friday 5 | the latest in chinese viral videos ::
:: viral ad / marketing fatigue shows up in a number of videos on this week’s list. It’s worth noting that viral ads are still well-received when they’re well-crafted and original, but Chinese netizens are liable to turn on brands they feel are attempting to manipulate them with obvious advertising. Overly obvious branding and messaging doesn’t work. Entertaining, compelling, and unique content does.
For more of the latest hot videos, check out the Youku Buzz blog, which posts recent hits along with snarky commentary from Kaiser Kuo, one of the site’s authors / contributors (check out his dismissal of Zeng’s talents), or the just-launched Eyes On Me feature of the In2Marcom blog, a monthly roundup of popular viral videos.
Zeng Yike spoofs ::
Zeng Yike (曾轶可), who was introduced in a previous Friday 5, was eliminated from the Super Girl talent competition in August, yet she remains a popular subject for Internet videos. Her catchy tunes led Netease user Scapegoat (替罪羊) to collaborate with video engineer Flying Frog (飞飞蛙) on a video of Scapegoat singing Zeng’s “Leo” in the voice of 15 different famous Chinese singers, such as Andy Lau (刘德华), Cui Jian (崔健) and Fei Yu-Ching (费玉清). Another popular video was made by students attending a summer military training camp at Shanghai Jiaotong University. The boys sing “Leo” to girls who are lined up on the opposite side. Two other songs follow. Zeng recently became embroiled in “Copy-Gate” (抄袭门), a scandal in which she was accused of plagiarizing the melody of “Leo” from “Horizon,” a song from Taiwan. Although we’re still waiting for standout viral videos about the discovery (all that’s come up so far have been comparisons of the two songs), it’s been the subject of quite a few BBS posts and blog posts, particularly concerning her befuddling defense to the accusations: “Horizon” was written by “another self in this world.” Netizens have been having fun with Transformer mashups lately, and Zeng Yike was the focus of one of the most popular, Transformers 3: The War of the Earth (变形金刚3：地球之战). Zeng’s unique qualities help her save the world from alien invaders in a short film full of product placements and brand messages – most likely a parody of movie-making practices in both Hollywood and China these days, and something that shows up in a surprising number of the most recent virals (more on that video here).
Citroen “advertisements” ::
Continuing with the Transformers theme, Youku user C-Team Transformers (C派变形金刚), a Citroen fan, has posted two popular Transformer-themed mashup videos. The earlier (and more popular) of the two was posted in August under the title C-Team Rendezvous (C派集结登场), and takes the form of mash-up of previous authorized Transformer-themed Citroen commercials, including an ice-skating spot and a dancing robot spot, covered in a previous Friday 5 on video marketing. Then in early September, the same user released a Citroen-themed parody of Crazy Racer (疯狂的赛车) in which aspiring champions compete for second place because of Sébastien Loeb’s multi-year dominance of the World Rally Championships driving for Citroen. This video was far less successful: apart from a bemused response on some auto forums, the majority of netizens who viewed the clip felt it was a “third-rate ad” (二流广告) or asked how much Citroen had paid the netizen who posted it. Ensuing discussions devolved into denigrations of the brand, which may, in fact, have had nothing to do with the videos at all.
Product placement in Meteor Rain ::
Product placement backlash was even more visible in the response to a knockoff version of the Taiwan TV drama Meteor Garden. The original, adapted from Japanese manga Boys Over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango), was a runaway success among Asian TV audiences when it first hit screens in 2001. This year, mainland entertainment station Hunan TV produced a copycat version called Meteor Shower that began airing in early August. The stars of the original, known as F4 (for Flower Four, from the original manga), were replaced with four new teen idols known as “H4.” However, fans of the original didn’t see eye to eye with the media juggernaut, calling the new version a “shanzhai” Meteor Garden. A backlash against the remake took place in various forums, with blatant product placement being one of the major complaints. Netizens produced videos mocking the drama to an enthusiastic response. One popular video assembled a number of the most distasteful product placements, including a long, pointless introduction to a Nanjing-manufactured MG 3SW. For fans familiar with the earlier version, it seemed ridiculous that a scion of a wealthy family would dream about owning a car that cost less than 80,000 yuan. Netizens on Douban and other online forums found the parody hilarious. Ironically, some netizens complained that all of the product placement was offensive to a Chinese audience mired in economic doldrums. Another video posted on a gaming forum highlighted a silly, stilted discussion about the MMORPG ZT Online. It looks like such product placement is only going to get worse: SARFT has placed limits on television commercials and commanded that commercial breaks last no longer than 90 seconds. In response, Hunan TV said that it would incorporate even more product placement into its shows. This will likely lead brands / marketers in China to leverage online video even more.
Hyundai viral ads ::
Turning to viral video marketing that’s been more effective, Hyundai has put up a number of entertaining clips over the past month. In late August, a vignette between a clueless driver and a hapless police officer was passed around a number of major social networks and overseas Chinese websites. The clip makes use of stereotypes about woman drivers in a dialogue-free story that makes heavy use of physical comedy. In a second clip, a careless man gets himself into a lot of trouble trying to do too many things at once: drive, light his cigarette, and use his mobile phone. A third clip shows a drift racer squaring off against a parkour traceur. Auto forums enjoyed this one, and used it as the starting point for discussions of drifting, or whether a stock Hyundai could perform as shown. These videos aren’t exactly subtle: the Hyundai logo is shown in frequent close-up, and each clip closes with a credit screen mentioning Beijing Hyundai. But most netizens found them entertaining. Yet even here fatigue seems to have set in. The “woman driver” clip garnered a huge number of views overnight, and the amount of positive votes / comments on Youku far outweigh the negative ones. The “careless driver” clip has slightly more positive votes than negative, but the “parkour” clip has been voted down heavily, with some commenters even calling, “bury all crappy films!”
National Day in China ::
National branding turns up in videos celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. TV reports about the preparations for the military parade and showing the kinds of weapons and the types of troops that will be seen on October 1 are popular with online viewers. A report from Beijing TV uploaded three days ago has garnered 1,468,413 views and 2,482 comments. Netizens have incorporated tanks and airplanes into their comments; this meme shows up on other reports about the preparations, including this one from Dragon TV (东方卫视). One of the high points of the celebration is the film The Founding of A Republic (建国大业) which has many trailers on Youku, and one of them has been viewed 923,781 times and commented 455 times. The trailer is incredibly star-studded, leading netizens to comment on the plethora of famous acting talent on display: Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Jet Li (李连杰), Zhang Guoli (张国立), to name just a few. Some netizens responded with comments saying how the government is great, while others complain about the money spent. A little older but still relevant is a Warcraft machinima created by patriotic gamers at the Qingdao Technological University. Vast arrays of troops line a simulacrum of Changan Avenue as tanks and other armored units parade past. Negative attitudes do show up in text-based forums, with a lot of complaints about the traffic controls that are imposed when students, soldiers, and artillery displays practice for the big day, or how much of a headache it is to be chosen to participate, but videos about the anniversary of the PRC brand are pretty much all positive and excited.
[Friday 5 is the product of my work for Edelman Digital (China). Link here for the full Friday 5 archive. If you'd like to be added to the bilingual (English & Chinese) Friday 5 email distribution list, please send me an email at: adam DOT schokora AT edelman DOT com.]