The Top 10 Branded Content Deals

Marketers Such as Unilever, L'Oreal, P&G, GM, HP and Budweiser Focused on Original Content to Build Brands in in 2010

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SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- One of the strongest trends in China's advertising market was an eagerness to build brands through branded content deals with television programmers, online video sites and film companies. Here are the top ten--and the big surprise is just how good many of these series and films turned out to be. (For more information about each one, click the title to read the full story in Ad Age China.)

1. Nescafe backs Chinese digital version of Camera Cafe
Following its Chinese remake of "Ugly Betty" for Unilever, GroupM's Mindshare created another series that playfully documents the office politics of white-collar China. In January, it launched an all-digital Chinese-language version of "Camera Cafe," a short-form comedy series that was created in France in 2001, to promote Nestle coffee sales.

The program has aired in more than 20 countries. Nescafe sponsored the first season of a Chinese version built around the theme of taking a break from work for inspiration.

Mindshare licensed the rights and produced 60 episodes; the first episode attracted over 100,000 hits within 24 hours and a second season is under discussion. Nestle uses the show to promote several Nescafe products such as breakfast coffee, cappuccino and iced coffee.

'China's Got Talent' winner Liu Wei
'China's Got Talent' winner Liu Wei
2. Simon Cowell goes to China
Simon Cowell's "Got Talent" franchise hit China with backing from Procter & Gamble Co. in the U.S. marketer's biggest branded content deal in the mainland. The variety show is seen as P&G's answer to Unilever's big-budget sponsorship of "Ugly Betty." "Head & Shoulders' China's Got Talent" launched on Shanghai Media Group's Dragon TV cable channel. Winner Liu Wei, a pianist and singer who lost both arms in a childhood accident, used his toes on the the piano and won over the judges.

Andy Dong in a New Ford Fiesta
Andy Dong in a New Ford Fiesta
3. Ford says 'Hello! Hollywood'
Ford Motor Co. partnered with Hollywood veterans to revitalize the New Ford Fiesta brand among hip, young Chinese car buyers. In mid-July, Fiesta became the title sponsor of "Hello! Hollywood," a half-hour weekly Mandarin-language entertainment program filmed in Los Angeles and mainland China. Hosted by Chinese radio personality Andy Dong, "Hello! Hollywood" broadcasts celebrity and lifestyle news. Reporters drive the car on assignment and a New Ford Fiesta appears in music countdown videos.

4. L'Oreal freshens Yue Sai's image with web series
To modernize the image of its Chinese makeup and skin-care brand Yue Sai, L'Oreal launched an eight-part mini-series on beauty community site Yoka.com in early June. "Buzz My Heart," follows the lives of three young Chinese women. The series is part of a major online platform that talks about issues facing Chinese twenty-somethings relating to their love lives, careers and friendships.

The characters, script and style of the program were inspired by real stories from the Chinese internet and beautifully shot in cinema-like quality. The Yoka.com site features blogs "written" by the characters in the show, alongside discussion forums.

5. HP goes into the movie business to reach teens
Hewlett-Packard's campaign to encourage budding film directors ended in July with the launch of a 98-minute feature film involving over 220,000 people. Professionals were involved in the production, including a handful of actors and directors. But the film essentially stars and was created by young consumers who visited HP's Chinese web site (www.hpmystage.com.cn) to take part in the project.

The film ran in Chinese theaters in early fall, and was submitted film festivals around the world.

6. For Unilever, branded drama is unbeatable
In August, Unilever backed "Unbeatable" to promote anti-dandruff haircare line Clear. Attitudes toward dandruff shampoo in China and much of Asia are very different from western markets because dandruff is more noticeable on black hair. Unilever tackled concerns about dandruff with a show that combines friendship, romance and office politics. The name "Unbeatable" plays off Clear's "overcoming all odds" brand persona in China.

In the show, the heroine works at an international public relations company that handles PR for the Clear haircare line. She falls in love with the office janitor, really a spy from a rival PR agency. The brand is woven into the storyline through the main character's job and the theme song.

'The Boxer's Secret' is the first film in the Youku Originals series
'The Boxer's Secret' is the first film in the Youku Originals series
7. GM drives Chevy's image with Youku Originals film series
General Motors sponsored short-film series "11 Degrees" New Media Film Project, a joint effort with China Film Group and Youku Originals, the video-sharing site Youku.com's brand of self-produced online video content.

Up-and-coming Chinese directors created short films which premiered on Youku's site each week. After all 10 films aired, they were combined to form a full-length feature film to be shown online and at schools and universities. The films are also available on 3G mobile handsets via Youku's mobile site, 3g.youku.com.

Each film features a Chevrolet Cruze car, and the scripts include ideas submitted by Cruze fans online. Viewers of the online series can earn points by attending events to win a free Cruze car. More than 90,000 people registered for the promotion through Youku or the Chevrolet Cruze website (cruze.chevrolet.com.cn).

8. BudLime launch ties into Tudou's first drama series
Anheuser-Busch InBev is partnering with Tudou, another online video-sharing site, to promote the launch of BudLime in China. AB InBev is the sponsor of "That Love Comes," the first drama series produced by Tudou's Orange Box made-for-internet original programming initiative and Warehouse No. 6, an independent filmmakers' incubation program. The brewer is using the show to promote the launch of BudLime, a lime-flavored light beer.

The storyline, a love story about a sophisticated commercial photographer and his small-town sweetheart, resembles dramas that have long been popular with young women--also the target market for BudLime--in neighboring countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. BudLime is integrated into the plot as a source of inspiration for the photographer.

9. Omnicom backs reality show about Asia's ad industry
Omnicom Media Group's branded entertainment and sponsorship division Fuse, a content production company in Singapore called Ice-TV, and Sony Corp.'s Hong Kong-based SPE Networks partnered in "The AdBreak," a reality TV series centered on the advertising and media industry.

Sean Cummins, creator of the Queensland Tourism's "Best Job in the World" campaign, will host the English-language series. Inspired by AMC's award-winning "Mad Men" series and "The Gruen Transfer," an Australian TV chat show focused on advertising, the series will feature 10 creative agency hopefuls battling it out as they complete assignments for eight weeks. The creators are also using experience gained from another Omnicom-produced branded-content series, "HP Space," which ran on the Asian News Corp. channel Star World last year.

10. J&J markets Clean & Clear through Star TV reality show
Also in Hong Kong, Johnson & Johnson started a year-long branded content initiative last April to market Clean & Clear in Asia, a tough region for western marketers of skin care and cosmetics. J&J partnered with News Corp.'s Star World entertainment channel to do a reality show called " Clean & Clear Top Best Friends Models" about teenage girls from seven Asian markets.

Seven pairs of best friends from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam were chosen by J&J and Star TV to participate in a Clean & Clear-sponsored "confidence bootcamp." It includes grooming workshops about make-up, skin care, deportment, style, fashion tips and image makeovers. Their transformations will air as webisodes, and viewers vote for their favorite pair of best friends.

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