Why the Chinese short drama boom is important for luxury goods

This article originally appeared in Jing Daily’s Content Commerce Edition newsletter, which shows how brands are successfully creating content to generate income in China. Sign up for the Content Commerce edition and other Jing Daily newsletters here.

It’s no secret that China’s short video platforms – which include Douyin de Bytedance (TikTok’s predecessor in the Chinese market), Bilibili, and Kuaishou – are becoming virtually impossible for luxury brands to ignore. Every day, 600 million use Douyin and over 300 million Kuaishou, and where both apps were initially just places for young audiences to hang out, they are also increasingly becoming places to shop. According to the Financial Times, the gross value of all goods sold in Kuaishou in the third quarter of this year increased 86% year-on-year to 175.8 billion RMB ($ 27.6 billion).

But in addition to deciding whether or not to offer some form of e-commerce through short video platforms, luxury brands now have to decide how best to present themselves in front of an audience addicted to short videos. A growing trend that brands are increasingly considering as part of their marketing mix in China is short, largely ‘vertical’ dramas, programs lasting a few minutes that use a vertical format that is easily seen on smartphones. . While this trend has never really taken off in the West, with the massively publicized American platform Quibi shutting down after just six months, in China they remain more popular than ever. According to Chinese-language media, the short dramatic films on Kuaishou attracted 210 million Daily Active Users (DAUs) in April 2021, of which nearly 10% were “heavy viewers.” Something of an abbreviated successor to the lifestyle dramas that have dominated streaming platforms for the past two years – which have provided luxury brands with marketing opportunities as well as bad PR threats – the short dramas. could provide a way for luxury brands to take advantage of a rapidly growing media segment at a relatively lower cost. But these opportunities do not come without caveats.

Similar to miniature episodic television serials, dramatic short films have a relatively long history (by internet standards) in China, with Kuaishou among the first to introduce the format with its 2013 series. Never expected (万万没 想到). Yet dramatic short films have taken nearly five years to hit their stride, steadily gaining viewers’ interest over the past three years. In 2020, China’s powerful media regulator, the National Administration of Radio and Television (NRTA), officially began including dramatic short films – which it defined as programs with episodes of less than 10 years. minutes – under his supervision.

Around the same time, more and more film and television production houses and MCN agencies started investing in short films, eager to keep up with the trend of promoting their intellectual property and internal talent rosters. Following the lead of Kuaishou, who recently unveiled plans to release more short films in the coming year, Baidu’s content creation platform Baijiahao has announced its official entry into the arena. short film with its “Broken Shell Project” (ç ´ 壳 计划) program incubation initiative, while Douyin plans to promote more short drama programs on its app.

Obviously, short dramas are a significant upward trend, but the big question facing producers and platforms (or luxury brands considering a collaboration) is whether the format of short dramatic films can actually create valuable long-term intellectual property. These programs are designed to be light and airy, meant to be enjoyed during short periods like coffee breaks or commuting, unlike longer programs which seek to engage audiences deeply in the characters and intrigue.

Some programs, like the recent Douyin hit Love beyond words (秦 爷 çš„ 小 å“‘å·´) – which has racked up 330 million views – are based on existing intellectual property, in its case a book that saw sales more than five times increase after the show debuted. Still, most shorts have a more improvised, unscripted appearance, often quickly mixed up to take advantage of viral trends and appeal to younger audiences. It’s a source of concern for some in the industry, with a producer of dramatic shorts telling China Modern advertising (现代 广告) that there are currently very few innovations in the short-drama market, most of them just flattering audiences by jumping on viral trends. The producer added that he expects this to result in significant dilution and consistency in the market, with users willing to watch content but unwilling to pay for it and producers unable or unwilling to invest in it. building long-term intellectual property.

In an effort to strengthen the business case for short dramatic films, some producers have launched paid “advanced on demand” features to give loyal audiences quick access to new episodes. Yet as an industry source put it Modern advertising, this strategy is unlikely to pay off, adding, “When a lot of people see the payment option, they’ll decide to watch free programs instead.” Either way, there ain’t much of a difference [in quality] between the two.”

This increases the pressure on producers to find ways to actually monetize their short programs. Currently, options are limited – mostly advertising, online sales, or platform grants. Currently, platform grants are the most common monetization model, with Kuaishou claiming that it distributes over 5 million RMB ($ 784,806) per month to creators of short films, with 80% of producers with over 100,000 viewers earning income. Considering the amount of content posted daily, this is hardly viable for all but the most popular programs. This means that advertising remains crucial for producers, who more often than not try to infuse product placement or include sponsors in their short film bundles.

Yet beyond the difficulty of sustainable monetization, the key issue in an increasingly saturated short film market remains the same: standing out from the crowd, a daunting task when everyone takes advantage of the same trends and Youthful angles for the exact same viewer demographics. And from a commercial and marketing standpoint, this means that the viability of the short film remains unknown, which begs the question: which brand will be the guinea pig to attempt the format? And will they follow this path by partnering with an existing show or just creating their own?

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