next big wave."

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