Yanxi Palace’s Influence on Brands
I looked up and saw a waiter standing by the door. I have a habit of doing a 5-minute people-watching whenever I work at a cafe.
The waiter waived at his co-workers by putting his right palm next to his face and did a half-kneel. In Chinese history, this is called “请安” (qing an).
This is the effect The Story of Yanxi Palace has on consumers. Who would’ve known that the story on the rise of a royal maid to be 18th-century Emperor Qianlong’s favourite concubine would have such an impact on so many Asian consumers.
“The Story of Yanxi Palace” (延禧攻略) literally became an overnight success. From young to old, almost everyone is fervently following the release of each episode with social media flooded with GIFs and memes made from scenes of the show.
According to Taipei Times, the show received over half a billion hits at home and abroad during the first week of its release on online video platform iQiyi.
Many are relating the stories from the show to their own lives (albeit it sounds outrageous).
Chinese TV industry has certainly come a long way to have this influence on the people and it’s really through good story-telling, amazing production quality and astounding distribution capability. The show has been distributed to more than 70 different countries and social media world went ablaze with user-generated content of the characters from the show.
But beyond the amazing storyline of how concubines outmanoeuvre each other, they had the help of many outstanding casts.
Charmaine Sheh (now 43), for example, who has already been made popular back in the days by TVB Hong Kong where she stole the hearts of many not just through her looks but her acting skills as well. However, Sheh is just but one of the main casts in this addictive drama series filled with plot-twist.
Sheh’s character in this show got the most attention by the fans. The fans particularly fancy how she turned into a villain while maintaining her composure in many of the scenes, but it’s all really just good acting.
Back in 2014, Wu Jinyan (吴谨言) was nominated as Best Actress at Shanghai Television Festival and in “The Story of Yanxi Palace” she was given the leading role as “Wei Yinluo” (魏璎珞). Although Wu is the leading character, she is really just known for the slapping scenes.
As for the LGBT community, they all fell head over heels over Chinese male model Xu Kai (许凯), who acted as Wu’s lover Fu Heng (傅恒) in the show.
There are many in the supporting casts, albeit temporary, were also part of what made the show so successful. Most are from the entertainment industry but not all of them are professional actresses or actors. They are singers, TV hosts, and social influencers but their cameo garnered more attention to the show due to their social amplification capability.
Brands Capitalising on the Hype
Wu further promotes about the TV variety show Happy Camp via social media content to increase viewership.
Mobile app TikTok (known as Douyin too) also jumped on the band wagon and produced special filters for their users. TikTok’s mobile app allows users to pair the video with either fan-made or supplied tracks which made the user-generated social content even more engaging for viewers.
Cosmetics brands and those in the fashion industry weren’t about to lose out on the chance to leverage on the fame of the show.
The most significant of all is the ad insertion of Chinese beauty & skincare brand Mageline (麦吉丽) into approximately 10 episodes of the show. Significant not because of the effectiveness of the campaign but rather how in-your-face the ad was.
Mageline’s recent video commercial has started adapting setup of olden days that somewhat resembles the setting of The Story of Yanxi Palace and clearly trying to create relevancy with the audience.
The latest edition has got to be by Pantene, a hair care brand by Procter & Gamble. Below are screenshots taken from the scenes of the video commercial.
My Take On This Frenzy
Brands who are opportunistic would be able to generate temporary social buzz but it is not a sustaining strategy. Agencies who are tasked with social creatives need to think on their feet how to immediately create relevance with their intended social content.
This would mean that it is the responsibility of the agencies to actually binge on the show and try to understand how to perform adaptation even if it means to discard creative content that were created prior.
However, proceed with caution. It is important to relook at brand value to ensure communication message is inline and does not derail the brand image.
The world of social media thrives on trends and being present at the moment. It is not wrong for any brands to seize the opportunity, but it won’t be right if it does not reflect the core values of the brand.
About the Author
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