• Members of the media wear virtual reality (VR) headsets to experiences VR shopping during Singles' Day.

Members of the media wear virtual reality (VR) headsets to experiences VR shopping during Singles' Day. (Photo : Getty Images)

Singles' Day, the world's biggest online shopping event hosted by Alibaba, has changed the way some agencies do business in China, especially in managing and promoting brands in online shops and adjusting to competitors.

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According to an article published in adage.com, some agencies have deployed their staff to work all night through the 24-hour event, to operate the online shops and monitor competitors in real-time.

Since 2009, when Alibaba Group launched its one-day Nov. 11 e-commerce fest, called Double 11, 11.11 or Singles' Day, the number of online shopping players continued to grow.

This year, Alibaba has made three weeks of marketing activities ahead of the event, which kicked off with a live-streamed variety show that featured singer Katy Perry, band One Republic and former Lakers' star Kobe Bryant.

VML, an agency that handles online brand shops for Crayola, Mead Johnson and Erdos, said that halof of the agency'sstaff have stayed through the event to manage the companies they promote.

Yi-Chung Tay, CEO of VML China, said that about 70 percent or 80 percent of the agency's work in the second half of the year were mostly about Double Eleven and e-commerce, including other events and promotions.

"Every conversation we have now on marketing campaigns involves asking--especially around this part of the year--'Does it drive e-commerce?' as question No. 1," Tay said.

In the runup to the Nov. 11 event, VML created a video for Colgate, featuring actor and heartthrob Yang Yang, who played an exec trying to figure out the toothpaste brand's marketing strategy for Double 11.

Tay said the campaign resulted in 11,000 oders in 24 hours.

"However you communicate, with a video or post or anything, there must be a laser focus on communicating what the product really brings to people," Tay said. "I don't only have to convince you I'm a big brand, I have to convince you I'm a big brand with products worth buying right now."

The article said that VML is only one of the various creative and digital agencies tapped by Alibaba to work for them on a project basis. VML, a contractor and one of Alibaba's "preferred vendors," did the digital campaign to promote the Double Eleven event that went viral on WeChat. The 3D video gave viewers the sensation of flying through outer space and into a palace filled with treasures.

Hylink, a major Chinese independent digital agency, also worked for both Alibaba and JD.com during the event. Humphrey Ho, the U.S. managing director who heads its Santa Monica office, took the time to explain the event to their U.S. clients.

"How agencies behave is not unlike how they treat the Olympics or how they treat a major sporting event where live marketing needs to do be done," Ho, who previously worked at Google China, Wieden & Kennedy Shanghai and Leagas Delaney Shanghai, said. "Today you are constantly live-changing the message depending on how a competitor is doing . . . There's constant iteration, and reacting to who said what in the leadup to the event."

Teams from Publicis' Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, which also manages online shops for clients, also worked 24 hours, or even 36 hours, during the event while some clients also stayed with the staff, the report said.

"For some of our clients 11.11 is so important that they can do the turnover in one day that they usually do in one month," Cyril Drouin, chief commerce officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Greater China, said, adding that they have started preparations for the event in July.

Saatchi's banners which were created for three clients, Moleskine, Pampers and Safeguard, were displayed in subways and on billboards to advertise the sales event on Alibaba platform Tmall. There were a total of 49 banners, which featured different creative interpretations of Tmall's cat logo.

According to Drouin, joining the 11.11 event is no longer an option for brands in China, but more like a necessity. "Two years ago you could say, 'I don't want to be part of 11.11.' We don't have any brands anymore that don't take part. It's not a choice anymore."