Brand Me If you Can: The Curious Case of “Sufei’s Diary”

20 Oct

By Ren Fang | October 20, 2009

Four hours after the premier of the 4th season of Heroes on NBC, the show was available for download on all the Chinese P2P websites, subtitled by anonymous ‘translation volunteers’. Forty-eight hours after, the total number of downloads number eclipsed 2 million.

I consider myself one of the 336 million ‘Chinese netitizens’ hunting for free content on every P2P corner (proud member since 1997). The volume of free online content in China is absolutely astounding – a conservative estimate of 100 times more than that in the United States. I really shouldn’t say ‘free’ really – after all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In this particular case, with all this ‘free’ content, there are the layers upon layers of advertising (mainly banner ads) that these digital ecosystems rely on for bandwidth and overhead costs.

If there is one thing to be said about the Chinese Internet user (age 18-30), they are resourceful. Like every efficient market and every evolution of technology, these users have found a way to circumvent the unwanted, the fluff. They have become far more skilled – nay, I will actually use the word ‘experts’ – at detecting, filtering, and blocking every known way of online ad messages.

Like their counterpart in the US, Chinese brand managers are scratching their heads wondering just how to reach this elusive market. Finally in 2008, they designed “Sufei’s Diary” – the first online branded content. “Sufei’s Diary” is based on a Portugese  series, “Sofia’s Diary” about an 18-year old girl moving to the big city (Shanghai) for college. The first run of the campaign was as follows:

Webisodes: 40 x Daily 5-minutes
Run of Webisodes: 8 weeks
Channel/Platform Partners: 3 video portals, 1 mobile platform
Anchor Sponsor: Estee Lauder/Clinique
Additional Sponsors: Sony (Cybershot, VAIO),, P&G
Target Audience: female 18-30 years old
Total Views: 20 Million (4 months accumulated)
Avg. Views / Episode: 453,000

As an original program, “Sufei’s Diary” is armed to the teeth with fully integrated brands/products and audience interactivity functionality. Go on to Sufei’s blog online and discuss the Clinique products Sufei used in the show or participate in weekly polls that determine the plot for the next few episodes. With 20 million views in a four-month period, advertisers are scrambling to emulate this same runaway success. Here are a few lessons to be learned -

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