How Ad Giant JWT Approaches Digital China

Clients — both Western and Chinese — are clamoring for more digital thinking in mainland China. As a result, the huge multinational agencies that dominate the advertising scene must scramble to keep up with demands for more cross-platform strategists and more trustworthy analytics. Sound familiar? Levi’s Jeans is one of those clients. For the first time in its history, the San Francisco-based company last year launched a new brand outside the U.S. – in China. Levi’s says that its Denizen (a combination of denim and citizen) brand was designed for young Asian consumers, the people who represent “Asia Rising.” Donald Chan, CEO of JWT China, handles the Denizen account. Previously CEO of TBWA Group China and managing director of Leo Burnett China, Chan knows firsthand the struggle for agencies to keep up with “Asia Rising.” For him, online marketing is not a subset of advertising; his vision is a “new age” agency for China that mandates digital and engagement planning.

Overall, are your clients increasing their spending on digital efforts, particularly on social and mobile?
Yes, our clients are spending more on digital thinking and communications as a key component of any integrated campaign we develop. Social media definitely has raised its importance due to the popularity among consumers. But overall our clients expect us to develop digital campaigns on an insight-driven and holistic approach. That‘s how we optimize awareness, amplification and participation.

What’s scarce in the digital marketing field in China? What are you looking for?
We need objective measurement tools on various digital platforms. We also need interactive-experiences planners. We have digital media planners. But what are scarce are planners who design experience and engagement with consumers based on insights.

Does your Levi’s Denizen account offer a good example of an innovative integrated effort by JWT China?
I’d point to our latest campaign for the Denizen brand, with the idea “Fit Out. Start Up.” With social media as the core platform, it encourages our target of young people to buy jeans that fit, to look sharp and confident, and mostly to express themselves by starting up new projects to enhance lives. The work started with online mini-games, followed by branded viral videos showing eclectic art and performance projects around the world. A community website collects and shares projects by Chinese users and provides product information. Offline support in China drives awareness, online traffic and in-store experiences.

How effective is it?
It’s very effective at capturing core motivating insights of today’s young Chinese, especially their willingness to express and share. Social media naturally encourages people to express and share.

What is the biggest change in digital marketing that you’ve seen in China in the last year?
The role that digital plays. It has become significantly more important for marketing campaigns to include digital. Social media has also captured more attention in the last 12 months, and we are getting more requests for us to tackle that space.

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