China’s Booming Cyberstar Economy & Papi Jiang

How far would a Chinese company go to connect their brand to Papi Jiang, China’s rising Weibo superstar? Today’s ad auction showed that people are willing to pay millions to get their ad in one of the popular videos by Papi, who has become China’s national sweetheart. The staggering winning bid makes it clear: China’s ‘cyberstar economy’ is alive and kicking.

On April 21, a video ad auction was held in Beijing, in which bidders went as high as 22 million RMB (3,4 million US$) to get Papi Jiang (papi酱) to promote their brand.

Straight to the Millions

The auction starting price was 217.000 RMB (33.555 US$) and increased with 100.000 RMB (15.463 US$) for every bid, Sohu Business reports. Just moments after the auction had started, bidding prices went straight to 10 million (1,5 million US$).

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Ultimately, Papi’s video ad auction was won by makeup company Lili & Beauty (丽人丽妆) for 22 million yuan (3,4 million US$). Lili & Beauty is an e-commerce company that represents a variety of cosmetic brands like Shu Uemura, Max Factor and Maybelline.

The Year of Papi Jiang

Papi Jiang is famous for her online humorous videos that make fun of everyday societal issues. This year marked her rise to fame, as she gained millions of followers on her Weibo account – just a few months after she uploaded her first video. She also secured a 1,200,000 RMB (±184,000 US$) investment.

One of papi’s videos where she makes fun of girls that act like dramaqueens.

Papi made headlines earlier this week when her videos were taken offline by censors for containing ‘foul language’. The videos will be allowed back online when Papi takes out the swear words, which she promised she would. The government reprimand has seemingly only boosted her popularity.


“Can I ask what this is all about?” 

News of the auction soon made its rounds on Weibo under the hashtag of ‘extremely expensive Papi Jiang ad’ (#papi酱天价广告#).

Although many netizens think it is ‘awesome’ that Papi was able to raise such a staggering amount, some were also critical: “Can I ask what this is all about?” one netizen said: “Aren’t there many poor people in the rural areas that could really use this money?”

Others believe that the ‘hot online celebrity’ phenomenon is becoming too hyped, as brands would do anything to get a popular Weibo celebrity mention their name.

Cyberstar Economy

Today’s auction shows that ‘online celebrity marketing’ or ‘cyberstar economy’ is alive and kicking in China, where self-made celebrities are mushrooming all over the internet. China’s so-called ‘Big V’s’ – popular microbloggers who have a ‘v’ behind their name as their accounts have been verified by Weibo or Tencent – are worth big money. These social media celebrities vary from comedians to fashion bloggers or make-up stylists. Some Chinese online celebrities have just become famous because they blog a lot or have an extraordinary appearance.

These online stars offer great marketing potential for brands because they have a huge following, much influence, and often the right target audiences.

Papi’s auction bidding is an extreme case of how much brands are willing to offer to be promoted by celebrities, but prices are not always this transparent – nor is the product marketing. A recent example is how on March 26, China’s famous singer, actress and presenter Xie Na (also known as ‘Nana’), posted a dressing room picture on her Weibo account.

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With more than 83 million fans, Xiena is one of Weibo’s top celebrities. In her photo (pictured above) you can spot ‘lung support tablets’ on her dressing table, which are medicine that supposedly counter the negative effects of air pollution.

Xie Na’s picture and the lung support brand then became a trending topic on Weibo; the picture was shared almost 10,000 times, got 31.000 likes and 11210 comments, with many netizens wanting to purchase the tablets while praising Xiena for taking such good care of her health. Who knows how much the lung tablet brand paid Xie Na to put their medicine on her table?

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For some celebrities, their prices are less mysterious. Stylist and Weibo ‘Big V’ (popular microblogger) make-up artist Perry (Xiao P Laoshi) has over 36 million fans on his Weibo page, and it will cost 76.000 RMB (±11,750 US$) for him to mention your brand. These deals can be easily made through Chinese online media buying companies. Perry’s prices are considered reasonably low, since the general price for brand promotion by a ‘Big V’ is set around 100.000 RMB (±15,460 US$).

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“Not that expensive”

As for today’s action – Papi Jiang’s business partner stated that the money raised with the auction will be donated to Beijing’s Central Academy of Drama (中央戏剧学院), the academy that Papi graduated from.

This decision caused some commotion on Weibo, where many netizens think she should have given the money to the poor instead of to the academy. Amongst the commenters, there are also many who defend Papi, saying she can do whatever she wants with her money, as it is a reward for her huge success.

According to Yangcheng Evening news, the successful bidder later stated that they felt their 22-million-video-ad was “not that expensive.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Author

About the author: Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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