BodyAds: using hot models to promote your business

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Bob Ng Yick Lung introduces us to his ‘business models’

Hot girls. If you’re a man, you’ve probably noticed a few on your way to work today. If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve spotted a handful too. Therefore, surely these attractive chicks make for some of the best marketing potential in Hong Kong. That’s the ethos behind an out-of-home advertising company which has been stationed at theDesk co-working and events space in Sai Ying Pun for the past six months. Welcome to BodyAds, the world’s first media firm that not only places ‘tattoo stickers’ with adverts, logos and messages on the legs of pretty girls but also boasts an app where the team can actually monitor the campaign as it happens.

The man behind BodyAds is ‘Bob’ Ng Yick Lung. The 29-year-old says he came up with the idea of using girls’ bodies as marketing tools during a ‘eureka moment’ on the MTR. “I remember I was sitting on the train,” says Ng, “and I was looking at my mobile. Then I looked up and a really pretty girl passed me in short pants. She had long legs. There just seemed to be an aura about this girl. Then I looked through the MTR windows at the billboards and back to the girl as she was about to get off the train. That was it. I wasn’t going to naturally look at the billboard but I was naturally looking at this pretty girl’s legs. So why not put the billboard on her legs? The rest is history. I immediately drew up plans for my new business.

BodyAds is Hong Kong’s first out-of-home advertising solution that sees ‘tattoo stickers’, which the firm can design and produce itself, being strategically placed on to girls’ bodies before they head out to an area in the city and actually use their bodies as promotional tools. The addition of the app makes it a world first. “It’s all about not forcing people to look,” says Ng. “It’s about letting them see what they want to see. Using a girl’s body to advertise is really effective. She draws people’s eyes. Men like to look because they are visual creatures and like to look at beauty. Women like to look because they like to compare themselves with other girls. Therefore, everyone likes to look at pretty girls and if they’re in short pants, then the gaze naturally goes to her legs.”

Ng, who says he looked at a lot of co-working spaces in Hong Kong last summer before choosing theDesk to launch his BodyAds business because ‘it has a great amount of space and it’s really well designed’, was raised in our city. He studied for a statistics degree at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Sha Tin before working as a consultant in an ecommerce company for a year, learning how to buy, sell and market on platforms like eBay. He was the runner-up alongside a friend in an eBay trading competition at the time. But he struck out on his own in 2012, after ending his year at the ecommerce company. “With my degree, the ecommerce job and the competition,” he says, “I felt I was experienced enough with sourcing and selling products on eBay. All I needed to do was create a company that used eBay and my skills. I had nothing to lose.”

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This company was not BodyAds. With another friend, Ng set up WormHole Global Store, which is basically an online retail and wholesale firm that uses the eBay platform. It focuses on electronics, accessories and phones, with a special emphasis on TV boxes like MINIX, MeLE and WeTek. The company is still going strong, however Ng left its ranks last year. “The competition for trading on eBay,” he says, “is increasing every year. There are more Chinese sellers all the time and they know all the tricks on eBay. It’s tough for an ecommerce business now. The prices have come down so low, so it’s not a healthy industry.” Ng says he still has shares in WormHole but he left so he could start BodyAds with a ‘secret partner’ after that ‘eureka moment’ on the MTR.

After launching BodyAds, Ng got girls to apply to join the team before he interviewed them and chose his successful candidates. He also created a database which now boasts more than 500 pretty females. And he connected with clients, launched his app later in the year and began running campaigns as businesses saw the advertising potential. “BodyAds is the world’s first media company to produce tattoo stickers with adverts, logos and messages on them,” says Ng, “but also to have an app which is used to schedule a campaign, choose the best girl for the job and then track the campaign as it progresses. And my database is probably my most important asset. When the girls apply to us, we get as much information as possible, from their university to their height, and we also make sure they already have an Instagram account so that we can prioritise jobs to specific groups of girls who have a lot of average likes and a high engagement rate. They are themselves great marketing tools on their social networks. Plus, it means for every campaign I can use a filter on the database and choose the best girls for that job, depending on her criteria. There are more than 500 girls on the database. They are mostly Asian but there’s a huge variety of types, giving me great scope to tailor them to the campaigns.”

“These girls are what I call ‘marketing magic’,” continues Ng. “I didn’t study marketing but I am a creative thinker and I just don’t see many other more effective marketing methods than girls who are attractive. The BodyAds girls are, in Cantonese, ‘lui sun’[女神], meaning they’re both pretty and intelligent. Ninety percent of them are local university students. These are lovely girls. Some of our girls didn’t think they were ‘lui sun’ but their friends encouraged them to apply to BodyAds and now they know they most certainly are ‘lui sun’! I call them the BodyAds girls. We put the tattoo stickers on their legs and then we send them to specific areas in Hong Kong where they become, simply, promotional tools. We can have up to 50 girls at a time and send them anywhere in the city.”

Ng, who actually cast for some of his girls at theDesk last year, launched the app in November. “This app makes us unique across the world,” he says. “Assuming all the stickers are ready, it takes two days only to organise a 50-girl campaign with the app. We get the girls to the area you want them in and we can then monitor them while they’re out. We can actually see where they are throughout the campaign. And, of course, we provide the analytics afterwards.” Ng says the app, over time, actually lowers the operational costs as it only takes one member of staff to monitor the campaigns using it. “This means,” he says, “we can offer a lower rate to our customers than you’d expect.”

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The ‘tattoo stickers’ are all of a standardised size, according to Ng. “Basically, they’re the size we’ve found that works best,” he says. “We always put one on the right thigh and then one behind the leg. This is deliberate. With a girl coming the opposite way, her right leg is more exposed to the eyes. You see the thigh first and then you turn your head as she walks past and see the back of the leg. This is the most effective way to advertise on the body. You have a second to focus on the thigh and then longer to focus, after turning your head, on the back of the leg. But, of course, in most of our campaigns the girls are not walking fast, so you have much longer to focus on her stickers.”

Ng, who has a girlfriend who is not one of his ‘girls’ but does get involved as ‘she is really motivating’,  says she’s proud of many of his campaigns so far. On Christmas Eve, he says he sent 40 girls to Knutsford Terrace in Tsim Sha Tsui for an online hotel booking service client. They were there to check in and walk as usual in the nearby area for four hours from 7pm with their tattoos in place. At 8pm, he ran Google Analytics and found that his client’s website traffic had increased by a staggering 1,200 percent over that hour. And then, on New Year’s Eve, he says he sent groups of girls to TST and Central wearing stickers for a customised clothing company and that campaign was also ‘a great success’.

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Ng says he’s now planning to use men in the same way as he uses the girls. “Using guys is normally nowhere near as effective as girls for these campaigns,” he admits. “But, actually, I’ve found they are good for sports-related campaigns.” Ng adds that he also plans to enrol a bunch of girls into the Hong Kong Rope Skipping Club, which is establishing a female team this year. Up to 12 of the BodyAds girls are to join the club and train for three months before they appear at roadshows. They can then advertise for Ng’s clients but also raise the profile of the rope skipping club too. And Ng says he’s introducing T-shirt ad campaigns for those clients who may find girls’ legs a little too much for their brand ethos.

So, is this all sexist? Is this moral, even? “These girls are more than happy to do this type of job,” retorts Ng. “An effective ad should be looked at, rather than just seen. People stare at pretty girls. That’s a fact. And they stare at legs. If those girls like their legs being stared at and we can use this for advertising purposes, then I don’t see how this is different to a billboard or a TV. It’s just prettier, that’s all!”

Ng Yick Lung, in brief:
NAME: ‘Bob’ Ng Yick Lung
POSITION: Business Development Director
AGE: 29
FROM: Hong Kong
BUSINESS LOCATION: Rents an office space at theDesk, Sai Ying Pun

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