Chevrolet Cruze positions itself as an automobile designed for young professionals who are energetic, sports-loving, passionate and still on their way to success. In China, this target demographic overlaps significantly with the generation of young, urban professionals between the ages of 25 and 35, a group that has more spending power and is more willing to purchase personal luxuries than earlier generations of Chinese consumers, but has traditionally been difficult to target through conventional media.
Members of this group often reject traditional Chinese media, including state-run media such as the CCTV network, as being both monolithic and out of touch with more individualistic younger viewers. Instead, these young professionals -the majority of whom have home or office broadband connections - turn to the internet for news and entertainment that are both more diverse and more personal than those available through traditional media. Online video platforms not only offer viewers a wealth of content, but also provide a forum for them to build their own online identity and share content with other people who share their tastes and values.
Young, college-educated professionals between the ages of 25 and 35 grew up during a time of rapid expansion and social liberalization in China. Generally uninterested in politics, they tend to be optimistic about their own potential, to see themselves as individuals rather than members of a broader group, and to prize self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Now that they have come of age and are making their way out into the working world, they are increasingly encountering conflicts between their ideals and the realities of their lives. They turn to new media platforms, including online video sites, for entertainment and as a way of reaffirming their ideals and identities, and of communicating with their peers.
As more sophisticated consumers of media than earlier generations, China's young professionals often prefer online media for the increased personalization and more flexible viewing it affords. Youku Original took this realization as its central insight in planning "11 Degrees" a new-media campaign that combined online channels (blogs, social media, microblogs, and portals) and offline channels (SMS-based sweepstakes and location-based tasks) to draw young professional viewers.
Approaching this demographic required Chevrolet align itself with the values and concerns of young urban Chinese professionals. Youku Original proposed the theme of young people working to achieve their dreams as a natural fit for the series, which presented the Chevrolet Cruze as a part of this generation's upward journey. Realising this generation's sensitivity to obvious product placement, Youku Original steered away from a "hard sell" strategy, keeping product references as unobtrusive as possible.
At the core of "11 Degrees" was a series of ten short films by up-and-coming artists and directors. In contrast to traditional campaigns that often adopt a 'one size fits all' approach, "11 Degrees" that featured drama, animation, and comedy - even a musical - that addressed the themes of individuality and following one's dream.
To build and sustain interest, Youku posted behind-the-scenes clips and teasers, and premiered a separate short, "Zai Fendou de Lu Shang" ("My Own Journey") starring Wentworth Miller, whose role in the series Prison Break made him a household name in China. The tagline for the film, "Everyone is the star of their own story," resonated with the themes uniting the "11 Degrees" cycle.
From the early stages of the campaign, "11 Degrees" used social networks as well as offline and peripheral channels to boost engagement. Viewers were encouraged to participate in a prize giveaway: to echo the theme of working to achieve one's dreams, the campaign asked viewers to complete tasks - from commenting and sharing videos to test-driving a Cruze in their nearest Chevrolet dealership - to enter the prize sweepstakes.
"11 Degrees" holds Youku record for most total video views (82,000,000) for any movie. Total comments: 126,000, "thumbs up" votes: 1,000,000, and social media retweets: 24,000,000.
Media response was positive, with stories in international media including Business Week, Hollywood Reporter, Ad Age, Cream and Campaign, and thousands of stories in Chinese media.
Youku generally attracts more female viewers than male, "11 Degrees" drew a different audience, with 67% of viewers being male and 33% female.
Besides Post-80s viewers, Post-70s viewers were uncharacteristically active in commenting. Sales of Chevrolet Cruze cars grew steadily throughout the duration of "11 Degrees" and afterwards. In H2 2010, the Cruze saw a 37.4% increase in sales over H2 2009, beating the average for its category.
GM later sponsored another Youku Original series, "Miss Puff" based on an animated short from "11 Degrees".
Two more Youku Original productions by "11 Degrees" alumni - "The Ultimate Winner" from the duo behind "Old Boys" and "One Step Away" a new series by the director of "L.I." - debuted to record single-day views.
Other brands have recognised the potential of Youku's platform: GM, Lenovo, and Sony are among the sponsors of "Miss Puff" while Philips recently premiered the series "One Step Away."