It’s not surprising that the world’s largest luxury market – China – is also one of the biggest markets for luxury advertising. Advertisers shelled out $2.1 billion in China in 2017, 53 percent of which was invested in digital channels, according to a report from media agency Zenith.
WeChat has become one of the most important digital advertising channels for luxury brands over the last year. Moments ads are one way for luxury brands to reach the 1 billion monthly active users on WeChat. The ads are posted on users’ news feeds, where they spend most of their time browsing their friends’ latest updates – it’s valuable real estate for advertisers. The mechanism of Moments ads is similar to Instagram Story feature – if a user doesn’t engage with an ad (e.g., liking, commenting, or clicking), it will disappear within 6 hours. Once opened, it occupies the entire screen, capturing the full attention of the user.
Unlike WeChat official accounts, the engagement numbers of Moments ads are not made public. So, to recognize the top performing ones, WeChat publishes a top 10 ranking every quarter, which is based on WeChat users’ interactions, including likes, comments, and shares, with the ads. Among all luxury brands with a WeChat presence, Lancôme, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels’ WeChat Moments ads were top rated in the Q1 2019 ranking.
To make the ad experience authentic and seamless, WeChat is constantly changing how the ads are served to users. However, despite the constant updates, the formula for creating a successful and engaging ad is much the same – three winning elements include an interactive feature, video, and celebrities.
Interactive ads go mainstream
Interactive ads are now experiencing a revolution on Instagram Stories. There, brands can use functions like surveys, questions, and swiping up to click a link increase engagement beyond just “likes.” WeChat is experimenting with its own Story-like function by introducing interactive ads, in which the user can swipe through photos or tag their friends in the comment section to draw more attention to an ad. Engagement on such interactive ads is about 5 times that of non-interactive ones, according to WeChat. In Lancôme’s Valentine’s Day campaign, the user could draw a virtual heart shape to view the brand’s gift sets, which included exclusive holiday-themed perfumes and lipstick.
Video has become a must
If interactive ads have become mainstream to maximize exposure, applying video in the ads is a must. All three top-ranked luxury brands in the quarter – Lancôme, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels – used video ads to tell their story. But the non-luxury player Forbidden City stood out: its ad featured the Forbidden City in Beijing. Once a user swiped “open” on the door, they were led to a page filled with objects that emperors used to celebrate Chinese New Year. Clicking once more, they were taken inside the palace via VR, which re-creates the vivid scenery and details that are refreshing to explore.
Posting an imitation celebrity profile that links to a company’s marketing campaign on WeChat Moments is another new form of making the ads more social. Chinese dairy company Yili Group enlisted actress Liu Tao to give Chinese New Year wishes. Once the user clicked the post, they were directed to the product page. Swiss luxury watchmaker Tissot also showcased brand ambassadors Huang Xiaoming and Liu Yifei wearing the watches in their Moments ads. According to Tencent, celebrities drive attention — the click-through rate for such posts has improved from 6 to 10 times that of non-celebrity ads.