ad:tech China 2015 brought together digital marketing experts from around the world for two days of talks, workshops, and networking.  And eating – the food was great.

This was Nanjing Marketing Group’s first time attending an ad:tech event, so we thought it’d be cool to share a few of our key takeaways, some of which are China-specific while others are more general.




Quick Overview of ad:tech China



ad:tech China was a two day conference that provided great learning and networking opportunities for digital marketing professionals around the world.  Most of the talks and workshops were focused on a specific track, such as mobile, content, video, analytics, programmatic buy, or e-commerce.  Some of the more notable speakers included:



  • Brian Wong, the 24-year-old founder of Kiip recently featured on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine
  • Steven Chang, Corporate Vice President at Tencent, one of China’s largest internet service portals. 
  • Brad Smallwood, Head of Measurement and Insights at Facebook.  Yeah, you know it. 

Each day went from 9 a.m. to about 6:30 p.m., so it was quite intense, but the organizers did a good job breaking things up with coffee breaks, food, and drinks.  We’ll spare you the small details though and instead highlight some of our takeaways from the event.


Penetrating the China Market Without Traditional Advertising

Durex-ChinaAlan Yong delivered what was arguably my favorite talk of the event with his highly-insightful (and humorous) story about the challenges of marketing a condom company to a conservative Chinese audience.

While sex remains a bit of a taboo subject to many in China, Alan shared with us how Reckitt Benckiser helped Durex build a massive audience of loyal followers on Weibo using a mix of creativity, humor, and trial and error.


Since it couldn’t just use traditional advertising like every other brand in China, Durex was forced to focus its efforts on social media, connecting with KOLs in the Chinese online community, and partnering with e-commerce platforms to simplify distribution.

Long story short, within three years Durex tripled its sales, significantly increased the overall size of the condom market in China, and boosted its share of the China market to 45%.

Finding the pain points of how Chinese relate to sex was a key part of this.  For example, many Chinese can’t really talk about sex, have to hide their affinity for dirty jokes, and didn’t get much education about safe sex growing up.  Thus, Durex’s Weibo page became a much needed source of catharsis for its fans.  Even this simple picture of two durex condoms being used to keep this guy’s shoes dry became a major hit on Chinese social media:


Hey, no one likes wet shoes.  

The Durex case is valuable because it shows things aren’t always black and white.  You can’t assume people will respond poorly to a product or idea because it’s traditionally taboo or awkward to talk about.  You have to find creative solutions, which is what Reckitt Benckiser did in helping Durex not just build but actually engage a colossal audience on Chinese social media.

The key takeaway is that creative approaches to problem solving take obstacles and turn them into opportunities.  This applies as much to the China market as anywhere else.

If you want to read more about the Durex case, Reckitt Benckiser put out a good overview here.


Using Social Media for More than Marketing

Steven Chang, Corporate Vice-President of Tencent, talked about WeChat’s mission to do more than just monetize its growing ecosystem with advertising.  The Voice Donor project that started last year is a good example of that:



The Voice Donor project allows WeChat users to donate one minute of their time to reading text from a book and then submitting it to WeChat to package into an audio book for the blind.  The video below shows how it works in more detail, but to give you the bullet points, in two months’ time they assembled voice donations from more than 200,000 people, enough to create 10 audio books:




WeChat’s massive scale makes it one of the few platforms capable of tacking large social problems, whether it’s improving quality of life for the disabled, getting donations for underfunded charities, or some other noble cause.  If you’re a WeChat user and want to check out the Voice Donor for yourself, search “voicedonor” or scan the QR code below:



Kiiping Up with Mobile Advertising                              

KIIP-logoBrian Wong, founder of Kiip, was one of ad:tech’s keynote speakers.  I like Kiip because it’s at the center of a fundamental shift in advertising.

Push marketing is losing effectiveness as more and more companies move towards personalized communication with consumers across devices.  Rather than serving people banner ads, Kiip’s developed a system of what Wong refers to as ‘moment-based rewards.’



The concept of moment-based rewards centers on engaging your target audience during their ‘moments of achievement.’  For example, if you’re tracking a 5 mile run with a fitness app, you could be offered a free bottle of Propel water once the run is complete, or a 20% off coupon for your favorite protein powder.  Or if you cross off the last item on your list in a productivity app, you may be offered a Starbucks gift card.

It’s during these moments of elation that consumers are most likely to have positive engagements with your brand and take the desired action.


With China’s stratospheric level of mobile engagement, especially on social media and games, I’d wager Kiip’s moment-based rewards would be a big hit, provided it found the right partners.  From there it could leverage a near infinite number of moment-based rewards with Chinese to create meaningful interactions with brands.

While Wong does not have a timeline in place for entering the China market yet, he is intent on doing so.  We hope it’s sooner than later, as we’d love to test Kiip on some of our China-focused campaigns.


Programmatic Advertising – A Hot Topic in China



Programmatic advertising was a big topic at the ad:tech conference.  There’s a colossal amount of user data available across Chinese social media, e-commerce, and other platforms, and brands are increasingly leveraging the real-time bidding capabilities of DSPs to optimize each impression their ads and other content are getting.

To put it in perspective, there were a dozen or so China-specific DSP providers in attendance at the conference, many of which started within the last year or so alone.  Clearly the programmatic landscape is changing.



One of the more notable examples in China is Tencent’s guang dian tong (广点通), a performance-based advertising system that leverages the immense reach of QQ, WeChat, and other platforms for advertising.  We’ll do an in-depth post on guang dian tong soon.  Click here if you want it sent straight to your inbox when finished.



For Chinese-speaking readers that want to stay up to date on the latest programmatic buy news in China, check out RTBChina’s blog.


We’re Tired of Ads. Tell Us a STORY.


ad:tech brought together a small army of content marketing experts to give us their take on how the content world is changing.  They didn’t talk about keywords, scientifically-proven perfect post length, or CRO secrets.  These things are all well and good, but they won’t save businesses that don’t create great content.  

So how do businesses create better content?  According to ad:tech’s panel of experts, by embracing the art of storytelling.  Stories are easy to follow, highly-engaging, and most importantly, don’t feel like ads.  This applies to China as much as anywhere else.

While most companies don’t have the resources of Coca Cola, this video from its 2015 Chinese New Year campaign is a good example of how to create compelling content that aligns with your brand identity and leaves a lasting impression on viewers:

Because it was well-done and based issues all Chinese are familiar with, the content not only got tremendous reach, but also created meaningful engagements with Coke’s target audience.

Zaheer Nooruddin, Head of Digital Innovation in Asia at GOLIN, shared another great example – Lifebuoy’s Help a Child Reach Five video, which I’ve shared below.  It’s not specific to China, but again, the concept of great storytelling is there.


This isn’t to say that short, to-the-point content with an insanely obvious call-to-action is no good anymore.  It still has an important place in driving conversions for people that are at a certain stage of the customer life cycle.  But to reach an audience that doesn’t care about your product or to make meaningful impressions as a brand, investing in great content that’s almost impossible not to share will pay dividends.


Wrapping Up

ad:tech China 2015 was an awesome experience for Nanjing Marketing Group.  Change is non-stop in the digital marketing world, so attending events that bring together top-notch people in the industry is really invaluable for learning and networking purposes.

A quick thanks again to Lola Lin and everyone else at ad:tech for hosting the event and inviting NMG to participate as a partner.  Already looking forward to the next year.

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