As young Chinese people increasingly consider watching online video as their top entertainment activity, more brands have partnered with production teams behind popular online sitcom series to launch branded “spin-off seasons” as a new digital marketing approach.
These “spin-off” seasons were commissioned by brands to these production teams who will develop story line, shoot the episodes and use key members of the original cast to act in the sitcoms. The productions will be shown online through big video websites, such as YouKu, iQiyi, Sohu Video or Tencent Video. Although these sitcoms were in fact better produced longer-format video ads, they were quite popular among audiences thanks to the quality of story line, authentic comedy style “inherited” from the “parent” titles and star-power brought by the original cast members. In this trend, brands cut TV timeslot budgets to spend on content productions, and launch the content on digital platforms through which they would also get data on audiences’ profiles, engagement and comments.
The latest example of this new hybrid genre is Pepsi Co’s partnership with sitcom iPartment for its soda drink Mirinda.
iPartment was a comedy sitcom first launched in 2009. Through its four seasons spanning from 2009 till 2014, iPartment has accumulated a huge fan base across China, most of whom are young audiences and have watched it through digital channels (although iPartment were also shown on traditional TV stations but at a much smaller scale). iPartment has set the shortest time record for surpass 100 million views online and the total 88 episodes have been watched 12 billion times.
Mirinda commissioned iPartment director Wei Zheng and playwright Wang Yuan to create six episodes for a spin-off season “Happy Force” and played by four of the eight leading actors/actresses of iPartment. Each episode lasts from nine to 15 minutes, in which Mirinda’s four flavours – apple, pomelo, orange and watermelon – became four cute aliens trapped on Earth in their refrigerator-shaped spaceship. The four characters from iPartment went through time-shift adventures, gained “Happy Force” through drinking Mirinda sodas and helped the aliens fly back to their planet.
The special season of iPartment was shown exclusively on iQiyi on May 26. By July 6, it has been played 356 million times and was rated 8.4 out of 10.
Pepsi Co also launched an offline event to leverage the online content campaign: a competition was held across China to select the “Funniest Person” in China. The winner will be able to play a role in the first film version of “Ipartment”. The spin-off production successfully utilized the huge fan base and popularity of “iPartment,” arousing massive positive buzz on iQIYI and Weibo. The Weibo tag #Mirinda Happy force# (美年达开心原力) gained 120 million impression and nearly 8,500 comments.
What Kantar Media CIC Says
Brands could work with popular TV or film teams to produce branded spin-off video productions to transform the video title’s fans into brand customers. Brands can also launch offline events to fully leverage the online campaign. But brands have to make sure that the partner titles should fit the brand image, position and target audience segmentation.
Source: Kantar Media CIC