Gillette developed the campaign, called "Moments," with BBDO, Shanghai, to take advantage of an unusual overlap in timing that happens just once every 50 years when the beginning of the week-long Chinese New Year celebration coincides with Valentine's Day, marking two occasions when young men want to look good for girls and family.
The timing of Chinese New Year, starting Feb. 14, gives P&G a "unique opportunity" to engage young men on an emotional level about the importance of being well-groomed, said Kevin Bogusz, a business director at BBDO Worldwide, Shanghai. The Omnicom Group agency handles creative for Gillette globally.
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"We know it's a time when guys feel a lot of pressure to look their best for their family and friends," he said.
The campaign features a 60-second spot starring Olympic gold-medal badminton star Lin Dan, P&G's Gillette spokesman in China. The love story demonstrates how a smooth, clean shave with the Gillette Mach3 razor helps guys achieve a confident look that can make their Chinese New Year moments special with girlfriends, friends and family.
At the end of the film, the athlete proposes to his girlfriend on Valentine's Day, a holiday that has become popular among young Chinese.
The spot was originally created only to run online, on social-networking and video sites such as Renren.com, Tianya.cn, Youku.com and Sohu.com, along with print ads and in-store promotions, but P&G later decided to run it on TV as well. The spot is also on P&G's Chinese website for Gillette, along with product news and information and bulletin boards that let consumers interact online.
P&G hopes the strategy will appeal to Gillette's target market in China -- students and other men in their early 20s living in first- and second-tier cities. Those consumers are often job-hunting or have recently been hired.
They are also concerned about their appearance for more personal reasons. China's single-child policy has resulted in a gender imbalance, with Chinese men in their 20s outnumbering women. That means getting a girlfriend can be a challenge for many men.
"Gillette's core brand equity is about helping men look and feel their best," Mr. Bogusz said. This campaign "is more emotional than product focused, though. It strikes a balance between giving a functional message and building the brand in a different way."
Although the Gillette ad is a rare combination of the Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day, ads celebrating the arrival of Chinese New Year are common.
Spending increases heavily, particularly in the travel and tourism sector, as millions of Chinese return home from work or school for family reunions to welcome the year of the tiger. Retailers usually see a double-digit increase in sales in the weeks leading up to the new year as well.
Many marketers tap into this spending spree with campaigns connecting brands to family and friendship.
P&G rival Unilever, for instance, tapped into the spirit of family celebrations, as well as China's unusually cold weather this winter, with a digital campaign for its Lipton milk-tea product line.
Unilever invited consumers to pick one of three films featuring mimes, schoolgirls or a rock band, upload a picture of their face, then share the image with friends by e-mail or via a branded microsite on Tencent's QQ.com service.
A marketing high point of the Chinese New Year holiday will take place over four hours on Feb. 13, the eve of the Lunar New Year, during the CCTV Spring Festival evening gala.
The annual event draws so many viewers that its ratings are rivaled globally only by the Super Bowl in the U.S. and Europe's Eurovision Song Contest. Last year, the gala was watched by almost 35% of China's 1.2 billion population.
Reaching viewers doesn't come cheap, however. Ad revenues for this year's gala could net China Central Television up to $95.2 million, based on rate-card prices. Media buyers say rates for air time during the show have risen 30% in 2010 over last year's rates. A 10-second commercial during the New Year countdown reportedly costs $7.6 million.