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Starbucks China taps check-ins for first mobile ad campaign

Starbucks China is using mobile advertising to encourage users to check-in on the social network Jiepang as part of a holiday-themed promotion.

Chinese users who check-in at locations in China can receive a free increase in their drink size. To promote the campaign, mobile ads are being placed on three Chinese applications with a focus on social media.

“Starbucks has been very interested in social media as a way to reach their target market and even with their mobile advertising they think about how to coordinate social media into it,” said Leo Lee, marketing and business development manager at Jiepang, Hong Kong.

Prime placement
The Starbucks and Jiepang campaign is going on at locations near Shanghai at more than 200 locations.

The Starbucks, HTML5-based ads are running through the holiday season and are included in three premium, free apps, but the focus is on the Weico app, which is a popular third party app for China’s social media site Sina Weibo.

Once users launch the Weico app, a snowman pops up on the screen and encourages users to download a Starbucks-branded skin for the app.

After one week, the campaign has generated 20,000 branded skins.

Once users have downloaded the skin, Starbucks banner ads line the bottom of the Weico app.

Consumers can then tap the ads and be taken to a holiday-themed landing page with the message “Let’s Merry” splashed across the screen.

Users then click the crab Jiepang icon and can check-in at the nearest location from inside the ad.

Additionally, users can share the ad via social media and email to spread the word about the campaign.

Starbucks China is working with Chinese ad network Guohe on this initiative.

Inside track
The ads are a bold first initiative from Starbucks China for a mobile ad campaign.

In addition to the company running mobile ads, it is a smart idea to let users check-in inside the ad.

Sina Weibo is the Chinese equivalent of the United States’ Twitter, which is a prime place for targeted messages.

According to Mr. Lee, Sina Weibo has 3 million registered users and 500,000 active daily users.

Social check-ins are a hot area in China with the Jiepang app, which is similar to foursquare.

Mr. Lee also said that Jiepang has approximately 1.5 million users that check-in an average of more than two times a day.

The Starbucks China campaign is an international version of a similar campaign running in the U.S.

This year, Starbucks used an augmented reality app to showcase the same holiday products that the  Chinese ads are promoting (see story).

“Starbucks wanted to do something interactive and engaging that its customers would like and were trying to target higher-quality users who downloaded free, premium apps,” Mr. Lee said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York