There's an interesting new campaign from Johnnie Walker in China, which uses online branded content to extend its 'Keep walking' strategy. The brand, in conjunction with BBH and Ogilvy Shanghai, has produced a series of documentary-style videos featuring 12 prominent businessmen and other successful individuals from China talking about their stories. Branding in the videos is remarkably restrained.
In China, the 'Keep walking' activity has sought to reflect the lives of Chinese 'yuppies'. In a previous campaign (full APG case study here), a series of ads depicted four men, who supported each other as their careers and lives developed. The target has been the '80s generation' (aged around 25 to 35).
Johnnie Walker is not exactly the first to try to associate its brand with aspirational Chinese; unsurprisingly, it's quite a common theme in Chinese advertising. But its efforts have been successful, partly because the work (largely from BBH) has been very good, and partly because 'Keep walking' is a brand platform that goes back years and, as a result, has been allowed to develop organically in China. The shift to using real-life role models (and not just the default sports heroes or Mandopop stars) feels like a natural development.
The new campaign, titled 'Yulu' ('words of a journey'), includes interviews with Pan Shiyi, CEO of property developer SOHO International, artist Xu Bin and fashion designer Wang Yiyang. They reflect on their lives and China's development (the 'China rises' theme should also be a powerful one). The three-minute interview with Pan Shiyi, in which he talks about the loneliness of a Chinese New Year spent away from his family, ran as a TV ad last week.
The interviews can all be seen via online video site Tudou.
The popularity of online video sites in China means there is an easy, cheap distribution model for all this content. Indeed, the launch of the ads follows an extended online effort across China's many digital platforms addressing the same issues as the videos. For example, Johnnie Walker hired widely followed blogger Han Han to produce a few videos discussing whether the '80s generation' still had dreams. The online effort encouraged other bloggers and high-profile individuals to contribute.
It's early days, so there's no sign of any results yet, and I'd like to see more details of how the different media work together and how the brand pulled all the different strands into something coherent. But given the success this campaign has already had, not to mention the size of the prize for Johnnie Walker, it's certainly worth keeping tabs on.