Hikvision Dancer Advertising Campaign - What Do You Think?

Hikvision continues to ramp up its dancer / ballerina advertising campaign.

Here is their 'behind the scenes' video:

Update: Here is the dancers performing at ISC West:


I obviously have to be careful here. "People who live in glass houses..."

Wow, John. This is really interesting!

The use of good-looking, muscled and sweaty athletes we see so much of today seems to me to be an attempt to either 1. create a hybrid advertising campaign or 2. to justify the cheesecake. If Hikvision replaced the dancers with track and field athletes, for example, would the campaign make more sense to us? To the refined and knowledgeable, dancers represent extreme physical ability. Are we getting that, or would it be easier to understand if we were looking at an "athlete?"

This video seems to suggest that Hikvision feels we have not been “getting it,” so they are now spelling it out for us.

Two Audiences
Manufacturers all have the same conundrum: we must influence two groups -- the integrator and the end-user. We typically feel that to successfully approach the two audiences requires different strategies.

Up until this video, I called this Hikvision campaign "high-concept." To the people this concept has been tailored -- big bucks end-users – Hikvision is hoping the concept is obvious. To the heart of our industry -- integrators -- it may be baffling.

Classy or Cheesecake
To illustrate, I once pitched to a manufacturer the idea of using a picture of a beautiful woman draped over their 48-port managed switch. That is not high-concept. That would have been straight cheesecake masquerading as high-concept. That would have been stereotyping or patronizing integrators. It would NOT have been an end-user play. I don't picture a Snap-On tool calendar in the office of a CTO or CFO. But at least the purpose of the image would have been obvious.

If you separate the woman from the product, that is art. That is high-concept. That is why it is surprising to me that this video now has the models handling the product.

Elevating the Brand
I assume that the Hikvision reps are telling integrators that Hikvision is spending millions of dollars to bring them more substantial projects by elevating the brand for the end-user decision-makers.

When Avigilon threw so much advertising money around a few years ago -- very successfully -- they did it with a straight-forward, low-risk message. There was no high-concept art. They flooded the world with their logo and tagline. They achieved the desired brand awareness.

In contrast, people like me have to admire Hikvision for having the courage to execute this kind of campaign. It requires a ton of money, which of course, they have. That helps. And now, they are even able to spend more money to help us understand the concept.

The Motivation
Hikvision has to believe that this advertising is elevating their brand. It is similar to what the communist Chinese government wanted to accomplish by hosting the Beijing Olympics and building all those aesthetically-stunning venues. What mattered is how they looked on TV. For one summer, they elevated the brand.

Hikvision (the Chinese government?) is apparently dissatisfied with dominating sales volumes. Because they are spending the money to develop products that transcend the "Made in China" stereotype, they want to be regarded more accurately for what they are today.

My question is, at what point does the cost required to realize the desire for respectability start to impact product cost? Will the time come that they will have to compete fairly? That will be interesting to see.

Stick with It or Modify It
For now, I am curious whether or not the people at Hikvision are following analytics. This video suggests that they are. Because they have sustained this campaign, and have now escalated it by intermingling product with the seemingly unassociated subjects (cheesecake?), is that move based on analytics? Has this campaign been working with end-users? Are they now trying to shift the appeal to integrators? Have they lost the focus of the campaign? Is this latest video an attempt at "classy cheesecake?"

At the beginning of this campaign, I thought that I understood it. But with this video, it is no longer high-concept. It is an attempt to justify the concept.

Part of taking the gamble is not worrying about what the “other audience” thinks as long as the primary audience understands the concept. That is a real challenge in this industry. Everyone’s opinion matters.

And, that is one man's opinion.


"When Avigilon threw so much advertising money around a few years ago -- very successfully -- they did it with a straight-forward, low-risk message. There was no high-concept art."

ummm... Avigilon Paints Half-Nude Women With Their Logo

Ummm indeed. Until proven otherwise, I stand by recollection of what they used in print and signage. This kind of "marketing" is another story. I know! It must have been sales driven!!! That's the explanation!

actually it was more investor-money driven.

Their stated objective was growth, and they spent those investor dollars in many different ways to accomplish this.  including painting half nude women with their logo.

The half-nude women was not advertising like the other things we are talking about here. It was their dealer party.

To be clear, I am not trying to excuse it (since I was the one who posted that criticizing them). My point is that Avigilon's advertising did take a straight-forward approach with the half nude women being confined to private dealer party.

Mark, thanks for sharing.

It made me think about how someone who does not know Hikvision would think about them. If they first were exposed through this marketing campaign, they would likely have a positive first impression of refinement, class, high-end etc. That seems smart.

On IPVM, most people have known about Hikvision for some years so it's a little easier to chuckle at the awkward juxtaposition of the Chinese government's low cost surveillance provider and dancers. 


Meh... what does it mean? The Art of Surveillance? It just seems like an amateurish campaign. It's not offensive in any way, but I don't get the connection to their products. I voted neutral. At least it is well done, even if the message doesn't resonate.

I could not agree more - although I do not concur with your last sentence.

If the message doesn't resonate, then the campaign is a waste of time... or worse, a continuation of showing their cultural disconnect with their N American customer base.

Am I the only one who wonders what advertising campaign ideas that vanilla, marshmallow 'Art of Surveillance' campaign beat out?

Back in some meeting months ago, deep in the glass-encased Hikvision fortress, some other ideas actually lost to that.

What I meant by done well, I was referring to the media quality and the artistic value of the photography. Obviously since the message fell flat, the overall value of the campaign is neutral at best. 

I see this campaign similar to many of the "luxury" cars marketing themes of beauty, refinement and art-form.  To me, Hikvision tries to connect "beauty" to their brand by slowly brainwashing you to eventually believe their product is what they are presenting, a thing of beauty and grace.  Not so much for the hard core integrator maybe but perhaps more so for the end-user. 

Jon, that is exactly the point. If you ask, "What does it mean?" you are not the target audience. The correct response is, "Ooooooooooo. Classy. I drive a new Mercedes S Class and this resonates with me. I agree to the proposal. Secure our buildings and facilities with their equipment! Oh, and I told my wife that I would get tickets for Swan Lake. Please arrange that as well."

But you said it is well done, so they are getting through to you... "Resistance is futile."

"If you ask, "What does it mean?" you are not the target audience."

ummmm.   Jon is a systems integrator.  you know... the type of person that a manufacturer of surveillance hardware and software might want to reach with their messaging.

Of course. They want to reach everyone, but not with the same message! They send Jon messages about speeds, feeds and costs. Integrators are not the original targets of this campaign.

I see your logic here - I just think that you are wrong.

Hik is rolling out a campaign to target the Lincoln Center crowd of CSOs and their wives?

please, man.

They sell to systems integrators (via distro) - that is who they should be 'messaging'.

Sure, if you got $6B you have a little more latitude to carpet bomb your advertising (as you noted that Avigilon did with their investor dollars) - but this isn't one of many campaigns that they can selectively use to target different audiences... this is their message (apparently).

Seriously. It is a real thing. "Elevate the brand to influence the end-user." It is just that few companies in our industry have or spend the money to do that, especially to this level of commitment.

They have the money. They feel that they have an image problem. They feel that they are not perceived correctly in the marketplace.


They are confident that you and Jon are aware of their brand. They approach you in traditional ways.

This is what marketing people do when they have the money. Hikvision really has nothing to lose. You know who they are. You are still seeing their logo everywhere.

But if, as a byproduct, they elevate their brand in your eyes, just a little, it is a win-win for them.

By the way, Steve Jobs was the master of this. He changed so many things in the world, including advertising as we knew it.



I think one of the cameras that had audio said "hold me closer tiny dancer" which is why they are all holding cameras.

If thats the case, and the phone home was enabled, does that mean China wants to hold the dancer?

One other thing - I've mostly seen these ads in trade magazines with a burst just in the last few months. For example, this is the front cover of the March 2017 SSI digital edition:

Anyone see these in any mass market media (like Forbes etc.)? Avigilon did that for a while and I would think this would do better in those publications with people who don't already know Hikvision well.

I was going to give you all a break from my rantings, but this is a very, very, very important point. Plus, I have no self-control.

As per usual, John is right on.

What I would like to say is, I think there is a real lack of security-focused publications and websites targeting the end-user decision maker. That is why John jumped to main stream media that are assumed to be frequented by executives -- and are also much more expensive in terms of advertising cost because of their broader reach. But if money was no object, those are the places to try these ads. I would put them on CNN and ESPN and measure the analytics. However, if you search for video security reviews, you end up at PC publications. We in the industry get hung up with professional vs. consumer video surveillance, but civilians do not.

I can think of Security Magazine and CIO that are more end-user focused, and sub-brands from EH and Cygnus. But we can all rattle off a number of dealer pubs here and in other countries. And Hikvision will advertise in most or all of them already. The marketing people got the suits to sign off on a non-traditional campaign, but it can be hard to gain approval for separate campaigns to integrators (speeds and feeds) and end-users (branding). I know. I have pitched that idea before. So you are seeing this one brand campaign everywhere -- one size fits all. But you guys are suggesting that is not the case for integrators.

While adding the products to their campaign has lowered the advertising concept, it answers the question -- "What are they trying to sell me?" But I still think that someone high up has gotten nervous about the original campaign and forced modifications.

While adding the products to their campaign has lowered the advertising concept

That's a good point. I did not pick that up but the original advertisements last year just had the dancer but without them holding any products, so it was more abstract.

For example, from Oct 2016 Security Dealer trade magazine:

So still advertising in dealer focused trade magazines but now more explicit with the product connection.

"Behind the Scenes - Sneak Preview"

I'm going to have to get that framed. 

Update: my wife thinks this is hilarious. 

I think these ads miss their mark. The one with the dudes playing ring around the posey is especially dumb. The ads tell me nothing about the product, they don't build excitement or how cool I'll be if I buy it. 

Update: The dancers will be live in Hikvision's ISC West booth.

And Hikvision did a press release for it too - Hikvision and L.A. Contemporary Dance Company Illustrate the Art of Video Surveillance

Subtitled: 'Who knew that dance and video surveillance had so much in common' LACDC dancers will perform at the Hikvision booth and Partner Celebration at ISC West

From the press release...

Gonzalez used a 360-degree camera to explain the metaphor. "There are many components and lenses in a 360-degree camera that allow it to cover vast areas and provide impressive video at high resolution. The same is true with dance, whether it's one dancer or multiple dancers it requires the coordination of all the parts to work in unison to create a beautiful piece. That's the link to our technology."

My summary: Hikvision 360 cameras are like clothed dancers that have rehearsed together. This campaign made more sense before I read the press release.  

Beautifully done, but I don't understand it. The great dancers seem to be admiring the product, not the use of them. Were all the images taken from the cameras? It is doubtful. Now that would be more interesting to me, seeing that the cameras can capture speed, slomo, tracking movements, dark & light, all of the issues in surveillance. It was so nicely done and I admire the creators and especially the artists captured.  

Were all the images taken from the cameras?

In the exceedingly small group of manufacturers which choose to create artsy surveillence marketing materials, this is not unusual.

See: Axis skates on thin ice...

I think it's very smart marketing...and I've never and don't ever plan to drink the HIKVision kool-aid.

Their message to dealers is "make tons of money on our stuff that's good enough for the common dude...and pay no attention to the guy in the red coat behind the curtain."

Their message to consumers is "we are beautiful, we are refined."  ...not to mention the correlation they will make with the high quality photography to the cameras themselves...that's almost brilliant.  False advertising that's more on the subconscious level so it can't really be legally construed as false.

...marketers know how stupid we (consumers) are and are smart to take every advantage of it.


...okay that first part was just my take on the company not their marketing.

Piada, como esta fabricante..

Knowing this company and their corporate culture, this is a bit insulting to the arts. 

Awkward even. 

I like it.  It stands out.  It doesn't make me choose Hikvision because of it, but surely makes me think about the brand.

Hikvision continues to promote the dancer ad campaign:

It appears that this campaign was produced by someone not well connected to the surveillance industry. The security industry is overwhelmingly male and this campaign fails to reach the male gaze. Having dancers holding cameras communicates nothing to me as an integrator. When I first saw the campaign I laughed at it. I thought it continued to reflect an out of touch marketing group with mainstream security. I do give them points for trying something new, however, it was a flop. probably more like a complete disaster. I would be surprised if it helps Hikvision at all, it probably just makes them look more like a laughing stock. Not to mention the name Hikvision, it doesn't translate to the American marketplace. I would not want a camera called "Dumbview" or "Blindsight." What seems to be clear is that Chinese manufacturers do not understand the US marketplace, and the people they hire to help them keep leading them astray.  

I've spent time at various ISC's as well as hosting Napcos booth at IFSEC several times (organised from the US). I think people may be losing focus on how crass, the marketing efforts of US and UK companies have been in the past with "showgirls" and pathetic magicians. 

I'm not an arty person and don't really get into these kind of things - but if anyone would like to give their expert opinion and anecdote on what would constitute a technically focused really eye catching, front page interesting campaign - perhaps watching a really exciting vari-focal lens moving in slow motion or something ????? - that would be constructive. I'm on the edge of my seat in anticipation.

But as I say - ISC has for a long time been the home of crass marketing - so no matter how you want to attack Hikvision, it's infinitely better marketing than ISC is used to  -not least because its got you all talking and giving column inches.

Perhaps you could tell me how Napcos effort at 3:24 here is soooo much better than Hik? Oh yes, they are American and not Hik which makes it fine. I think I missed Johns discussion regarding this particularly crass example. 

For years the West has accused China of "copying", so when they go out at a tangent  from the mainstream they get criticized. Damned if they do damned if they don't. No matter what Hik would have done at the show - it would have been either entirely ignored or criticized - there was no way it would have been applauded, so we get that. 

If you are a Hik hater, its not very likely that you will turn on a dime and say you get the concept and love the marketing and defend Hik is it?

In terms of digital marketing, we used to be Nedap partners in a former company and I always found their marketing to be the best I've know in the industry. If you have 3 minutes, watch this video to get an idea. And yes, as a leading access control company they also produce systems to purify water with sunlight, feed cows etc. so its all relevant and delivered really neatly. I recall when they originally released it people scratched their heads and wondered what it was about - Napco were simply ahead of the competition bearing in mind the video is as fresh and relevant today as it was in 2011 when it was made.



Perhaps you could tell me how Napcos effort at 3:24 here is soooo much better than Hik? Oh yes, they are American and not Hik which makes it fine.

Tim, I know you love the whole 'American' IPVM conspiracy theory but it is easily disproved.

We did a 'front page' critique on an American company at ISC West last year, which you evidently missed or forgot about, The Sleaziest Booth Of ISC West - Rapid Response

That noted, why are you even attempting to compare Hikvision's 2017 ISC West booth to Napco's booth babes? 

No one is suggesting what Hikvision did with the dancers is unethical or sleazy. The only question is how effective it is. And since they are the largest manufacturer in the world, it is something that evidently many people are interested in.

Btw, Tim, you up for being in the Hikvision actual customer ad campaign?

Actually John I'd hoped you'd be up for the ANSI pin-up guy, even it was a dartboard ;-)

I did see your previous article, but think you could have included it back in your Hik article to at least provide balance that would have demonstrated that whilst you may not "get" the Hik message, it is significantly better than the usual ISC (and IFSEC) sleaze.

What I do take from your previous article is the 47% endorsement of the sleazy booth babes which is a shameful reflection on those thinking it's absolutely fine. I know you agree with my sentiment as you have said yourself that the "marketing tactic is unprofessional and demeaning to the industry and woman in general".


I'm left wondering how many of the 251 voters who think both babes are just fine, have commented on this topic or posted negatively against Hik in this survey?

As far as relevance is concerned I think the performance is aimed at the more senior non-industry people who attend the events. The decision makers, blue-chip end users rather than ordinary Joe with a screwdriver in his pocket. It sets Hik apart and make them different and memorable and not for bad reasons.

Actually John I'd hoped you'd be up for the ANSI pin-up guy, even it was a dartboard ;-)

I am going to IFSEC and there will be an IPVM dunk tank :)

I did see your previous article

Then, in fairness, you should not have made the allegation about us protecting 'American' companies since we've long proved to you we criticize American companies often.

included it back in your Hik article to at least provide balance

I think it would be completely unfair to Hikvision to compare their contemporary art dancers (with men and women) to scantily dressed (all female) booth babes in a lineup. We both agree that Hikvision was going high-end with their dancers, the only question was how well it did in winning people over.

The decision makers, blue-chip end users rather than ordinary Joe with a screwdriver in his pocket

In the USA, in our industry, I don't think that many even 'blue-chip end users' are in to contemporary dance.

What I do take from your previous article is the 47% endorsement of the sleazy booth babes which is a shameful reflection


I didn't think IFSEC was too much different from ISC but I think you'll find that the blue chip clients would have more interest in modern dance than the technicalities of an algorithm. They want to get a feel for the manufacturer and the size and presentation of the stand is everything. When I use to walk client around at the shows I'd say this is the "x" stand who we partner with - and I honestly think they would be impressed with the Hik show. remember also that it is only a brief show - it's not the whole event.

As others have eluded to - the question is not whether they won people over - but who they are aiming at winning over. Joe Average looks for the bag stand and spends the whole event looking to fill it with as many freebies as possible. Mr/Mrs/Ms Bluechip assess the presence and professionalism displayed to evaluate their potential investment. Not everyone will get it, I accept, but that's not to say its not successful - its simply who gets it that counts.



I understand your point, but I think it is off the mark. Marketing is about building a brand in the minds of your customers. In regards to HIK, the dancer campaign was a dud. It did not evoke an emotion or instill a feeling, except perhaps a snicker at a missed oppotunity. It was a huge mistake by someone who misunderstood the security industry, the customers, and the demographic. I do not believe it landed any bluechip or other customer.

I think we agree to disagree, without either of knowing what the dancers did or did not achieve. But I still feel its good to be different and a original and infinitely better than the crappy magician we had to pay a fortune for at Napco who also did ISC shows. Neither do I think it was a huge mistake in the sense that it garnered attention and provoked discussion (a marketing mans dream). But as I have said before, i'm not particularly "arty" but appreciate the effort to be different and original in what can be a very grey and boring sector.

The industry may or may not be ready to move forward yet - the previous poll on IPVM would certainly suggest that nearly 50% would prefer to stay in the past. 

Hik are pushing a trend in successful marketing into the security industry - who knows whether it will work or not.....time and profits will tell...but clearly Acer, UnderArmour, Lexus, see this as the way forward so perhaps a wider vista is needed? We can either move forward of move backwards.

John fairly started the thread with "What do you think". Well I've stated what I think and others have stated their viewpoints. But lets take a step back. If you are going to criticize Hikvision because you think they are crap - that won't ever change. So basing comments on your own prejudice doesn't really add anything to the discussion. Again - John and i agree on this point - in Johns words - "If they first were exposed through this marketing campaign, they would likely have a positive first impression of refinement, class, high-end etc. That seems smart." Since the discussion was based specifically on this advertising campaign its great to see John acknowledging that it is indeed classy and high end.

"Not everyone will get it, I accept, but that's not to say its not successful - its simply who gets it that counts."

I would maintain that there was nothing there for anyone to get in the first place...

If the campaign was successful - as you at least imagine it might have been on some level that the unwashed masses don't get - then why did they stop that campaign and move quickly on to something else (winning!)?

Answer:  Cuz the 'Art of Surveillance' campaign idea was dumb AND ineffective

At least that help identifies one of the 251.....

What's it like to be so consistently wrong and yet still feel so superior to others?

It must be that Hik blood that runs through your body into your brain.

Feels good actually Undisclosed#1...feels really good. Have a lovely day.