The story behind HKTVmall's HK$30m MTR takeover

HKTVmall's massive takeover of the MTR this week is not just about scale, it's also a perfect showcase of why media placement is just as important as the creative component.

In an unprecedented move in Hong Kong's ad market, and a first in the MTR's history for scale by a single advertiser, the campaign has taken over a total of 3298 ad panels and 119 tracks across 51 MTR stations for two weeks to back the geographically varied "HKTVmall Summer Giveaway” promotion, presented with a dash of local humour.

In an interview with Marketing, Anonymous founder Sandy Chan, the creative agency behind the ads, revealed that the entire campaign, from brainstorming to execution, was completed within a month.

"It was a crazy month for all of us," Chan said.

Created by five illustrators, the 51 geographically-linked visuals are tailor-made according to the characteristics of different areas.

For example, the creative visuals at Tsim Sha Tsui station humorously feature the legendary “Suzi of Tsim Sha Tsui” and abundance of “Sushi bars” to illustrate its giveaway of sumptuous sashimi airfreight from Tsukiji.

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Meanwhile, the ad creative at Wong Tai Sin station is a series of “Missing Chicken” notices from “Wong Tai Sin Temple”, as the premium giveaway for shoppers and residents in Wong Tai Sin is two packs of Ginseng Chicken Soup from Korea.

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The version at Wan Chai Station trackside features a hairy crab walking sideway through the streets of Wan Chai district like a tram, to convey its giveaway premium of a fresh hairy crab airfreight from Japan for the shoppers in Wan Chai.

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For Airport Express Hong Kong Station, the campaign visuals focus on Honeydew, due to its Cantonese pronunciation resembling “Don't Die”, which has been perfectly adopted to convey the "Never Die" spirit of Hong Kong people. Naturally freshly airfreight Japanese Honeydew is the premium giveaway to online shoppers in the vicinity of Hong Kong Station.

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Scroll down to view the full collection.

This massive effort comes down to one simple purpose - "to make Hong Kong people to take first step into e-commerce in a short period".

"E-commerce is still in its infancy in Hong Kong compared to the rest of the world. So in order to encourage online buying behaviour, we kick off the campaign with gift incentives that we believe is the best way to elicit public interest in online shopping."

This overwhelming MTR takeover is just the first wave as part of a month-long campaign, following with a brand-focused second phase and a product-driven wrap-up phase spanning more outdoor spaces and print, a project that costs HKTVmall some HK$30 million.

Chan said the figure is not big in comparison with spot prices on television, meaning TVB; notably, HKTVmall would not be allowed to advertise on the free-to-air TV channel.

"This is the main reason why HKTVmall has to build such a large-scale outdoor ad."

In a rare move, the creative component in the campaign is developed based on media placement being brokered by Shih Wing-ching, the investor of the campaign's media agency The Bread Digital, with a fair discount rate.

"There're no campaign brief when Ricky (HKTVmall Chairman) asked me to take the project. By that time he already had all the empty ad spaces for two weeks, but no idea what to fill them up with," she said.

"Creative and media used to operate under the one roof; but since the 1990's, media separated from advertising. It’s very unhealthy as a good ad campaign requires seamless collaboration between creative and media.

"We rarely see this kind of ad in Hong Kong now."

Chan has worked with HKTV Chairman Ricky Wong on and off for more than a decade, on various creative projects going back to his time Hong Kong Broadband Network.

"Most of the time, a good campaign is based on a trusting client-agency relationship, and that takes time and practice."

Despite his impenitent persona, Wong is an ideal client to Chan as "he gives me a free hand to be creative," she said.

"Ricky is a very strong-minded boss that would go straight towards what he wants. This campaign would not have been a success in such a short time without Ricky 's open-mindedness and the cooperative attitude from JCDecaux."

She added using illustration as the campaign's main visuals allows more room for error in term of visual effects, such as colour tones.

Enjoy the full creative collection here:

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