Women to Watch China 2015

Bringing the Internet of Things to Buses in Beijing

In China, Cheil PengTai Is Hunting For Creative Technology for Clients

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In public transport, you often see commuters hanging from the straps with one hand and checking smartphones with the other. There's clearly opportunity in that moment for marketers, especially in Asia, with its reliance on both subways and smartphones. But what exactly?

In China, the Cheil PengTai digital agency sensed an opening for local dairy giant Yili, whose Meiyitian yogurt drink brand was seeking to promote healthier lifestyles.

In Beijing buses, the straps became health monitoring systems for people to grip, measuring their heart rate, body mass index and balance during their daily commute. The gadgets instantly linked up to their smartphones through NFC interaction.

The brand put 6,000 monitors on 200 buses in May; 350,000 people used them and the topic was shared online 3 million times.

And those straps for commuters "become a form of media which wasn't there before," said Daphne Chen, Cheil PengTai's digital marketing business director.

Cutting through

Cheil Pengtai, which has 1,000 employees in China and is part of Cheil Worldwide, is launching a process to create more "Internet of Things" campaigns for clients; the Yili story is its star case study. At the heart of that effort is Ms. Chen, who says her job is to "dazzle clients" with work from the agency's innovation lab. (Ms. Chen is an Ad Age 2015 Women to Watch China honoree for drumming up business through creative technology.)

Daphne Chen
Daphne Chen

With so many new products launching in China every month, she said, successful brand ideas really have to cut through, especially in a competitive category like beverages.

"It's crazy -- consumers get lost, and they don't even want to try something new if there's nothing fun and original there," said Ms. Chen, who joined the company a year ago from Wunderman. "This is a way to arouse their curiosity, to give them a good reason to try something new."

Every month, teams from IT, accounts, creative, finance get together to brainstorm ideas that can be produced by Cheil PengTai's innovation lab.

For Georgia coffee, a Coca-Cola brand, Cheil PengTai did an earlier campaign based on public transport straps, creating a game that linked up with smartphones. Another example of the group's work is a kids' soap dispenser that sends data to parents' smartphones about how long they're washing their hands. That was a project for the China Children and Teenagers Fund.

Promoting the Internet of Things is a priority for the Chinese government, which has a new strategy called "Internet Plus" to power economic growth by linking traditional businesses, like manufacturing, with online technology. And that's something Chinese companies are thinking a lot about.

Guan Haitao, senior product manager of Yili's Meiyitian, noted that the bus project is in sync with the Internet Plus era, adding that also "focuses on human health from a higher level … and exactly matches Meiyitian's brand message of 'keeping health fun.'

The Women to Watch China Questionnaire

Home City: Taipei, Taiwan

Ever lived abroad: In Boston and New York for undergrad and graduate school. Also in Singapore, working for TBWA Tequila.

If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead: "My biggest personal idol is Shakira. I would want to have dinner with her and afterward go out together and 'shake our bon bons.' … For something more inspirational, I would like to have dinner with the author Paulo Coelho, who writes easy-to-understand stories but inspires millions of people around the world."

If I could do it all over again, I … "wouldn't change anything. All the mistakes I made contributed to this life I'm having now. I started to play piano when I was 4, and my scrapbook is always about a little girl playing piano onstage. I got a scholarship to Boston University to study music, and my parents never expected me to be a businessperson at all." But she chose another path. "Now my dad jokes that I'm the most expensive karaoke machine he ever acquired."

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