Mobiles help Pepsi reach young Chinese

New Year campaign stars pop singer Jolin Tsai

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SHANGHAI--To celebrate Chinese New Year this year, Pepsi Cola followed the habits of young, urban Chinese by launching its seasonal campaign via mobile phones.

The U.S. food and beverage company’s WAP--or wireless application protocol--mobile internet site debuted  Feb. 6, offering downloadable content like the full version of Pepsi's new Chinese New Year spot, which won't air on TV for several days. The site also has exclusive behind-the-scenes videos featuring the ad's star, pop singer Jolin Tsai and mobile wallpaper download and mobile e-greeting card-forwarding functions.

Pepsi's Chinese New Year campaign will run through the end of the week-long holiday, which begins this year on Feb. 18. It was developed by Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, and media planning and buying was handled by WPP Group's MindShare. The mobile site was created by Madhouse, an independent mobile marketing shop in China founded by ex-TOM Online executive Joshua Maa in March 2006.

The strategy behind the advertising "builds on past Chinese New Year campaigns, which essentially are greetings to Pepsi consumers," said Frank Mertens, BBDO's business director in Shanghai. This year, Pepsi "focused on the idea that it brings different people together. Last year, it was more about one-on-one relationships, and the year before that, the ads were family-oriented."

Usually Pepsi advertising uses male celebrities, he added, but the campaign featuring Ms. Tsai is "touching and heart-warming, which is good for this period. She has an endearing personality that adds to Pepsi's credibility and the appeal of the advertising."

Besides TV and mobile phones, the campaign will run in print and out-of-home media and includes events, in-store promotions and packaging during one of the most important marketing periods of the year.

Chinese New Year is a "big time" for any beverage brand, said Mr. Mertens, beause "people get together at huge family events, meaning there's a lot of consumption of big unit products like two-liter bottles. That happens throughout the year but especially during this holiday, so it presents a major opportunity for marketers."

The holiday is also an ideal time to launch any form of interactive platform, "be it mobile or online," he added, because the Chinese New Year is "all about sending greetings and connecting with friends and family. The phone is an important conduit for that, if you can do it effectively."

Pepsi wants to reach out to consmers in all media, including TV, outdoor and print, "but they want to do more mobile," agreed Madhouse’s business development manager, Ben Liaw, in Shanghai. Its young demographic “consumes more and more mobile media everyday.”

To drive traffic to this site, Pepsi ads were served by Madhouse across a range of Chinese portal and entertainment sites on Madhouse's ad network, MadNetwork, which covers over 60% of the total WAP traffic in China. The Pepsi site can be accessed by WAP-enabled mobile phone at
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