In the era of big data, the advertising industry is undergoing a revolution. The explosion of data-monitoring tools means that many brands are shifting their priority form the quantity to quality of leads – it is no longer just about capturing the maximum amount of views, but also about the number of real leads these views could generate.
The future in the hands of those who know not only how to collect data, but to cleverly sift through and use them for advertising gains. This is especially crucial in the highly fragmented Chinese market.
A leader in China’s elevator media scene, Focus Media’s success lies in its willingness to evolve with the times, according to Cindy Yan Chan, chief information officer at the digital advertising network operator. "The reason we’ve been able to grow with our clients and the public, and win their trust, is because we’re constantly looking for ways to upgrade ourselves," she notes.
Focus Media already owns a formidable offline advertising network reaching about 300 million middle-class consumers across 300 Chinese cities. Those numbers will only increase over the next five years with rapid urbanisation. "We’re looking to expand to 500 cities, targeting 500 million ‘new urban’ middle-class members," says Chan.
Smart screen network
One of the things 16-year-old Focus Media has done to cater to the era of big data is replacing its old screens with smart ones that combine screen-end computing, screen-end update and real-time monitoring. The new generation of smart screens means the business can now make the most of advanced media- research methods to analyse viewing and consumption habits of passers-by, and feed that data back to advertisers.
Over the years Focus Media has accumulated an enviable list of clients, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, GM and Mercedes-Benz. Of the 100 brands in WPP and Kantar’s BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese brands study, 81 are clients of Chan’s company.
Focus Media’s offline strength was demonstrated by its work with Luckin Coffee, the coffee shop set to rival Starbucks in China. Since opening in June 2017, Luckin Coffee has expanded to 2,370 stores in 28 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. on 17 May, it made its Nasdaq debut – a mere 18 months after getting its start with a single trial store.
Luckin Coffee owes a huge part of its success to its communications strategy, according to Chan. By partnering with Focus Media, Luckin Coffee was able to take advantage of the media group’s offline network to quickly build brand recognition.
In 2018, Focus Media was enlisted by Bosideng for a ¥100m rebranding campaign. Focus Media once again leveraged both its online and offline connections to push forth the idea that "Bosideng is the go-to for down jackets" in China.
By the end of 2018, the company’s omnichannel retail sales exceeded ¥10bn, with medium- to high-end sales enjoying a 500% boost.
Joine-up thinking to fuel integration
In January 2019, Focus Media partnered with Chinese ecommerce giant (and minority shareholder) Alibaba to launch ‘U Zhong Plan’, an initiative designed to help brands integrate their offline media and digital marketing.
The partnership allows Alibaba sellers to tap into Focus Media’s offline network throughout China, and Focus Media clients to go digital, and transact with Alibaba’s 500 million-plus users. Brands will be able to make use of more accurate online data to make smarter business decisions based on consumer insights in real time.
As time goes on, there would be an explosion of interactions between brands and consumers, both online and offline – only then could true online and offline marketing integration, as well as quantifiable marketing, be achieved.
"At the end of the day, our clients are still at the heart of what we do," says Chan. "We’re confident that Focus Media will continue to bring vitality to the Chinese media landscape."