Virtual influencers are shaking up China’s online retail

Virtual KOL Ling from Shanghai AI start-up Xmov ©Xmov

by Crystal Reed

Brands seek to mitigate the footfall in their brick and mortar stores through live-stream shopping, which has exploded.

In recent years, we’ve seen virtual characters take on increasingly independent and creative roles. Gone are the days of video games and anime shows; these digital beings have taken up a plethora of different roles such as pop idols with an endless supply of original songs, runway models with full, vivid backstories and even AI-powered brand mascots who’s better even than Li Jiaqi and Kardashian at making the sale.

Vocaloids Hatsune Miku & Luka Megurine Project DIVA Live Concert ©Youtube

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this trend of virtual idols has moved into the fast lane in China. Brands seek to mitigate the footfall in their brick and mortar stores through live-stream shopping — whereby well-known personalities and mere mortals alike demo, recommend and offer discounts on products in real-time over the internet — which has exploded.

We’re clearly entering a brave new world, but how did we get here, what’s the appeal, and what are the challenges and opportunities for brands?

According to official figures, there were more than 10 million e-commerce live-streaming events in China in the first half of 2020, with 560 million people tuning in, an increase of 126 million year on year.

13 million tuned in to see Chinese influencer Viya Huang and corn-fed (kinda) socialite Kim Kardashian double down on a T-Mall live-streaming session in November 2019; 15,000 of KKW perfume were converted into shareholders equity within minutes ©T-Mall

But while some of the country’s top live-streaming influencers (KOL) are indeed raking it in, one virtual gift at a time, they are now facing fresh competition from a new breed of brand advocates who promises to be on time, blemish-free and full of beans, 24/7, 365. Enter virtual live-streamers…

The rise of the virtual influencer (KOL)

Luo Tianyi is China’s best known and most profitable virtual idol. The grey-haired anime-style tween made her debut at the height of the pandemic alongside real-life KOL Li Jiaqi, AKA, “the Lipstick King”.

Li Jiaqi and Luo Tianyi for Occitane ©T-Mall

After the unlikely duo’s appearance for Taobao’s “Cloud ACG Carnival” in May hooked in almost 3 million viewers, China’s biggest shopping site doubled down a month later, employing VR royalty in the form of Japan’s Hatsune Miku for another live stream, attracting over 10 million virtual gifts and page views.

Prada is among the first Western brands to embrace this trend in China, teaming up with Alibaba (via T-Mall) and Aimee, T-Mall’s virtual model. The slender, porcelain-skinned influencer glamorously shows off pieces from the brand’s 2020 Spring-Summer collection.

TMall’s virtual influencer, Aimee, in Prada and Miu Miu ©T-Mall

Ling

The start-up scene is also abuzz with activity in China. Shanghai-based, artificial intelligence mini-corn (that’s budding-unicorn in laymen’s speak) Xmov and media company, Beijing Cishi, introduced China’s first artificial intelligence influencer, Ling, back in May 2020.

Using proprietary full-stack end-to-end AI technology, Ling’s facial expressions, body and finger movements can all be rendered in an extremely life-like manner through something CEO Chai Jinxiang calls “intelligent characterization through modeling and AI performance animation“, a far-cry from the often robotic mobility issues characteristic of Luo Tianyi and other “anime-style” virtual idols.

Virtual KOL Ling from Shanghai AI start-up Xmov ©Xmov

Aside from developing its leading lady, Xmov provides it’s motion-capture rendering services to commercial clients such as brands and agencies. In a live-streaming situation, Xmov renders the character in real time, which means they can interact with consumers in a much more enriching and visually satisfying way, thereby engaging the audience even deeper.

The company just completed an undisclosed (upwards of a hundred million RMB) series A round of funding on June 25th from investors including Sequoia. Hurrah, we’re rootin’ for ya!

Who’s watching?

Not surprisingly, it’s young Asian consumers who are particularly seduced by virtual sellers. The economy of idols is massive among Gen Z, roughly defined as people born between the mid 1990s and early 2010. According to QuestMobile, a Beijing-Based market research company, around 390 million Chinese are following or know about virtual idols, with $5.65 billion spent on them in 2018.

This tech-savy demographic find themselves attracted like shallow moths to a beautiful flame to these flawless and ageless idols.

Luo Tianyi enlists fellow diva vocaloid, Yuezheng Ling, to help sell a yellow Pikachu electric cooker from Midea ©T-Mall

According to Miro Li, founder of Chinese consulting company Double V, female virtual idols are best at selling electronics and gaming paraphernalia to Gen Z guys, while male characters are best at selling beauty, food and fashion products to women. In a country where male celebrities are sometimes used to sell feminine hygiene products, this somehow makes perfect sense.

What of the West?

The West is also grabbing virtual idols by their neon pigtails in quite a similar way. Instead of live-streaming, they’re taking more to the likes of Instagram and TikTok (while it lasts). Noonoouri from Joerg Zuber of creative agency Opium Effect is the quintessential case study.

As per her bio on Virtual Humans, a kind of [unsolicited] agency for virtual influencers of sorts, “Noonoouri has worked with most of the top brands in the fashion industry and continues to wow consumers with her unique look. She balances her platform between social good and promotion. She’s vegan, advocates for sustainable fashion, and refuses to wear furs while making countless cameos with fashion brands all around the world.

Noonoouri, oh how we covet your life! ©Joerg Zuber

Noonoouri is officially represented by IMG Models.

While Noonoouri, with her big smoky eyes and slender, exaggerated frame alludes to a modern-day rendition of a Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit love child, an aspect that’s still of upmost importance for most Western audiences is having a life-like appearance, according to Diederik van Middlekoop of sonic branding company Amp.Amsterdam. He says that even though the West loves interacting with tech and AI, the experience must still be anchored in reality for these unimaginative audiences.

What’s the catch?

The advantages of virtual live streamers are clear. Gone are the days when you have to worry about your brand ambassador Tweeting something that makes the CMO facepalm so hard it can be considered self-slapping. They’re unbound by union rules (well, for now… we’ve got our eyes on you SAG!), time and geography. They offer something exciting and appealing to the latest generation to enter the “consumer” tranche.

Virtual live streamers allow audiences to build a relationship with the character through interaction,” says Ty Curtis of FIN Design and Effects, a post house that’s been conducting extensive research into virtual idols for clients. “It’s not just a passive experience like watching an ad. It provides much deeper engagement through interactivity.

Xmov motion-capturing services demonstration ©Xmov

But these virtual show ponies definitely do not come cheap, costing brands upwards of seven digits to create a truly unique, functional and proprietary character, and that’s separate from the cost to operate them! A one hour live-broadcast usually runs from the hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on whether real KOLs are brought in for support.

As of today, voice remains the single biggest challenge to this budding realm. Without a voice that is natural to the ears, virtual influencers are still bound to working with a human counterpart. They’re also less able to connect emotionally than their flesh and bones rivals. Think about it, to this day, not even Apple has been able to crack that nut. Siri sounds nice, but she’s leaps and bounds away from giving Billie Holiday a run for her money.

Frances Densmore recording Blackfoot Mountain Chief on a cylinder phonograph for the Bureau of American Ethnology (1916) ©Wikipedia

Even when you use a real person for the voice, it’s going to sound somewhat robotic because you can’t really convey emotion,” explains van Middlekoop, who’s spent the last two months recording himself saying the world’s most complicated sentences for a voice-first character his company is soon to launch. “This is why a robot voice, even if it comes from a real sample, has some robotic characteristics that can make people feel uncomfortable.

A look to the future

In this day and age, the relationship between humans and technology is set to intertwine even more in the coming decades, making it all the more important that brands invest into their virtual DNA, now. “I see [virtual live streamers] as the progression towards the assimilation between digital and physical,” says Curtis. “The more work we do in this field, the better the quality will get until we can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

Virtual influencers aggregator Virtual Humans offers one of the most complete listings of virtual idols ©Virtual Humans

It’s clear that virtual live-streamers have yet to reach their peak. According to Shanghai-based iResearch, China’s live-stream shopping market was worth $66 billion in 2019, and could more than double this year. As far as online retail goes, virtual idols are likely to play a bigger role. “Virtual and interactive entertainment is a hot trend nowadays,” a spokesperson for Taobao Live told the SCMP. “We are dedicated to introducing various pan-entertainment virtual hosts to enrich our content and innovate in user interactions.” Alibaba-owned Lazada in Southeast Asia and Amazon are also rolling out video streaming platforms. Surely, it’s only a matter of time before the whole world gets onboard.

No Cannes, no problem! PIG brings the party to Shanghai

No Cannes this year…

Every year, right about now, chances are you’re on a plane heading back to Shanghai or wherever, forgoing the celebratory glass of welcome champagne for “just an OJ please” as you gingerly nurse a liver on the brink of cirrhosis back to health-ish after a week of non-stop, audacious profiteering (oops!) I meant networking.

From laid back Google Beach to MassiveMusic’s over the top insanity and everything in between, Lions’ every iteration is a Spartan race to see who’ll top out the week with the most crowds, the most ooo’s and ahh’s, the most hashtags and the most morning-after stories—don’t let “by invitation only” fool you, everybody’s welcome, just say you’re from Netflix.

Google Beach

That’s right, we’re talking Cannes Lions, another bitterly mourned casualty of Covid-19. And while it’s crushed your Grand Prix dreams—yeaaah, let’s keep telling ourselves that’s the only reason why we’re not getting one this year—it shall not deprive us of a good pool-side BBQ.

The PIGman’s got your back; we’ve been thinking long and hard and it’s about time to give those of us stuck in the “Hai” a modest reprieve from all the scalding Trumpian headlines and side-ways glances from dogmatic ayis fearful of your germs.

After Cannes’BBQ Sessions and Berlin’s Bunker Sessions, this August, we’re super excited to be bringing you: Shanghai Sessions! This year’s theme: No Cannes? No problem!

In classic Sessions tradition, Shanghai Sessions will encompass the very same savoir-faire that’s made PIG’s Cannes villa such an indispensable pitstop for many in their Lions pilgrimage.

Cannes BBQ Sessions

Expect to endulge in the PIGman’s quintessential party trifecta:

Coal barbecue manned by prodigious rising talent Chef Ying of Xixi Bistro fame; chicken, brats, tritip and all that jazz, grilled to order. We’ve even cultured it up a notch with juicy lamb skewers flavoured à la Xinjiang and a whole, suckling pig, just heavenly.

What’s a party without a pool? A dumb one, I’ll tell you what. Nah, we kid, we kid. But all jokes aside, it would have been just pitiful to deprive our guests from the possibility of rosé-induced fumbles into a 25-meter rooftop pool bedazzled with unicorns, swans and other assorted floaties.

Cool vibes guaranteed, courtesy of Murphy Kin, a.k.a. DJ Lucy. The well-rounded selector takes us on a trip with his lively sets, rooted in house and disco. This energetic artist launched his own lable, Ting Ting Disco, in 2015.

…. and who knows, maybe a few other surprises await.

You’re probably banging furiously on something that’s hopefully not your phone and for God’s sake what are the event details!? Okay, here goes…

Event Details

Shanghai Sessions: No Cannes? No problem!

Date: August 8th, 2020
Time: 16:00 – 21:00
Place: on a Bund rooftop 🙂
for now, we’re keeping a hush on the exact location for confirmed guests only

How to RSVP

Disclaimer

In our effort to abate even an iota of a possibility of becoming Shanghai’s inaugural resurgent cluster, event capacity is limited to 100. Registration conditions apply (i.e. no recent Beijing or foreign travel, no fever, possessing a green health code, … )

  1. Scan the QR code in the above event poster to access our Official Wechat Account (Wechat ID: Pig_Films)
  2. Follow us
  3. Click “RSVP” on the bottom right
  4. Input your information
  5. Wait to receive your RSVP confirmation
  6. And don’t go unfollowing right afterwards, you’ll need to present that sucker at check-in and submit to a temperature check

*If you encounter issues, watch the below “how-to”.

Live-streaming in China: luxe dives in, some slip a little

If you’re at all in-tune with Chinese beauty retail, then you most certainly would have heard of the infamous Rouge Hermès Incident involving widely-proclaimed lipstick king Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) giving a scathing review of the much-anticipated lipstick line from the emperor of le French touch (read “gratifyingly expensive”). Though a seriously spicy dish, we’re not going to delve into that hot mess of an incident – when you’re done Googling, please come back because there was a point to bringing that up. 

Back? Ok, so the point is, live-streaming is a big deal in China, and the Covid-19 pandemic has nudged some luxury brands into this mystical, influencer-ruled realm where the laws of physics conventional retail marketing don’t track.

YSL Beauté

First we have lipstick; for many they’re a relatively affordable status symbol; they’re small, fun, and desperate wannabes – including yours truly – pop them like M&Ms; I mean can you even be legally certified as a woman if you don’t possess at least 3 (hundred)?

YSL Beauté carpe diem’ed the ass out of their day with a staged livestream showcase on insanely popular marketplace Taobao Live. A baker’s dozen of influencers, models and presenters spent the hour talking up various box-sets of poppy shades of rouge. In terms of effort, there’s a solid A in there! That set, the cameras, lighting and all those influencers don’t come cheap. Just shy of 2 million viewers tuned in, many followers of the mini-celebrities. Each time an item is sold, a bright orange message pops up onscreen, “XXX0483 is making a purchase!” We saw many-a-message that evening. With prices hovering above 300 RMB per, there’s definitely room for lucrative happiness however we can’t help but ponder the long-term effectiveness and viability of mega influencers-led showcases.

YSL Beauté’s event poster, lipstick box-set, screenshots from Taobao Live

Moving on to fashion shows, Giorgio Armani famously walked onto his runway to greet an invisible crowd in his latest show. Due to the mounting Covid-19 crisis in Italy, no audience could attend the Milan show. Armani is not alone.

Giorgio Armani in Milan on February 23rd

Gucci

With Dolce & Gabbana’s whirlwind tumble from grace involving a model, a pizza and a pair of chopsticks and Versace’s uninspired fumble with t-shirts printed with store locations (seriously, was that actually meant for paying customers?), Gucci is left ire della collina (king of the hill), so to speak. The brand’s arguably more Darwinian marketing aptitude was put to good use in a recent venture into live-streaming. On February 19th at 10:00pm Beijing time, Gucci broadcasted its runway show live on Weibo, #GucciTheRitual, showcasing the 2020 Fall/Winter collection. At a mere 10 minutes 13 seconds, the micro livestream managed to reach 22.9 million Chinese users (including replay viewers). Not bad François, HEC 4ever. Let’s move on.

Gucci F/W 2020 runway livestream on Weibo

Lanvin

The Chinese-owned (Fosun) Lanvin also dabbled with runway live-streaming. Although Fosun is quite a ways larger than a PE fund, in typical PE-backed fashion, no pun intended, Lanvin went all out, blank check in-hand, broadcasting their show in jaw-dropping live 360° VR format via streaming platform iQiyi.com – China’s answer to Netflix. The VR headsets, provided by iQiyi to subscribers of its VR content service, put viewers next to Chinese online A-listers, with the option to hear their voice-over commentary.

Bottom line, we’re not quite sure what to make of it all, indeed there’s so much that’s new and inspiring about this approach, however partnering with a content-driven platform like iQiyi instead of a commercial one like Taobao and delivering through VR goggles may be limiting potential marketing reach, or not, what does McKinsey say?

Lanvin’s livestreamed VR runway via iQiyi

Shanghai Fashion Week

Lastly, while not a brand, worthy of an honorable mention is Shanghai Fashion Week. Official partner Xintiandi teamed up with Tmall (Taobao’s sister marketplace) and basically all of China’s leading content platforms – Bilibili, RED (小红书), TikTok, Kuaishou(快手) – to host a cloud marketplace. Influencers took viewers on walkabout tours through and interviews about home-grown designers. Purchases could be made instantly via Tmall.

Shanghai Fashion Week’s livestream event with many partners

Nothing goes perfectly in uncharted waters. While YSL and Gucci are relishing in the success of their first dips into the livestream, pun intended, other brands seemed to have gone too fast and slipped-up a little.

Louis Vuitton

This year’s Gold Lion for Social Disengagement & Disintegration for Live Experience (FYI, that’s B01 at Cannes, wink) goes to… Louis Vuitton. Sorry, Bernard.

In what can only be described as the execution of a half-formed thought from somebody driven to desperation by quarantine, Louis Vuitton’s ill-fated livestream on RED (小红书), left viewers frozen in disbelief. Instead of a staged approach, the mega-brand opted to broadcast a live-selling session in the classic “直播间” (livestream showroom) format, thus-far a proven business model for middle-aged merchants of surplus apparel stockpiles in the outskirts of Suzhou.

The choice of pieces was a chaotic, vertigo-inducing explosion of everything monogramed from canvas bags, to shorts to sneakers and scarves; when we looked at the backs of our hand we could still see Jesus the LV sign. As if that wasn’t enough kitsch for one lifetime, the styling of the poor girls drew up repressed memories of Honey Boo Boo. Cap it off with a no-frills set that somehow made its way over from 1960’s Deauville, and finally the writing on the wall became clear, “catastrophic consumer backlash up ahead”. Screenshots below, we’ll let you be the judge.

Louis Vuitton’s RED livestream (left), China’s typical live-selling bargain darlings (right)

Burberry

And then there was one. Sometimes equipment just fails us. Janet had the wardrobe malfunction, Enrique had a disastrous relationship with a live mic and Burberry had, well nothing really, no, literally nothing. The April 9th Taobao Live showcase was supposed to air at 9:00pm sharp with influencers billing in the six-figures expected to join, including Yvonne Ching. One hour and a couple dozen messages to customer service later, we gave up and went to bed (writing articles requires a lot of sleep). Apparently due to “technical issues”, the live broadcast would be delayed to a later date. 11 days on and we’re still waiting.

Burberry Live poster and the technical fumble

There’s far too many more case studies than one god-fearing (Thor) writer should dare to tackle in a single piece. Honorable mentions also go out to Ahava x Tmall live from the Dead Sea, MCM’s in-store broadcasts on RED (小红书), Calvin Klein’s 360° VR pop-up cloud store and Prada x TikTok’s #“P”oems.

Ahava, CK and Prada (top left to bottom right)

While there are many platforms who have facilitated brands’ explorative endeavors into the world of live-streaming, Alibaba-backed Taobao/Tmall clearly emerged as the de-facto platform of choice. Astonishingly, the Tencent-backed JD.com was nowhere to be found. 

We can guesstimate 3 reasons: 

1. Taobal/Tmall often acted as co-hosts or sponsors to these live-streaming events.

2. Taobao/Tmall is a huge, merchant-driven marketplace, especially popular among small, independent retailers/manufacturers of apparel, accessories & beauty, thereby drawing in huge impuse buyers. Contrast that with JD.com, who is recognized as a more structured marketplace for branded products and established (read “licensed“) merchants, an Amazon of sorts, with a tendency to skew towards consumer electronics and groceries.

3. While some of the other broadcasting platforms, notably RED (小红书), do offer a marketplace feature whereby viewers can directly proceed to purchase, Taobal/Tmall’s payment escrow system, buyer protection and merchant vetting features are a big draw.

Post-Covid 19 and with increasing 5G coverage, will we see brands continue to gravitate towards live-streaming as a sustainable new marketing avenue? Only time will tell.

PIG’s chief of chaos sits down with LBB to talk quarantine, Covid-19, remote production and life under a new “normal”

This month, PIG Chief Chaos Officer (and MD) Nick Dodet spoke with LBB’s Natasha Patel about Covid-19 and the production industry. He believes the West can learn quite a few things from China’s response, and shares innovative ways the team has found to work within all the new restrictions.

As the western world grapples with the pandemic, China has lifted most sanctions, and the Chinese production scene is slowly finding its place in a new “normal”. Nick shares his views on the whole situation with LBB.

Excerpts from the interview below.

What’s the current situation in China with production?

Production is kind of coming back to normal right now. In the past week there’ve been a lot of shoots after we saw a few in early March, then some more mid-month. There were a lot of restrictions but fewer and fewer now compared to in March when we could apply and get a permit to shoot in a public location, but if any of the local residents felt unsafe , they would call the cops and shut us down. No questions asked. Now it’s mostly getting better and we can pretty much shoot from anywhere.

Did you come across any interesting ways to get around the restrictions?

We started developing more remote shooting where clients and agencies would remain in China and a crew would shoot in, let’s say, South Africa and everything would be watched live back over here.

Now it’s been completely flipped around in that foreigners are not allowed to enter China at the moment – even if they possess a green card. At the moment we’ve got jobs confirmed with foreign agencies, production companies and clients who they can’t shoot where they are, so they will shoot in China remotely. We’re getting more of these requests, which are basically in a living room in the West and on the set here in China.

What can companies around the world learn from China’s experience of Covid-19 and coming out the other end of it?

You’ve got to make yourself small, if you’re not working you have no revenue so you have to weather the storm. Just keep your chin up because eventually things get better. What allowed us to get out of that first wave so quickly is that it literally came down with a hammer and everybody was wearing masks in public and shutting down public transportation. It was literally ghost town all over the country.

You always have opportunities in these times and the opportunity to test new technology and find new angles. I hear a lot of foreign clients are trying to produce homemade films where they’re asking the agencies to find ways for people to take selfies. Long term that’s probably not that viable. What we offer foreign clients right now is to shoot films over here for them and they direct from abroad. In the West they’ll come up with new ways of running sets, I think there’ll be quite a bit of remote work that’ll happen way past the pandemic.

To read the full interview, click here (external link).

Shoots move online as Covid-19 moves in

PIGremote

China is offering solutions to filmmakers to shoot remotely as productions shut down worldwide.

A brave new world

Indeed, these are turbulent times. Disruption from Covid-19 has swept across the entertainment industry. Production has taken a tumble, off a cliff. While the long-term impact remains an ever-debatable talking point, go pour the whiskey Jack, short-term it’s clear where there’s a problem: shooting has ceased worldwide.

To say the sector is restless will be our understatement of the year. Don’t have to look far to find a growing list of reasons why. Filmmakers in locked-down New York and California can offer a vivid exposé on that topic. Disney, Paramount, Universal, HBO and even Susan from accounts have pushed their movie releases into fall and winter. Cannes Lions, Wimbledon, the Emmys and, good lord, Eurovision are all canceled.

Edwin Hooper (Unsplash)

Don’t go grabbing for the arsenic just yet.

While the rest of the world grapples with a sudden onset of potential-diabetics-suddenly-turned-avid-long-distance-runners plaguing what should be empty city streets, China has managed to beat the C-train to submission. Chinese authorities lifted virtually all sanctions to life and business in April with the exception, obviously, of Hubei, schools – it’s a brave new world, parents – and allowing anybody new into the country. Nonetheless, that’s still leaps and bounds ahead of anybody in the G7.

Tedward Quinn (Unsplash)

When one door closes, another opens.

In late February, very limited shooting resumed in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Since March, gloved and n95-masked crews, sterile enough to perform open-heart surgery on a whim, have been shooting away nationwide. Envy much?

That’s all gravy for China, but why should I care,” you ask? And if you’re not asking, you’re clearly not reading this article correctly (that or you jumped to the ending).

In the same way that Q saves Bond’s tight, squish-able butt, queue the gadgetry to come help keep directors’ alcoholism at bay, for now, and producers from well, themselves.

We’re talking about remote shooting and it’s quite the setup.

Call up your mind’s eye, and picture this. As June et al. work the set in Shanghai, director and up to 59 others are tuckered-up in a Netflix and chill kind of situation, wearing underwear but no pants, over in North America or wherever.

Live in Shanghai and Los Angeles
Photo courtesy PIG China

The remote team watches each 4K take at up to 2K resolution, 10 frames short of literally being “live”, delivered over 5G so smooth that some are considering immigration – we’re talking the real deal 5G, not the only-on-that-one-corner-on-Wilshire kind of American greatness. Raving mad that you can’t find a half decent flat white after 9:00pm EST on Grubhub, director can only scream at the laptop; we avoid a possible “situation and wrap before overtimes kick in. It’s your Zoom/Facetime/Skype happy-hour, gone pro.

Yes, that’s remote shooting. No, it isn’t news. Yes, it is THE talk of the town. Studios, agencies, brands, and production houses are clambering to shoot remotely in China. This is a reminder that the world is an oyster – bless the first man (yes man) who ever said, “why yes, that looks edible” – for all intents and purposes, and fate looks kindly upon those who help themselves.

Photo courtesy PIG China

For some, it’s a path forward, for others, it’s a lifeline. Call it what you will, remote production has taken off in China, and this isn’t a train you can afford to miss.

Remote production isn’t a glass slipper solution, still it solves a lot of problems for a lot of people, right now. Couple that with equipment, directors, DOPs, crew, talent, facilities and locations that’ll make Hollywood do a back-flip, and you’ve just found the one thing to keep from crying yourself to sleep tonight.

A (somewhat necessary) disclaimer
PIG is providing a range of remote production tools and solutions for production houses, agencies, brands and clients affected by the Covid-19 crisis. We continue to run our sets with the same acute eyes for quality and professionalism while keeping a third eye out for our crews’ health and safety.

Brands split over Covid-19

As COVID-19 spreads around the globe, more and more people find themselves living under lockdown. Governments try to make people understand the importance of staying home by using the term “social distancing”, which means standing 6 feet apart from other people in an effort to lower the risk of transmitting infections.

It seems that the brands are doing it too….

McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Chiquita are also among the many international brands to have quickly moved to redesigned their logos.

While this may seem like marketing genius, not everybody agrees. Douglas Sellers, executive creative director for Siegel+Gale says, “Our current global situation is no joke. It’s a serious matter, and brands designing social distancing logos have the potential to diminish the severity of what we are going through.”

Well actually, Doug, many roads lead to Rome. In the category of “serious and meaningful (and costly)”, LVMH group and Gap definitely score higher. They’ve retooled production lines to make sanitizers and masks. And you even have Ford and Tesla over yonder in the “butt-clenchingly serious” category; they’re making ventilators! At the end of the day, every little bit counts. Comic relief, laugh a little.

Stay safe.

PIG’s 3D film for OPPO Lamborghini

PIG’s recent collaboration with OPPO culminated in our latest film for our client’s Find X2 Pro mobile phone, Lamborghini edition! The special edition model is based on the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster (limit 800 production units) and features a carbon-fiber textured phone back, gold plated camera edges and comes in sleek black and copper tones, perfectly in parallel to the coveted supercar.

Watch the full film here.

The PIG-produced film is an entirely 3D feat, exquisitely excuted by Unit Motion, part of the WIZZ Animation Collective (more infor here). The 30-second film perfectly highlights the seemless integration of the supercar’s design components into the Find X2 Pro.

客户 Client: OPPO
导演 Director: Unit Motion at WIZZ
制片 Production: P.I.G. CHINA

PIG x Under Armour in back-to-back films

Under Armour

P.I.G. China‘s 2nd and 3rd time working with Under Armour in the past year sees two films showcasing Zhu Ting (volleyball) and Jin Yuan (track and field) in #TheOnlyWayIsThrough global campaign. UA’s message: “Improvement isn’t easy. There are no shortcuts. No cheat codes. No quick fixes. Just hard work. The only way is through.

Watch Jin Yuan’s full film here (running).
Watch Zhu Ting’s full film here (volleyball).

#TheOnlyWayIsThrough brings together global athletes including Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Curry and Michael Phelps to promote the spirit of its slogan. For the China segment, we follow two leading ladies: former national team track and field runner Jin Yuan (金源) and national volleyball player Zhu Ting (朱婷).

These are the 2nd and 3rd collaborations between P.I.G. China and Under Armour, to date! Our team traveled to Tianjin’s National Women’s Volleyball Institute to shoot with Zhu Ting while Jin Yuan’s film was shot in 2 days across 6 venues in Shanghai.

The films will be featured with other in the series in Under Armour’s #TheOnlyWayIsThrough campaign across global media platforms this spring.

The animation WIZZ kids

Hi, have we met?

WIZZ is an animation & mixed media power collective, comprised of talented directors.

WIZZ Animation Collective

You can think of them as a graphics laboratory. Madly in love with 2D, 3D, stop motion, mixed media and the works. Above all, what WIZZ directors love to do is developing whole new artistic worlds and tools.

For commercials, music videos, films, series or something in between, WIZZ is dedicated to true creative storytelling.

Oppo Find X2 Lamborghini Aventador Edition

WIZZ directors, Unit Motion, recently worked with PIG for our clients over at Oppo (read more about it here). The result is an artfully crafted teaser film for the upcoming Oppo Find X2 Lamborghini Aventador Edition.

NIke “Never Ask” (Cannes Gold Lion)

CRCR, another group of WIZZ directors, helped Nike create the “Never Ask” campaign which won the Cannes Lions (Gold) in 2019.

Learn more about WIZZ.

Climbkhana 2: PIG teams up with Ken Block & Hoonigan Media

Racer Ken Block‘s latest drift blockbuster “Climbkhana 2: Heaven’s Gate Road” was released globally on November 18th. The film was produced by Hoonigan Media Machine with the collaboration of PIG. Great work everyone!

Watch the full film here.

Some feared 2018’s Gymkhana TEN marked the end of automotive’s largest viral video franchise, but Ken Block is back with the second installment of the acclaimed series’ spin-off Climbkhana, presented by Toyo TiresForza Motorsport and Omaze. This time, Block and the Hoonigan Media Machine, supported by PIG, traveled to one of the world’s most dangerous roads, located deep in the heart of China, with his 914 horsepower Ford F-150 Hoonitruck to film Climbkhana TWO: Heaven’s Gate Road

About five years ago, I found a photo on the internet of this crazy road made of multiple switch backs that actually crossed over itself,” says Ken Block. “Before I even discovered where in the world it was, I knew we had to go film there. As we did more research, I realized we may have found the greatest road ever. It’s like a European tarmac rally stage-but turned out to 11-and, it’s set in a wild scene that looks stolen right out of the movie Avatar. ” 

Located in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, China, in a region that actually did inspire James Cameron’s 2009 epic Sci-Fi film, the Heaven’s Gate Mountain Highway (天门山公路)climbs 11 Kilometers across a ribbon of concrete that bends over 99 times through lush foliage and precariously located cliff drops. It’s considered so dangerous that the public is forbidden to drive on it. And while similar in basic design to the location for the first film: Pikes Peak, this road is almost half as wide in most places, and the consequences way more frightening. 

Over the past couple years, a few other projects have been filmed in the region, but we really wanted to bring our unique style of filmmaking and Ken Block’s wild driving to this road to show it in a way it hasn’t been seen before” says Climbkhana TWO’s Director Brian Scotto. “This road is amazing, but also very unforgiving, which ironically is its best attribute.

Of all of Ken Block’s vehicles, the Hoonitruck seemed the least suited for this incredibly narrow road, which at some points is skinnier than the highly modified, AWD truck is long. But its massive proportions, only make the feat ever more impressive.

The juxtaposition of this massive American pickup truck and that tiny road was just too perfect, even if it made it way harder and sketchier to for me to drive,” says Block.  

5 Red Cameras, 2 drones, and over 20 GoPros ran simultaneously to capture Ken Block’s breathtaking driving prowess…