SHANGHAI: An e-commerce brand has paid out US$3.4m to win the rights to advertise in a Chinese vlogger's programming and considers it has got a bargain.

Lili & Beauty, which represents some leading cosmetics brands in China, including Shu Uemura, Max Factor and Maybelline, paid the money to comedian Papi Jiang, whose short, satirical comedy videos have gone viral on social media platforms.

It was willing to stump up this sum, according to ECNS, because of "the power of her personality".

The investment is almost double that made last month by venture capitalists, who, the Shanghai Daily reported, put $1.9m behind her: they see the Papi Jiang character as heralding a new wave of internet celebrities beyond the current crop of "women plying sexy personas to promote themselves and peddle food, cosmetics and clothing".

Luo Zhenyu, one of these investors, explained: "You perhaps see Papi Jiang as enjoying five minutes of fame in the limelight, but I see the endless potential of her transformation into something much greater."

That potential lies in the nature of what she is offering. "She is deconstructing hot social issues in a humorous way and capturing changing trends in public taste," said Zhang Yi, chief executive officer of market consultancy firm iMedia Research.

Observers had suggested that the penetration of social media and low cost of making videos would lead to more such characters; the possible financial rewards are likely to accelerate that trend.

Quite how Lili & Beauty plans to exploit its investment remains to be seen, but Jerry Clode, Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance, suggested that if the brand "allows Papi Jiang freedom to write their brands into her natural content, then there is a great chance of success.

"If it feels forced, it may have a negative impact on the brand," he wrote in Social Brand Watch.

Data sourced from ECNS, Shanghai Daily, Social Brand Watch; additional content by Warc staff