Pernod Ricard Chooses Online Film Over Ads to Promote Martell Noblige

The Plot Is Determined by Online Viewers, Leading to 15 Alternate Endings

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Pernod Ricard has shot footage for 14 alternate endings, letting consumers decide how the story will end in late June
Pernod Ricard has shot footage for 14 alternate endings, letting consumers decide how the story will end in late June
SHANGHAI ( -- Pernod Ricard is the latest marketer in China turning to interactive digital content to raise the profile of its brands among young, urban Chinese.

The French spirits marketer has created an interactive film, called "Style & Experience," with 14 possible endings around Martell Noblige, a cognac brand positioned between Martell V.S.O.P. and Cordon Bleu.

Pernod Ricard markets Martell Noblige as a brand for consumers who want to project an air of ambition, independence and self-confidence, and the company has heavily promoted the cognac brand globally for the last three years at premium bars and restaurants catering to 25-to-35-year-old professionals.

But in China, the brand also needs to be marketed online, said Pierre Berard, Pernod Ricard's Shanghai-based brand director for cognacs and champagnes in China. "We started looking at digital media about a year ago, because we want to appeal to our consumer target with relevant content. The film creates affinity and engagement for young consumers."

Multinational advertisers increasingly are turning to digital media to connect with consumers in China, the world's largest internet and mobile phone markets.
Martell is a leading cognac brand in China
Martell is a leading cognac brand in China
Pepsico and Coca-Cola Co., for example, have created marketing programs in China for years that let Chinese compete to play a role in the U.S. soft drink companies' advertising, and McDonald's Corp. set a Guinness World Record for the biggest cheering performance last year in China as part of its Olympic sponsorship program.

Viewers can experience the Martell Noblige online story and contribute to the plot development of the film on the Martell web site in China, They are presented with options at six points during the film and their decisions will directly affect the story and the fate of the main character, named Ken, a stylish consultant in a creative agency who is played by a well-known actor in China, Bai Xuxu.

In the beginning of the film, for example, Ken is driving to work, and running late, when he sees a beautiful woman hunting for a taxi in the rain. Viewers choose whether he continues driving to work or whether he stops to give her a ride, and if the latter, whether he uses a friendly approach or comes across as arrogant.Either choice affects the outcome, since it later turns out that the woman is the daughter of an important client.

Pernod Ricard shot footage for 15 alternate endings. Depending on choices selected, the film lasts from just under eight minutes to 17 minutes in total length. Prior to the full launch, Pernod Ricard seeded two interactive teasers and a feature trailer on Chinese video sites and stylish clips from the film were also featured during on-ground activation events.

The protagonist is meant to resemble the "typical modern young urbanite, who is stylish and discreet and exhibits intelligence and ambition matched by his personal charm," Mr. Berard said. The film is a local initiative "specifically created for China" and is a first for the company globally. Shu Zhong Zi, an actress portraying another major character, Marty, was handpicked among thousands of internet users in a public audition on, a major Chinese online video site.

The film was launched in late April following eight months of development and will run through the end of June. Nurun, a digital agency in Shanghai, handled strategy and planning, creative development, production, media planning and optimization and post-launch management. Nurun was appointed by Pernod Ricard to handle its digital marketing in April 2008.

The launch was promoted by 50 Chinese bloggers, who were invited to a question-and-answer session with Pernod Ricard executives, the film's lead actors and the director, Huang Hui. The teaser video attracted 300,000 viewers.

Pernod Ricard already works with some of the bloggers on another marketing program, sponsorship of Esquire magazine's "Man of the Year" award in China--an important market for cognac, particularly during Chinese New Year, when it is frequently given as a gift. The brand backs about 50 Martell Noblige "Man of the Year" selection parties each year at bars in more than 19 cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Pernod Ricard does not disclose sales and market share figures of its brands in China, but Martell is No. 2 in the Chinese cognac market, following LVMH's Hennessy cognac brand, and is the market leader among super-premium cognac brands, Mr. Berard said.

Industry reports suggest Martell controls about one-quarter of the cognac market in China, where sales continue to grow, unlike the U.S. and Europe, where recession-hit consumers have less to celebrate. Brandy sales in the mainland will be worth an estimated $53.7 million by 2011. China is the fourth-largest cognac market in the world, narrowly trailing the No. 3 market, the U.K. The U.S. and Singapore are the global leaders.

The film's lead is stylish, charming and intelligent, said Pierre Berard, Pernod Ricard's brand director for cognacs and champagnes in China
The film's lead is stylish, charming and intelligent, said Pierre Berard, Pernod Ricard's brand director for cognacs and champagnes in China

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