Pepsi contest puts consumers in charge

Online vote will choose next spot

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SHANGHAI--PepsiCo is tapping into the popularity of the Internet in China with a contest that not only acknowledges that consumers help guide the evolution of brands through blogs and other online mechanisms, it encourages them to be a part of the creative process.

With the Pepsi Creative Challenge, the soft drink marketer is inviting consumers to help develop its next TV commercial with Asian superstar Jay Chow by logging on to a micro site (pepsi.163.com) created with Netease, one of China's leading portals. Pepsi is part of a fast-growing trend as marketers around the world experiment with user-generated content.

Chinese consumers can submit scripts for a TV commercial with up to 200 words, which are read and scored by other consumers. Every two weeks through the end of June, a panel of executives from Pepsi and Mr. Chow will pick the top five ideas from the 100 highest-scoring entries. Once the competition has narrowed to 15 finalists, all consumers will be given two weeks to vote for the final winning script, which will be developed into a spot and aired in October.

The finalists will receive a $1,250 (10,000 RMB) cash prize and be invited to the launch party in October, when the winning spot will go on air. The winner will take home $12,500 (100,000 RMB) and participate in production meetings to help cast the spots and select props and shoot locations. In the days following the promotion's launch on May 15, the site received thousands of entries.

One of China's most popular youth brands, Pepsi "needs to constantly innovate and reflect the passions of our consumers. The interactive world is the pivotal passion," said Frank Mertens, business director of Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide in Shanghai, which helped create the promotion. "The power of the Internet is changing the brand-building model, no longer is the marketer the sole guider of the brand. The consumer has a strong say."

Collaborating with consumers is becoming almost inevitable in China, particularly for youth brands, since that demographic dominates China's online market. China has over 111 million Internet users, of which 64 million are broadband users, and was home to more than 33 million bloggers by the end of last year, according to Analysys International. That number is expected to grew to 40 million by the end of 200, and 99 million by 2008.
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