Dedicating her time and energy to strategizing ticket purchases for a young idol was never part of Chung Ling’s life plans. This 40-something-year-old working mother says she gave up on Hong Kong’s once huge Cantonese-language pop scene, a decade ago. She told friends not to waste their time.
But two years on, Chung has become one of the most loyal fans of Keung To, a 21-year-old pop star and a member of boyband Mirror which emerged from ViuTV’s reality show “King Maker.” Together with other fans — who call themselves “ginger candies,” as the idol’s surname Keung has the same pronunciation as ginger in Cantonese — she has not only attended the idol’s performances, but also participated in elaborate fan-driven strategies to promote the star.
Chung and other fans have placed LED billboard ads in the Causeway Way shopping district to plug the singer’s new song. They have bought up products that Keung endorses. And when the star was away in Taiwan for four months last year shooting romantic drama “Sometimes When We Touch” they bought billboard ads across Taipei and hired vans to deliver food and snacks to the film crew.
Some 2,000 superfans organize themselves using the Telegram messaging app. It is useful for strategizing how to buy up concert tickets and for their innovative events.
“It is like we have formed this little community to support this youngster, and we grow up together,” Chung says. Their support helped Keung be voted as My Favorite Singer at Commercial Radio’s Ultimate Song Chart Awards in January.
“We take action to tell advertisers that Keung is good for them. We rally our friends and families to vote for him [in male singer awards]. We just want him to live his dreams and be happy,” Chung says.
Keung fans are not the only obsessives. The other 11 members of Mirror have fan followings. So too do celebrities from Japan. Still others mobilize themselves to adopt similar tactics in support of video games.
“This fandom culture, originally came from South Korea and Japan, is finally here in Hong Kong,” says Lofai Lo, GM of free-to-air channel ViuTV, which discovered boyband Mirror and other young idols. BTS fans, who call themselves Army, are among the most die-hard and innovative and a role model for others.
“This is a cultural and economic phenomenon” that goes beyond the TV station and the young entertainers, according to Lo. Fans’ “all-round support” for their have not only made the idols famous, it has also had an economic effect and brought back audiences who had deserted Cantopop.
Cultivating young idols was never ViuTV’s original plan. Lo was initially surprised by the degree of enthusiasm from fans, who have thanked and sent gifts to directors and TV crews and left grateful messages on advertisers’ social media.
But Lo soon understood that this phenomenon created a snowball effect that generated additional media buzz and pleased advertisers. “Clients and partners feel that this is a positive outcome, that [their advertising strategy] is effective,” he says.
Media reporting on the phenomenon has sparked discussion among a wider public. Many of them long ago deserted Cantopop for K-pop or other music genres. But they are tuning back in again because of the buzz, Lo says.
The emergence of fandom culture in Hong Kong will change content platform operators’ promotion strategies, according to Tracy Ho, CEO of local streamer HMVOD. Fans of Japanese BL genre (or boys’ love) series “Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!,” which is streaming on the platform, have bought bus stop ads in shopping districts, she says. Fans of “Dynasty Warriors,” a Japanese video game loosely based on the “Tale of Three Kingdoms” Chinese literary classic have enquired about organizing private screenings for a live action adaptation produced by sister company China 3D Digital Entertainment.
“Fans can pool resources and execute their own promotional campaign for what they support through social media. Do we still need to buy billboard ads at the Cross Harbor Tunnel? Not necessarily. We will focus on our promotion online,” says Ho.
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