SHANGHAI: Brands in China are starting to experiment with the "danmu" format, which has emerged as a popular way for Millennials to watch online video.

This format allows viewers to add their own text commentary to what's on screen, with other viewers then seeing these messages cover the screen to the extent that it can sometimes be hard to actually see what one is supposed to be watching.

What was previously a solitary viewing experience becomes what Advertising Age described as "a communal exercise in humor and snark" and as this primarily involves people in their teens and twenties it has caught the attention of advertisers, including Coca-Cola and Reckitt Benckiser.

Coca-Cola's water brand Ice Dew Chun Yue used the platform to ask people what aspects of the anime/manga/gaming world they wished were real and then acted on the responses, attracting 4,000 people to a live event in Shanghai.

Mark Kong, group creative director of Amber Communications, explained that the aim had been for millennials to "believe our brand is really talking to them, knows their feelings and thoughts and believes in their fantasies and what they believe in".

"It was so unbelievable to them that a big company like Coca-Cola would do something like this, seriously, for them," he said.

Durex, Reckitt Benckiser's condom brand, has posted absurdist videos in which almost nothing happens, leaving space for comments, of which it received 20,000. And shaver brand Braun has uploaded humorous man-in-the-street interviews.

"You have to be very open-minded and accepting, not to focus on the positive or negative of what people say about you – the key thing is they are talking about you," said Sharon Ho, business director of BBDO Proximity in Shanghai.

"If you want to talk to this group of consumers, you cannot control them. If you want to stay in touch with them, let them express themselves. If there's a rule, it's that."

Data sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff