Localized Marketing, the Key for Imported Films to Make A Success in China
—Case Study of “Now You See Me 2”

Yugang AN   CEO of In Entertainment

Yugang AN founded In Entertainment in 2009, which is the first professional film publicity company in China at that time. The company commits to all integrated marketing communications and strategic film marketing. Within 6 years, nearly 100 movies utilize In Entertainment’s 360 marketing solution and grossed a box office of  RMB 20,000,000,000.

In 2013,“Pacific Rim” grossed $111,940,000 in China mainland, exceeding its domestic US market which is $101,802,906. This is the first time an imported film’s China box office overtook that of its domestic market.

The company in charge of marketing of Pacific Rim in China mainland is no other than In Entertainment, a well-known movie marketer founded in 2009 by Yugang AN with a clear positioning from the beginning — a professional PR agency dedicated in integrated marketing communications of films. During the past seven years, In Entertainment has provided marketing services for nearly 100 movies.

In 2012, In Entertainment started to do marketing for imported films, including the “Hunger Games” series, the “Hobbit” series, “Iron Man 3”, “Pacific Rim”, “Superman: Man of Steel”, and “Interstellar”, etc.

Through extensive experience gathered from past work, AN believes the key of splendid marketing for imported films is good localization, which means to build an empathic connection between the film and its audience, and to make the film relevant to the audience. “Now You See Me 2” released on June 24, 2016 in China is a very good example. The movie pulled a surprise of $97,115,220, compared to its home box office performance of only $65,075,540.

Opening on the same date is the movie “Independence Day: Resurgence”. In the beginning, NYSM2 didn’t hold too high an expectation since it is of a much smaller production in comparison. However, since debut, it had been leading all the way whether in terms of scheduling or box office, and finally beat Independence Day by around 100 million yuan. This major success cannot be achieved without a good job in marketing and releasing. Here, we will give a review of the marketing performance of NYSM2.

In 2013 In Entertainment partnered with Lionsgate Entertainment and took over marketing job of the film “Now You See Me” and three years later the two companies joined hands again. The strong support from Lionsgate gave In Entertainment much freedom in terms of materials preparation and time, and these in turn made NYSM2 a huge success.


Trump card – the Jay power in China

In the meeting before the project began, AN reached an agreement with colleagues that the focus of NYSM2 marketing should be Jay Chou, the famous Chinese artist, who can act as a point connecting with the Chinese audience.

The target audience of NYSM2 is of the very typical crime/action genre. Jay Chou is very well-known among the audience of this age group. Also, compared to other foreign films where Chinese actors/actresses only play a cameo role, Jay Chou’s character in NYSM2, Li, actually is a crucial one, an important turning point in the plot, plus, Jay Chou himself is a magic enthusiast so it matched quite perfectly with the theme of the movie. And added together, this formed the connection between NYSM2 and the Chinese audience.

To better tap the Jay power, the international theme song is also by Jay Chou, and he appeared as a main character along with the main cast in global promotion posters. Meanwhile, in order to fully utilize the marketing materials, Lionsgate gave full authorization to In Entertainment and thus greatly facilitated in the agency’s Channel BD team in business negations and talks.

When to release these materials? How to maximize the effects? The timing is critical.

In end of May, a business man Nian Chen surprised the public by calling Jay Chou a piece of trash in a TV show. Jay Chou’s fans were infuriated with this uncalled for attack, and the timing is just right for some positive news so that the fans can show their support and love. Quite coincidentally, 5.30 midnight Jay Chou released the music video of the first single, “Past Lover” from his all new album. The song is written for Jay’s daughter, with a footage of the father and daughter included in the video. This release set the fan circle on fire and further onto all social media. In Entertainment took the opportunity and pushed a series of hashtags and topics to positively shape Jay Chou’s image as a good man, a good husband and a good dad; #RealManJayChou# was a trending hashtage on Chinese social media platform Weibo. And on May 30, Jay’s Baidu popularity index soared.

According to usual Hollywood way of promotion, the music video of NYSM2 theme song would be released after the song makes a debut in TV or radio. And it was originally scheduled to release in the beginning of June. But due to the build-up of a series of relevant events and topics, the heat of focus of the public on Jay Chou had reached a peak point, and sticking with the original schedule would mean missing this timing and fail to exert the maximum energy.

On June 1, AN adjusted strategies and the music video of NYSM2 theme song by Jay was leased on the internet. Top 10 Chinese music player apps including Baidu Music, QQ Music, Kugou Music, Echo Music, etc. all opened with a NYSM2 poster or featured the movie on the first page. And the ending song, also by Jay Chou, is subtitled with the full name of the movie.

Starting from June 1, Baidu popularity index of NYSM2 over took Independence Day 2, and it also topped Weibo trending topics chart.

With two music videos, Jay Chou riveted enormous attention to NYSM2. In Entertainment team then created a Weibo topic #JayChouLyricsWeMisheardOverTheYears# which was heatedly talked about.

The marketing trump card of Jay Chou contains explosive power. “Chinese audience always connect to a movie through feelings or emotions, and this connection drives them to the cinema, which is why many Hollywood productions didn’t become a hit in the Chinese market.” AN said so.


Localization – From Hollywood to China

Chinese market has some uniqueness different from other markets. Hollywood’s traditional promotion strategy does not necessarily work here. Under this circumstance, it is proper to make adjustment and changes to better suit the Chinese market.

How to localize? AN Said: “There are two ways of localization: one by establishing an emotional connection, the other by establishing relevance with everyday life.”


Crossover cooperation and reaching the mass audience

With Jay Chou already forming a bridge to the general audience, and the next step is to make NYSM2 relevant and integrated in the audience’s daily life. The audience is deeply and thoroughly engaged in the use of mobile internet. Lionsgate gave full authority to all promotional materials to In Entertainment, and through cross-channel cooperation and exchange, the marketing work entered over 70 apps, including Didi Chuxing, the transportation app, E-daixi the clothes washing app, and Dianping, the restaurant reviewing app, to name a few. Basically, the younger audience group is connected with NYSM2 through multiple and various platforms, whether they are aware of it or not, the movie is nonetheless a big presence in their day-to-day life.


Online live broadcasting to deepen the influence

For the longest time, the premiere event of imported films cannot be broadcasted on TV, which vastly limits the reach of the carefully prepared event to only a handful of media or fans. From the first half of 2016, China is hit by a tidal wave of online live broadcasting. And these grass-root broadcasters may have a fan base of several hundred million, and can make good money just by live broadcasting their daily life. This attracted countless young people to take part because the interaction is on a real time basis.

How to reach a much bigger audience with the premiere and release information? In Entertainment decided to include this live broadcasting element into the premiere event. For the first time ever, these live streaming platforms were seen on the front rows on a premiere ceremony of imported films. Famous broadcasters arrive hours earlier at the venue, walk around with a selfie stick in hand, and started streaming to their fans. The videos, posters, release dates, adverts were thus presented to tens of thousands of viewers; it’s estimated that over 100,000 viewers got to know about NYSM2 through live streaming channels.


China customized materials to deepen the impression

Usually for imported films, the standard international marketing materials are used. But this time Lionsgate gave In Entertainment an exceptional authority to tailor-make NYSM2 materials for China.

In Entertainment customized multiple versions of marketing materials different from the international standard version. First, Chinese audience’s familiarity of the cast is not the same as that of US viewers, so on the Chinese poster, Jesse Eisenberg, Daniel Radcliffe and Jay Chou are put in the center. Second, Chinese audience sometimes cannot match a familiar face to the correct name and need to be reminded. So the actor’s past representative movie title is added under his name, e.g., Mark Ruffalo, the Avengers, Morgan Freeman, Batman Dark Knight, Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter Series, and so on.

In addition, considering the cultural difference, In Entertainment designed a different version of posters where images such as glass tanks or puzzle pieces more typically associated with magic among Chinese audience are included.

Chinese version of marketing materials also play up the Chinese element. Macau crossroads, the appearance of Jay Chou, and also the final trailer is ended with the group toasting together saying “ganbei” in Chinese. All of this further consolidated the emotional connection with Chinese viewers.


Lead star visit China and show a friendly image

Along with the rapid development of the Chinese movie market, more and more Hollywood stars attend news conference in China. The general audience has now grown used to it from the fluttered feeling at the initial stage. And the Chinese audience has bigger requests from these celebrities than “just a visit”.

After Mark Ruffalo came to China, apart from attending the premiere and other promotional events, he tried to get involved in the Chinese lifestyle in a more all-around way, from taking subway to eating Haidilao hotpot noodles, dumplings, Chinese kebab and so on, as if he is no longer a Hollywood star who’s so remote and unreal, but just an average Joe in our life. The trend is shifting from touring at big attractions to deep local experiences, In Entertainment new media team recognized this trend and took advantage of it by creating new topics to get closer to the audience.


Trust – mature and flexible operation

Since 2012, In Entertainment has been doing the marketing job for many Lionsgate movies and the results have been exhilarating. Therefore, Lionsgae gave In Entertainment maximum support and trust in marketing NYSM2, including materials localization, full authorization to use marketing materials and up to 3 months of marketing period.

With adequate three months of time, In Entertainment published:


17 posters of 7 sets (4 in illustration version, 3 in Qunyingmen version, 1 in release version, 3 in fatal magic version, 1 in final version, 4 in international version and 1 in heist version)


20 promo videos for all internet publicity + 4 inclusive videos

Newspaper reports 

All together 426 newspaper reports are recorded, including 6 full-page coverage and 124 headline reports. 179 reports (42%) are from key box office cities which include Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Tianjin, Xi’an and Shenyang.

Online reports 

Using Baidu as an example, 20300 news leads were generated from Mar 17 to July 15 2016. Among this, key websites and vedio sharing platforms accumulated 809 feature pictures, 281 small feature banners, 367 small feature banners, 367 headline reports, 73 sub headlines, 7 small headlines, 3588 focus news reports, 12 PC end push notification, 32 mobile app opening pages, 1 fifteen-second pre-roll ad.

Sina Weibo microblog reports 

  1. Weibo index: Official NYSM2 weibo account has 198314 followers and 625 posts. During new media promotion period, NYSM2 index registered a fluctuating growth, from daily average of 1500 in April to 35,000 as publicity activities unfolded.

On June 1, the music video by Jay Chou was released and Weibo index peacked at 63322, bringing vast exposure to the film. Later on, with discussion following premiere and screening, the index reached second and third high point.

  1. Trending topics: on the right Columns there’s a section for trending topics, related topics #NYSM2Release624#,#JayChouforNYSM2#,#JayChouVSHarryPotter#,#RealManJayChou#, all have made it on this chart. By the end of the project, #NYSM2# had 990 million page views, 626,000 user posts, and topped the trending topic chart and movie topics.

Normally the promotion period for imported films is one month, but it’s three months for NYSM2. Adequate time, customized materials and full authorization, lay a solid foundation for successful marketing work.

In Entertainment successfully built an empathic connection between the film and its audience, and made the film relevant to them. Before release, according to the Chinese online ticket platform Nuomi.com, nearly 1 million people wanted to watch NYSM2.

At the core of this industry is always the product itself, plus its relation with the viewers, and marketing is the process of establishing this connection.



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