BEIJING: Procter & Gamble, the FMCG giant, has launched an online soap opera aimed at young consumers in China, which it is using to promote beauty brands like Max Factor, Olay and Pantene.

The series, which is made up of 12 episodes, follows the lives of two young female friends, one of which is the editor of a fashion magazine, and the other a make-up artist.

Other P&G brands that have featured in the show include Vidal Sassoon and Head & Shoulders, and viewers can share their opinions in an online forum, and send in text messages about what they think will happen in the next episode, and to win prizes. 

It is also linked to a portal that the world's biggest advertiser created on Taobao, an online retail and auction service, which went live earlier this year and allows consumers to buy P&G brands on the internet.

Hachette Advertising in Beijing, which developed the soap opera, is now working on the second season, which will feature more interactive elements, such as allowing viewers to choose the decisions made by characters.

The first show aired on the web on May 8, and the episodes between this date and June 5 were viewed by an average of a million web users.

In the period from the original broadcast to the end of May, some 50,000 text messages were sent in by viewers, and the show was the subject of over 30 million searches on Baidu, China's biggest online search engine.

According to iResearch, the demographic group which P&G is aiming at – aged between 25–35 years old, and with increasing amounts of disposable income – watch around 30 minutes of TV a day, compared with spending four hours on the web.

The consumer goods company was also still one of the major players at the latest upfront held by China Central Television, the country's biggest broadcast network, spending some $75.3m, up 6% year-on-year, according to Access Asia.

Feng Yan, of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, argued "New media means new lifestyle, so you are going to see more and more trials" of this format among big brands in the future.

A number of other advertisers, such as Unilever, Sony and Estée Lauder, have already used similar schemes in China, where this form of product placement is growing increasingly common.

Data sourced from CNN; additional content by WARC staff