ABO the first monkey in space

Who was the first country to put a monkey into Space? Well the smart money would be on the USA in 1948. But in fact they were beaten two years before by China. You may wonder why no one knows this, but the Chinese covered up the mission after it was thought to have failed when all contact was lost with the spacecraft shortly after take-off. What no-one could possibly have known was that something much more extraordinary took place. The spacecraft was captured by aliens.
Before you open a new browser window and type in ‘space monkey’ this is in fact the set up for the new Soho China campaign created by Creative Social member Graham Fink and his team at Ogilvy & Mather China.


On 22-11-12 dozens of UFO sightings were seen across China from all major cities. Pictures and videos were posted onto Weibo (Chinese Twitter ) and Youku ( Chinese YouTube ). Including one film of a zoo keeper who reported his monkeys spent all day pointing to the sky. All was revealed on the next day when a beam of light seemingly from space directed at the Soho Galaxy building in Beijing sent Weibo into a frenzy.


30 minutes later a series of news flashes appeared which reported about the beam of light and an image of something in a spacesuit was captured on the Soho Galaxy’s  CCTV.

Watch the footage here.

Two days later a world exclusive interview was held with the monkey ( ABO ) in the Soho Galaxy building. ABO talks about his story and fondly recalls his training for his mission. He also talks about China now being at a pivotal point in it’s history and lambasts China for being a copycat nation.

 Watch the interview with ABO here.

“This of course is sailing pretty close to the wind here. It’s no coincidence all this was very timely with the ending of the China congress meeting in Beijing with internal elections and talks of a new beginning.” said Ogilvy & Mather China’s chief creative officer Graham Fink.

Two days later the final piece of the trilogy was launched,  a 30 minute live debate with a studio audience. The two founders of Soho China were amongst the panel of guests along with a few other celebrities, and ABO was the special guest star. The whole debate was run by big name TV debate show host from Hong Kong Tiger Hu. During the debate ABO asks provocative questions about creativity in China and progressive thinking.

 Watch the debate here.

“We knew the campaign would polarize people but that is the objective,” said Fink. The campaign comes at a time when the issue of creativity within Chinese brands is a hot topic. This is a pretty radical and unique move that could set a benchmark in terms of holding up a mirror to the industry and beyond. Fink told us “Soho China is founded by two very rich entrepreneurs from very poor backgrounds, Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi. Both are seen as kind of celebrities here in China. They commissioned some of the world’s top architects to build an amazing building here and this project was all about getting people aware of Soho China and their philosophy about pushing the creative boundaries in China.”

Because of the sensitivity of the content the videos have been scattered across multiple platforms, ensuring that if one is taken down others will be seen. It’s therefore tricky to estimate the true engagement numbers, but it’s safe to say the views are in the millions. This is a great example of how story telling can be combined with brand engagement to  ignite a debate around  a cultural issue that a whole county can have an opinion on.

Nice work Mr. Fink.


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