Shanghai’s rising star agency W have followed up their highly acclaimed #This Is Our True Color# spot, directed by Gingzim Lo, with another outside-the-box campaign for New Balance.
The campaign titled #School Return Kitty# is a joint brand promotion for NB574 and the Alibaba-owned B2C online platform Tmall, comprising an HTML5 site and a 3-minute TVC, marking the 3rd work in W’s relationship with the international sneaker brand.
In addition to the TVC and HTML5 site, W also provided full project planning, merchandise development, Tmall webpage development and multiple other forms of support.
W are one of the leading lights amongst the increasing number of independent Shanghai agencies and play home to an exciting team of young local creatives, including former freelance animators and illustrators now working full-time within the company.
Directed by agency boss W (aka Water Lee aka Li Sanshui), the campaign was executed entirely by the company’s own designers, programmers and animators, with the jingle written and composed by in-house musician Luo Xiaosong. As W explained, “basically everyone in W participated in the project”.
The idea was to tie in a campaign with the thousands of Chinese students returning to their respective cities of study for the new semester. As such, the film and site feature 34 different “kitties” from 34 Chinese provinces, each possessing their own unique characteristics. Cats were an obvious choice, given Tmall’s (also known in Chinese as ‘Sky Cat’) existing black cat brand logo. The existing bold, vector style of the Tmall cat informed the design of the 34 provincial kitties.
Some of the 34 Kitties, with the Tmall black cat character at the back
The HTML5 site gives users the chance to select their home province and type in the name of their university. Their unique hometown cat then makes his or her way back to the university sporting a pair of stylized NB sneakers. On the following screen, the user can either click to view the TVC, or see an address to copy-paste and take them directly to the NB Tmall store.
The campaign is most notable for employing full 2D animation for the TVC, a medium rarely employed in Chinese advertising. Asked why they chose the bold new direction, W explained, “we wanted to break out of traditional methods to achieve a high-concept brand crossover”, adding that “the main bonus of animation is its flexibility and adaptability in terms of characterization and storytelling.”
Asked whether he see animation playing a bigger part in commercial work in China in the near future, W responded, “Compared to the rest of the world, or even the Asia Pacific market, China’s animation industry is just starting to thrive. We haven’t yet seen the potential of the medium properly explored in the Chinese commercial environment. Even though we barely see any domestic animation work in the market, I believe that the Chinese audience’s appreciation of animation is improving rapidly.”
The song and bold graphics are reminiscent of the Australian ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ campaign, though the humor of #School Return Kitty# is more gentle. The animation is fun – the cats bop along the street and bounce on the spot like Mickey Mouse or Felix the Cat in the 1920s. The tone and style of the campaign appeals to Chinese students who are more receptive to cute characters than their western counterparts. At almost 3-minutes, the spot is somewhat long, but is testament to what could be achieved by the in-house team in a short time-frame.
We asked W if the creation process was especially different to conceiving and developing a live action TVC. “Since the project was a joint brand promotion, we spent most time on the preproduction planning and communication. Besides that, there was no major difference. In terms of our internal operations, we rigorously followed a step by step process: preproduction planning, creative design, character design, art, music and animation.”
We asked W what the biggest challenge was in creating the campaign. The director replied, “unifying the branding, successfully promoting #School Return Kitty# on multiple interaction platforms and constantly showing the value of the brands.”
Having followed up the emotive #This Is Our True Color# spots with a playful animation campaign, it will be intriguing to see what W come up with for their next New Balance turn.