SHANGHAI/NEW YORK: Johnson & Johnson, the healthcare and consumer products business, is taking a more experimental approach to its marketing in China, driven in part by the requirements of digital, a leading executive has said.

"We have to be faster and speed up our process to fit the changes," Christina Lu, vp/marketing for Johnson & Johnson's consumer personal care division in China, told Advertising Age.

"Everything needs a longer process to approval, whereas digital requires a very different rhythm, and a very risk-taking and 'failing-forward' type of mentality."

With digital accounting for an increasingly large proportion of J&J's advertising expenditure – more than 40% this year compared to 15% in 2013 – that has opened up more chances to explore where such a mentality can take the business.

One example came when media agency OMD offered an opportunity to place one of J&J's products in a movie version of a hit local TV show where celebrity fathers and their children set off to rough in rural China.

"The ask was really urgent," said Lu, as the cameras were already rolling. "They basically said, 'we need an answer within 72 hours'."

This was new territory for the team which had to make a gut decision to accept the offer, but it paid off as Johnson's Baby Milk Bath featured in the final cut in a scene where one child washed his father's feet at the end of a tough day.

That was the jumping off point for a subsequent campaign as Lu's team created a series of similar personal family moments inspired by the product placement, with digital, social and in-store activations.

Lu has also discovered internal stories that can be highlighted in the company's marketing.

She revealed that over a ten-year period the company has run training courses for doctors and nurses on the resuscitation of newborn babies. Some 90,000 children had been saved as result but no-one knows about it.

"If we're able to really let people know what we've done, it's not only about Johnson & Johnson's branding or how it benefits our business for our baby brands, but it actually really raises more awareness [about newborn breathing issues]," she said.

Accordingly, a campaign is being developed that tells the stories of babies who benefitted from the program.

Data sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff