Technology

Asia's Funniest Home Videos?from Intel


Low production values and soft sells work best with online video clips in Asia

Home to some of the fastest broadband networks on the planet, Asia has seen its share of the explosive growth of social-networking sites, where users can upload and share videos. Attracting mega-traffic in the region are such sites as South Korea's Cyworld and Japan's Mixi. In China, podcasting and video-sharing sites pulled in 76 million users in 2006.

The reach and multiplier effect of clicking with these consumers haven't been lost on big U.S. multinationals in Asia. But connecting with this crowd can be tricky, marketing experts contend. Head-on sales pitches can elicit a toxic reaction, so companies need to come up with off-beat, clever, and entertaining content that promotes their brands more subtly.

That's just what some companies are doing. To reach younger consumers in Asia, businesses are experimenting with unconventional and interactive marketing initiatives. Last year, PepsiCo (PEP), for instance, posted a page inviting consumers to submit scripts as part of a "Pepsi Creative Challenge" on a commercial site it set up with Chinese mega-portal NetEase.com (NTESF). Chris Pan, 2.0 marketing director with PepsiCo China, said the site "remained live and constantly refreshed" for six weeks. PepsiCo received nearly 27,000 script pitches, gave prizes to 15 finalists, and, after holding an online ballot that drew millions, turned the winning submission into a TV commercial.

Late last year Intel (INTC) developed a series of wacky online video clips called "101 Ways to Get a New PC" and posted them on video-sharing sites around the region to promote its Core 2 Duo processors (for a sampling, go to www.neednewpc.com). Some 2 million consumers in Asia have seen the video, and much to Intel's delight "people have started submitting their own videos, and in China we have a very large number of submissions," says Jayant Murty, Intel's Asia Pacific director of corporate brand strategy and advertising.

Lower Production Values

While it's far too early to say whether this type of online video marketing will rival traditional forms of print and broadcasting advertising in importance, Murty thinks it can offer insights into consumer behavior and make a brand connection in the minds of viewers in an entertaining way.

Clicking with consumers who spend a lot of time on Asian video-sharing sites basically means chucking the hard-sell, product-intensive pitches that dominate traditional forms of advertising. "The important thing about this medium is that it is not meant to be manipulated," says Murty. "You have to be as subtle as possible with your brand." Slick production values also matter less: The more these clips have the feel of home videos, the better.

One Intel spot, called "Blame Mom," does seem like an amateur production and starts out with a young Indian man watching television. An Intel Core 2 Duo brand image appears briefly on his TV, and then he runs upstairs, wires his personal computer to a coat hanger, and sticks it out of his bedroom window during a lightning storm. He manages to fry his PC and then blames his mother who left the window open for the mishap.

Building Trust

Sam Flemming, founder of Shanghai-based Internet marketing and consultancy firm CIC, thinks such online video initiatives and other types of Net outreach pushes are essential in a huge market such as China. Internet users spend twice as much online as they do watching television these days, so companies have no choice but to try to reach them via the Web.

And in China, where the largely state-owned media is less trusted than elsewhere, consumers often seek out unbiased product information from other consumers online. Companies that try to reach those consumers have to be careful not to deceive them—online product backlashes in China can be ugly (see BusinessWeek.com, 8/3/06, "Mad as Hell in China's Blogosphere"). However, "if companies can create interesting content, that can enhance their brands," says Flemming.

As for Intel, Murty expects online video campaigns such as "101 Ways to Get a PC" to supplement, rather than supplant, traditional types of marketing online, in print, and on television. "There is no formula, and we have to experiment," he says. But, given the global craze for video-sharing sites, there is no doubt that "this is where consumers are and where they are spending all the time."

Bremner is Asia Regional Editor for BusinessWeek in Hong Kong.

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