This story was first published on Mumbrella.

PHD China’s Jezzebel Gu takes us behind the scenes of the agency’s campaign for Cornetto – winner of the Mumbrella Asia Award for ‘Engaging with Millennials’

How do you persuade a love-sick Chinese youth to declare his or her love for another when doing so is outside the country’s cultural norms? Since music as the fruit of love has become something of an old cliche, why not an ice cream instead? Well, that was the concept we delved into as part of our brief for Cornetto to create a media-led campaign aimed at China’s growing millennial market.

With this in mind, we learnt about the behaviour of Chinese teenagers. Unsurprisingly, it soon became clear that nearly their entire lives – from chatting to listening to music, buying groceries and paying bills – are led by their smartphones. Even when it came to expressing their love, young people chose emojis, memes and text message slang over flowers and chocolate. Additionally, in our research we discovered that social networks are both their preferred source of communication and their main source for content and news.

The idea was not to push teens to a branded site or a television commercial, but to seamlessly integrate the brand into their online and social lives. To do this, we provided teenagers with an innovative way to confess their love. We crafted Cornetto as the ultimate secret weapon for a love confession, both in the digital sphere and through real-world experiences. The ultimate goal of this was to help them find their summer love.Our strategy was for Cornetto to be the vehicle that brought teens together during the summer, allowing them to be brave and send him or her a message containing what they had been too shy to say before.

Love confession opportunities were embedded through media in every aspect of their lives. Digitally, via an interactive mobile-friendly website, they could send a ‘digital Cornetto’ crush confession with scripted templates or bespoke messages. Given that the average ice cream cone takes around eight and a half minutes to melt, we gave the receiver the same amount of time to view the message before it melted away. Users could also send lyrics and music on their social feeds or privately to their crushes, as well as Cornetto emojis on the country’s biggest messaging platform WeChat.

Offline, we created the world’s first ever love confession vending machine. This dispensed customisable Cornetto ice creams and placed them in some of the hottest dating spots around. To spread the word, we used the Chinese equivalent of listings platform Yelp – Dianping –  to highlight these vending machine spots as a ‘must go’ destination.

Whether it was physically through the love confession vending machine, virtually using specially designed messages, emojis or through music and popular memes – ultimately, we wanted help teens to confess their love and create a long-term brand experience for Cornetto.