We have our own success story as a storyteller

November 24, 2020
SCMP Insights

Morning Studio turns two. We invited three leaders from Morning Studio to share their journeys, the learnings they’ve picked up along the way and why they tell stories the way they do for brands.

In 2018, I was tasked with spearheading the development of SCMP’s branded content business in global markets. This was during a time when ad-blocking and native advertising were growing trends – in 2019, native ads grabbed 63 per cent of display spending*.

Morning Studio was established in November 2018. We sought to put together a dedicated creative studio featuring an award-winning team of world-class branding strategists, multimedia designers, journalists, audio and video producers, and editorial experts. And that’s exactly what we did, building a team that has a deep understanding of how to help brands create messages that resonate with their audiences.


The success of the Morning Studio business came earlier than planned. The team has achieved 50 per cent year-over-year growth in branded content revenue across the market, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and protests in Hong Kong. Apart from local dominance in Hong Kong, Morning Studio has enjoyed partnerships with brands in mainland China and Southeast Asia, with revenue growth in these two markets of 640 per cent and 320 per cent, respectively. This exponential growth highlighted not only regional market needs, but also how essential native advertising is as an effective marketing tool to connect with audiences. 


Navigating the business in Southeast Asia and mainland China proved challenging because of the competitive and fragmented nature of these markets. Presenting Morning Studio as “Asia’s Brand Storyteller” and connecting brands with SCMP’s unique China-curious audience has set it apart from other regional publishers. I am very proud of Morning Studio turning two and going from strength to strength. I’m excited to see what the next two years and beyond will bring.

EMarketer: Native ads to grab 63% of display spending in 2019

Article contributed by

Karrie LAM

Vice President, Sales & Marketing Solutions


Storytelling is more relevant than ever


This has been an unprecedented year that was devastating for many businesses and industries. The advertising business has not been spared either. 


In Hong Kong, this year has been even more difficult for us because it follows a year of social unrest in our city. But there is a silver lining: because Hong Kong was one of the first places to be hit by Covid-19, it has the potential to be among the first to recover. So advertisers have started to return, and they have been increasingly looking to Morning Studio for integrated, digital marketing solutions focused around storytelling. 


In fact, the past two to three months have been our busiest ever in our short two years of operations. During this period of recovery, we have been encouraged and heartened that brands with compelling stories to tell are looking to us to help them, and that they understand the value of having a publisher as a partner to distribute their stories through our platforms. 


The most active categories for us in the native advertising space this year have been tourism boards that need to put out inspiring messages for plans to travel again, governmental organisations in Hong Kong wanting to showcase the innovations that keep our home city clean and everyone in it safe, and the technology sector as it seeks to encourage continued investments in our future across different areas. It’s been a tough time, but we’re glad that the branded content stories we’re telling have been able to help soften the blows.  

Article contributed by

Johnny NG

Marketing Solutions Director, Morning Studio


What makes a good branded content story


As Morning Studio turns two, we’re humbled to have completed more than 120 successful campaigns – telling stories in partnership with brands from around the world across industries ranging from luxury to health care. So, looking back on our experiences, what makes a good branded content story? 


For me, a good story has authenticity at its heart. It touches upon real issues and real people, and – though this may seem obvious – tells about real events. However, that often means a good branded content story does not put brand exposure front and center. In fact, some of our best branded content stories are ones that highlight the identity and foundations of a brand without even mentioning its name.


Branded content should not look “perfect”. Unlike traditional television advertising, rawness and imperfection are crucial to connecting with the audiences of today. Social media has largely led the way in this trend of visually imperfect content. Our feeds are populated with our friends and colleagues sharing their voices and stories through content generated on their smartphones. With branded content also living in social media feeds, it's more important than ever to maintain that candid way of storytelling. 


Ultimately, good branded content should humanise how a concept or a product relates back to its audience. It should connect the brand campaign to personalities, intricacies, flaws and challenges – all the contours and complexities of being human. 


When we talk about “branded content” at SCMP, we’re taking all of the above into account. Morning Studio’s branded content carries 117 years of SCMP’s storytelling heritage in our DNA – it is editorial-facing, in SCMP’s voice, and is natively distributed to SCMP’s audience. We seek to find real stories that audiences can connect with while elevating your brand’s campaign and identity. I look forward to working with you to find the best way to tell your brand's story.

Article contributed by


Content Director, Morning Studio

Find out how you can partner with Morning Studio to create content that connects with the South China Morning Post’s unique China-curious audience.