SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Claudia Franzen recently joined McCann Erickson in Shanghai as interactive creative director, a new position created to deliver integrated solutions for advertisers like L'Oreal.
Previously, she was director of interactive media for Tiffany & Co. in New York, where she planned and executed innovative programs worldwide, including e-commerce, product launches, mobile marketing, in-store and outdoor digital installations, and events.
She spoke with Normandy Madden, the editor of Ad Age China, about digital media's growing role in marketing in China.
How would you characterize the evolution of China's ad market?
More and diverse audiences are getting online everyday, so that means we have to manage diverse communities and new mind-sets. The real conversation happens online in China, it's the place where people can trust each other and express themselves. Online is the only place you can let your hair down.
Chat and bulletin board sites (BBS) are now the center of community. We need to create highly specialized, geo-targeted campaigns to gather insights and learnings. There is a race among advertisers to find those niche BBS to connect with the right user base.
E-commerce platforms like Taobao.com are turning into social and info-sharing sites now, as e-commerce becomes more popular, along with the rise of online bank transfer options, cash-on-delivery platforms and a rise in the number of bargain-hunters online. Taobao shops are now becoming branded environments.
What are some of the best Chinese sites are for marketers?
It's the same usual suspects of portals like Sina, MSN, 163, QQ, and for Chinese women, OnlyLady and Rayli. That said, Youku's popularity is continuing and Xiaonei is good for targeting college students and entry-level consumers. Blogs and BBS are important as influencers, so an internet word-of-mouth strategy is important to reach customer targets and have them share their views.
Looking at McCann clients like L'Oreal and Shanghai General Motors, which sites and digital media formats are best for them?
For luxury brands, the main corporate sites are important, with spin-off or smaller pieces of content that can live on partnership mini-sites created with the portal. That means sharing content, but these sites create a lot of intrigue and seduction for the audience, make them yearn to be part of the club.
It's important to always lead with a single message to break through all of the clutter online though, and from a creative standpoint, it's important to be iconic in your visual communication. Everyone wants to feel special, admired and beautiful. Digital luxury trinkets are de rigeur. Luxury brands should also get technology in-store since the performance of sales associates in China is spotty. Technology can help them deliver product info on demand.
Auto companies need to remember that driving means empowerment, status and freedom. GPS and mobile applications are the best-suited tools to communicate these benefits, like car configurators or car look books for smart phones. They help build a relationship even faster with the car of your dreams and offer a more intimate experience.
For mass-market brands, the best platforms are BBS and aggressive sample programs that offer incentives and promotions to drive traffic to stores. The web should come into the retail experience on the mass level too, to offer more product education, mainly because there are no sales associates to talk up products at this level, offering application how-to advice, before and after information and other assistance.
How is digital marketing evolving compared to other media in China?
We're seeing more and more web sites springing up and opt-in mobile marketing is there, although very little of the overall media budget is reserved for mobile content-only at this stage. With the release of the iPhone in China probably happening later this year, hopefully we'll see a real change happening in 2010 budgets.
Why isn't digital media taking a bigger part of total ad spending in China, the world's biggest internet and mobile phone market? Plus Chinese are crazy about digital media formats compared to television.
There are several reasons. Global headquarters still see China as a Wild West environment. Infrastructure is very inconsistent nationally and across different sites and platforms, and rich media advertising is not as sophisticated as it is in the West.
There is a lack of transparent reporting, like fraud in click reporting. It's part of a brand new culture of communications being developed online in China. Only through trial and error will we develop learnings to get past these things.
You work a lot with L'Oreal in China. How has iL'Oreal used digital media in China?
The brands that we work with at L'Oreal Group are leaders in their categories, and they are just as excited as I am about the digital opportunities in China. But I can't go into details unfortunately.
Are advertisers in China spending more or less this year in digital media and what's driving growth?
As China and Chinese consumers become more sophisticated, spending is increasing. This is especially important for luxury marketers since Japan's luxury consumption is falling. There is an increase in market research spend as part of due diligence and testing that takes place before advertisers increase marketing budgets online, which is encouraging.
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