GUANGZHOU (AdAgeChina.com) -- Procter & Gamble Co.'s new China drama series is running only on the internet.
The main web site for the show, called "Beauty & Fashion" in English, is anxiang.25ans.com.cn, but it's also running on major portals in China such as Sina, Sohu and 163, video-sharing web sites Tudou, Youku, Ku6 and PPLive, the women's channel on the instant messaging portal QQ.com and P&G's main Chinese site, Pg.com.cn.
The series was created in-house by members of P&G's beauty care and grooming division, Beijing Hachette Advertising Co. and Publicis Groupe's Starcom media division, P&G's media agency in China. The largest advertiser in China, P&G spends over $1 billion annually on advertising in the mainland, which now has over 300 million web users.
The storyline follows two young women who are the editor and make-up artist at a fashion magazine. The women and their colleagues use a range of P&G brands: Olay, Illume, SKII, Max Factor, Vidal Sassoon, Pantene, Head & Shoulders, Rejoice, Clairol and Gillette.
"We've developed different characters according to some of the leading brands' equity. For example, the heroine uses Olay and Pantene, the makeup artist uses Max Factor, the hero, Gillette and so on," said Nancy Liu, a P&G spokeswoman in Guangzhou.
Viewers can discuss each five-minute episode on online forums and take part in web- and mobile-based contests to guess upcoming story lines to win samples of P&G beauty and grooming products. The sites are also linked to the e-commerce site launched earlier this year on Alibaba's business-to-consumer site Taobao.com.
"When a consumer clicks the voting section on the central site, or sends an SMS to a specific number, they can get an e-coupon that leads them to visit the P&G e-store on Taobao. The voting is about whether they agree with the selection the heroine made," said Ms. Liu.
Each episode ends with a cliffhanger, added Alfonso de Dios, associate director of media for P&G in Greater China, also based in Guangzhou. "The series is all about the choices she makes about love, life and career. That ties in well with the choice of beauty brands. We have a wide variety of them and the end intent is to generate trial."
The 12-episode series was designed to appeal to white-collar Chinese women, who are avid users of the internet for entertainment. The sophistication of Chinese consumers, especially in the largest and most prosperous first- and second-tier cities, has outpaced programming quality on Chinese terrestrial and cable TV channels.
Young Chinese women -- and men -- also use the internet for information about products, brands and trends, particularly online forums and blogs.
Most young adults in China today didn't grow up watching and learning about makeup or shaving regimens from their parents, because older Chinese were raised in the tough era of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution when makeup, hair care and skin care products were almost unknown.
Many young Chinese also grew up without siblings because of China's one-child policy, and therefore seek out guidance on trends from peers online.
The series marks the first time one of the brands backing the program, Max Factor, is supported in Chinese media. T
Many American stores stopped carrying it years ago, prompting P&G to discontinue Max Factor in the U.S. earlier this month, but the brand will still be available in 70 countries, including China.
Online content is popular in the world's largest internet market. In March, Unilever launched a seven-minute film called "Alchemist" starring Catherine Zeta-Jones to educate women in China and Taiwan about Lux, a hair care brand.
Filmed in Prague, the spy story revolves around a secret high-tech lab in Europe developing a formula to make hair rich and shiny. The full-length version went online at www.luxfilm.jp and local video sites in March 2009.
Sony Pictures Television International has won over millions of web surfers with the Chinese version of another series based on a young western woman, "Sofia's Diary."
"Sufei's Diary" is produced by SPTI's joint venture with China Film Group, Huaso Film/Television Digital Production Co. The digital interactive drama documents Sufei's adjustment to life in Shanghai with her father and stepmother after moving there from Beijing. It launched in early 2009, and is backed by Sony Electronics, Estee Lauder's Clinique brand and the online job search web site, www.51job.com. All three collaborated with Huaso to incorporate their products into the show.
The first season of P&G's "Beauty & Fashion" will run from May 8 to July 31, 2009. The company has not decided whether to create a second season of the same series or start over with new characters, Mr. de Dios said, but more online content is certainly ahead for the company in China. "The digital consumer is more engaged than the television consumer."
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