The buddy humor was designed to promote Oreo's playful brand
image and its new flavor, called Double Enjoyment. People could
click a buy button on their mobile screen to drop the Oreos into
their shopping cart. The live broadcast set a sales record for Oreo
on Tmall, the agency said, without divulging specific numbers.
Money and human connections
Live streaming is at the intersection of a few Chinese trends.
"Young Chinese consume a lot of video compared to the U.S.," says
R.K. Mani, managing director for international clients at Carat
China. Plus, "it's live, it's interactive, it's reality content,
which is very popular in China. And so it's really catching
Streamers are generally ordinary people, telling stories or
singing or showing scenes from their lives; attractive young women
abound, dancing or acting coquettish.
Advertising on the platforms is still in the early stages, and
the industry is monetized mostly with virtual gifts from viewers to
online hosts. Using mobile payments, people can send virtual
flowers -- even virtual yachts -- to their favorite hosts. That
gets transformed into real money, and the platforms take a cut.
The exchange of money is driving interest. But there may also be
social factors behind why live streaming really caught on here.
China has a huge population of migrant workers living far from
home, says Amber Liu, CEO of local agency Amber Communications. They're
searching for connections online, as are young people who grew up
as only children under the one-child policy. Live streaming is "a
new and very important form of human connection," said Mr. Liu,
whose agency has done live streaming work for Adidas.
China's platforms seem to get more interaction than Silicon
Valley's; viewers' comments, and emojis, often stream right over
the videos, and hosts react to gifts and comments in real time.
There are dozens of local live streaming sites including
Huajiao, Bilibili, Ingkee and YY. Internet giants like Alibaba and
Tencent have invested in the area.
A note of caution
China's government is keeping a close eye on live content; the
Cyberspace Administration of China pushed for stricter rules on
live streaming, including full-time monitoring. There have been
penalties for hosts and platforms accused of broadcasting
pornographic or violent content. In May, in perhaps the oddest
internet regulation of all time, authorities even banned seductive
Durex's broadcast of 50 couples in April wasn't racy; it was
just surreal. But soon afterward, without mentioning any brands by
name, the anti-pornography office said on its microblog that it was
concerned about vulgar marketing on webcast platforms and urged
internet companies to "resist unhealthy content."
For most brands, crossing the line probably isn't a huge risk.
And some in advertising argue that more regulated content might
even make the live streaming space safer for brands.
But there are other factors that give some advertisers pause.
They can't control users' comments, which are broadcast live and
often stream across the screen in China, right on top of the image.
That means any negative chatter will be front and center. "You have
to be more cautious about what you are bringing to the brand," said
Christina Liang, client general service manager for MediaCom in Beijing. "Since the nature
of it is live, there's always more risk compared to other
A few more examples of live-streaming campaigns in
-- To promote the ZX Flux shoe, which can be customized, Adidas
live-streamed a graffiti artist doing a portrait of the sneaker. He
changed his design and patterns according to the requests of people
watching live via Bilibili. The campaign was
from Amber Communications. (The agency's CEO says agencies should
be working harder to find a strong brand connections in their live
streaming campaigns; otherwise their efforts "can just seem like TV
shopping channels," with somebody on a screen selling
-- For a 4th of July event for American brands selling on
Alibaba's Tmall platform, Macy's took Chinese consumers on a
virtual tour of its 34th Street store in Manhattan. Macy's, which
is closing 100 stores,
partnered with Alibaba to test e-commerce in China
starting last year.
-- China's Xiaomi showed off the battery life of its Mi Max
phablet with a live stream on Bilibili that lasted 19 days, until
the battery finally died. "It was touted as a 'boring live stream,'
as technically, nothing much happened," a spokeswoman said. But the
quirkiness drew viewers, and the brand says 39.5 million people
checked it out.
~ ~ ~
CORRECTION: A previous
version of this story said Amber Communications, part of China's
Leo Digital Network, did live-streaming work for Sony. An agency
called Carnivo, also part of Leo, did the Sony