Marketers often tout the potential of the Chinese Internet based on sheer numbers — the country has more people online than in any other, an estimated 298 million users. But analysts add that the Chinese, especially youth, use the Internet in a fundamentally different than their Western counterparts. Recent advertising efforts in cosmetics have taken advantage of that difference – with surprising results.

Earlier this year, young Chinese viewers obsessed over “Sufei’s Diary,” a web series about a college girl in Shanghai. In China, episodes chronicled Sufei’s teasing classmates, tough boss, snooty coworker, and older crush. Most of the five-minute videos conclude with a dilemma scrawled across the screen: Should Sufei study or go out with friends? Call the guy or ignore him? Viewers then log onto the show’s blog or text message to vote. The tally determines the plot of the next episode.

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