CategoryG07. Corporate Purpose & Social Responsibility
Idea Creation MSL Hong Kong, HONG KONG


Name Company Position
Christopher Lee Publicis Groupe Executive Creative Director
Francis Wong Publicis Groupe Creative Director
Kevin Lai Publicis Groupe Associate Creative Director
Alexis Chiu MSL Group Managing Director
Miuson Chi MSL Managing Director

Why is this work relevant for PR?

While important, cultural conservation projects in Hong Kong have largely been superficial – preserving simply a building or structure. This is how New World Development redefined cultural conservation. To date, Hong Kong’s unique cultural identity continues to disappear. To combat this, New World announced that it would conserve the State Theatre, now derelict, but once was an entertainment hub that gave rise to Hong Kong’s unique cultural, artistic identity. New World redefined conservation through State Theatre by bringing back its original craftsmanship, but also recreated an identity unique to State Theatre – a label that stood for ‘Modern Heritage Cool’.


State Theatre, originally the Empire Theatre, was built in 1952, giving the public its first taste of the high arts from Western and Chinese cultures. In the 70s and 80s, the State Theatre was pivotal in the rise of Hong Kong’s entertainment industry. But as the industry dwindled, so did the State Theatre’s importance. This was accelerated by a huge fire in 1997. Since then, it has remained largely forgotten in the bustling North Point. However, New World Development had restoration plans for the State Theatre, but needed the approval of the general public. The most important objective – get people to care about the State Theatre as well.

Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)

Amidst the challenges of COVID, New World re-premiered the State Theatre overnight with a one-of-a-kind immersive theatre experience. Oral history and 3,000 artefacts were collected. Architects, calligraphers, artists and the local community helped piece together State Theatre’s unique identity through time-period specific set designs. Book the immersive experience as if it was a real cinema. Step through the doors and immediately be part of the immersive play – meet art luminaries to construct the State Theatre. Meet with Harry Odell, founder of State Theatre, and learn his story. Be greeted by docents dressed as ushers, taking you to different shows.

Describe the PR strategy (30% of vote)

Instead of creating another advertising promotion campaign, it was imperative for people to experience the State Theatre for themselves. To get different generations (ranging from Gen Z who are looking for modern retro events to show off their taste to the baby boomers who are looking for nostalgia) to care and want to play a part in approving the redevelopment of the State Theatre. We also had to generate interests from influencers, celebrities, policy makers and conservationists, to bring them all on the same page to see the need to conserve this Theatre. Since the State Theatre was such an iconic place for generations of locals, we wanted people to experience memories once again and to feel the importance of the theatre. So instead of pushing messages, we created an experiential-led solution that brought to life the glamour of the State Theatre and showed future generations the importance of culture.

Describe the PR execution (20% of vote)

This was a true social-led PR campaign. Within 1 week, over 30,000 visitors signed up for the immersive experience due to word-of-mouth. New World's online platforms and social media acted as if it was a cinema booking site, where people could register and sign up. But before that, celebrities and fashion influencers were VVIP's that could enter the State Theatre first. This allowed the noise to organically pile up and become a snowball effect - turning #StateTheatre into a trending topic and becoming the most instagrammable space. Throughout the week, different generations of celebs came to the State Theatre - conservationists to explain the State Theatre's importance, historians, artists to explain the importance it had on culture, families as well as politicians to help encourage people to support the conservation. Then the general public were opened to visit throughout the week to take in the State Theatre.

List the results (30% of vote)

With zero advertising budget, the immersive experience created a phenomenon. As one of the top 5 Google-searched locations for 3 weeks, it also became an Instagram hotspot for cross-generations, ranging from conservationists and historians, to celebrities, influencers and elderly residents. People identified the State Theatre with ‘modern heritage cool’, causing bookings to reach above capacity, with over 30,000 visitors in just one week. Over 6 weeks, #statetheatre was a trending topic, and related videos and photos generated over 700,000 engagements online. Most importantly, the city’s unique identity was back in the spotlight with over 50 countries reporting on the State Theatre, reaching over 1 million viewers.

Please tell us how the brand purpose inspired the work

New World Development is one of Hong Kong's largest property development companies. Throughout the years, New World has transformed its property development to conserving and creating cultural oasis in Hong Kong - preserving properties and places that have a strong local culture. New World Development's mission is the "Artisanal Movement" - conserving the art and culture within the city. And one way to rebuild this appreciation amongst the characterless skyscrapers Hong Kong is known for now is to relaunch the State Theatre - one of Hong Kong's original theatres where global performers came to perform and the first-ever movie theatre where the biggest local movies would have been premiered. However, as the industry dwindled, so did the theatre and the love of culture. As Hong Kong continues to face the problems of its own diminishing identity because of political movement, this was a statement for New World and Hong Kong.


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