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China’s Booming Cyberstar Economy & Papi Jiang

China’s ‘cyberstar economy’ is alive and kicking.

Manya Koetse

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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.

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.

xiena

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?

lungsupport

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$) for him to mention your brand. These deals can be easily made through Chinese online media buying companies. Perry’s prices are considered reasonably low, since the general price for brand promotion by a ‘Big V’ is set around 100.000 RMB (±15,460 US$).

bigv

 

“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.

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, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    winona

    May 14, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    she is living the dream. go her!

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China Celebs

Female Comedian Yang Li and the Intel Controversy

A decision that backfired: Intel’s act of supposed ‘inclusion’ caused the exclusion of female comedian Yang Li.

Manya Koetse

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“How to look at the boycott of Yang Li?” (#如何看待抵制杨笠#) became a top trending topic on social media site Weibo on Monday after female comedian Yang Li was dismissed as the spokesperson for American tech company Intel over a controversial ad campaign.

On March 18, Intel released an ad on its Weibo account in which Yang says “Intel has a taste [for laptops] that is higher than my taste for men” (“英特尔的眼光太高了,比我挑对象的眼光都高.”)

The ad drew complaints for allegedly insulting men, with some social media users vowing to boycott the tech brand. On Sunday, Intel deleted the ad in question from its social media page and reportedly also removed Yang from her position as their brand ambassador.

The commotion over the ad had more to do with Chinese comedian Yang Li (杨笠) than with the specific lines that were featured in it.

Yang Li is controversial for her jokes mocking men (“men are adorable, but mysterious. After all, they can look so average and yet be so full of confidence“), with some blaming her for being “sexist” and “promoting hatred against all men.”

Since she appeared on the stand-up comedy TV competition Rock and Roast (脱口秀大会) last year, she was nicknamed the the “punchline queen” and became one of the more influential comedians in present-day China. Yang now has nearly 1,5 million fans on Weibo (@-杨笠-).

Yang Li’s bold jokes and sharp way of talking about gender roles and differences between men and women in Chinese society is one of the main reasons she became so famous. Intel surely knew this when asking Yang to be their brand ambassador.

In light of the controversy, the fact that Intel was so quick to remove Yang also triggered criticism. Some (male) netizens felt that Intel, a company that sells laptops, could not be represented by a woman who makes fun of men, while these men are a supposed target audience for Intel products.

But after Yang was removed, many (female) netizens also felt offended, suggesting that in the 21st century, Intel couldn’t possibly believe that their products were mainly intended for men (“以男性用户为主”)? Wasn’t their female customer base just as important?

According to online reports, Intel responded by saying: “We noted that the content [we] spread relating to Yang Li caused controversy, and this is not what we had anticipated. We place great importance on diversity and inclusion. We fully recognize and value the diverse world we live in, and are committed to working with partners from all walks of life to create an inclusive workplace and social environment.”

However, Intel’s decision backfired, as many wondered why having Yang as their brand ambassador would not go hand in hand with ‘promoting an inclusive social environment.’

“Who are you being ‘inclusive’ too? Common ‘confident’ men?”, one person wrote, with others saying: “Why can so many beauty and cosmetic brands be represented by male idols and celebrities? I loathe these double standards.”

“As a Chinese guy, I really think Yang Li is funny. I didn’t realize Chinese men had such a lack of humor!” another Weibo user writes.

There are also people raising the issue of Yang’s position and how people are confusing her performative work with her actual character. One popular law blogger wrote: “Really, boycotting Yang Li is meaningless. Stand-up comedy is a performance, just as the roles people play in a TV drama.”

Just a month ago, another Chinese comedian also came under fire for his work as a brand ambassador for female underwear brand Ubras.

It is extremely common in China for celebrities to be brand ambassadors; virtually every big celebrity is tied to one or more brands. Signing male celebrities to promote female-targeted products is also a popular trend (Li 2020). Apparently, there is still a long way to go when the tables are turned – especially when it is about female celebrities with a sharp tongue.

By Manya Koetse

Li, Xiaomeng. 2020. “How powerful is the female gaze? The implication of using male celebrities for promoting female cosmetics in China.” Global Media and China, Vol.5 (1), p.55-68.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

The Online Hit of the China-US Meeting in Alaska: Interpreter Zhang Jing

While the China-US meeting is all the talk, it is interpreter Zhang Jing who has hit the limelight.

Manya Koetse

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It probably was not easy to translate the tough talks at the high-level meeting between the U.S. and China in Anchorage. Chinese female translator Zhang Jing became an online hit in China for remaining unflustered, graceful, and accurate.

Over the past days, the U.S.-China strategic talks in Anchorage have been a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media.

The first major U.S.-China meeting of the Biden administration ended on Friday, March 19. Despite the tense start of the meeting and some describing the talks as a “diplomatic clash,” China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) called the meeting “frank, constructive and helpful,” New York Times reports.

While international media focused on the meeting and what their outcome means for Sino-American relations and the foreign strategies of China and the U.S., many Weibo users focused on interpreter Zhang Jing (张京) who joined the meeting.

One video of the first session of the diplomatic talks shows how Yang Jiechi starts his response to the American side at 8.30 minutes, going on for over 15 minutes until the 24.36-minute mark. Next to him, interpreter Zhang Jing is fiercely taking notes.

When Yang is finished speaking, he glances to foreign minister Wang Yi on his right to let him speak, after which Zhang says, “Shall I first translate?”

While the U.S. side was awaiting the translation, Yang then says: “Ok, you translate,” adding in English: “It’s a test for the interpreter,” after which the American side says “We’re gonna give the translator a raise!”

Zhang then goes ahead and calmly translates Yang’s entire 15-minute speech directed at American secretary Blinken and national security advisor Sullivan.

To give a speedy translation of such a lengthy off-the-record speech is seen as a sign of Zhang’s utmost professionalism as an interpreter, which many on Weibo praise. “She’s my idol,” multiple people write.

On Sunday, the hashtag “China-U.S. Talks Female Interpreter Zhang Jing” (#中美对话女翻译官张京#) had reached 200 million views.

It’s not the first time for Zhang to become an online hit. She was previously also called “the most beautiful interpreter” of the National Congress in 2013.

Zhang Jing is a graduate of the China Foreign Affairs University (外交学院) and has been working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2007.

Being an interpreter is generally regarded an exciting and attractive job by many Chinese netizens, as the career involves much traveling and international contacts. But the ability to master another language than Chinese is also often admired.

In 2016, a TV drama titled The Interpreters (亲爱的翻译官) became a major hit, featuring Chinese actress Yang Mi who plays a Chinese-French interpreter on her way to start her professional career.

“Translators are usually the ‘heroes behind the scenes’,” one commenter writes, pointing out how rare it is for an interpreter to hit the limelight like this.

“There are still people saying it’s not important to learn English,” another Weibo user writes: “But if that were true, how could we educate brilliant interpreters like Zhang Jing? How else could we quarrel with Americans at the conference table?!”

Many who write about Zhang on Weibo say that she is an example or a role model to them: “I hope that my spoken English one day would be as excellent as hers. This motivates me to try even harder.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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