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…

PIG takes home ROI award for The Waste Race

Adidas The Waste Race

Running. It’s not just putting your sneakers on and jogging around the park – it can be a part of something much bigger. That’s what Adidas is exploring in the new global campaign “Recode Running” showcasing what the brand calls transformational stories of running.

Watch the full film here.

In one of two, new long form films, Shanghai’s “Trash Runners” combine social running with street cleaning to improve the city, people’s lives, and to build a movement.

The “Recode Running” campaign, which is airing globally on YouTube and other platforms, is the brainchild of Amsterdam strategic consultancy Brand Articulation and its sister creative studio Lore, and the films were directed by Daniel Kaufman of Anonymous Content / Somesuch. Production was realized in Shanghai, China by P.I.G. CHINA.