SO­CIAL CHI­NESE

Over the years, Chi­nese ads have gone from be­ing child­hood mem­o­ries to memes and pop cul­ture那些年磨过我们耳朵的广告词

The World of Chinese - - Editor’s Letter - BY LIU JUE (刘珏)

社交汉语

Stuck in an el­e­va­tor, forced to watch a mad­den­ing com­mer­cial for some se­cond-hand car app for the 100th time, you’d be eas­ily for­given for curs­ing the day the ad man came to China. It cer­tainly wasn’t al­ways like this. From the rosy-cheeked qi­pao girls pro­mot­ing cig­a­rettes in 1930s Shang­hai to the less-glam­orous era of the late 40s and 50s, Chi­nese ads have evolved with the times. In chaotic wartime and the early years of New China, there weren’t many prod­ucts to pro­mote or consumer mar­kets to at­tract. Ads con­sisted of plain­speak­ing state­ments that a prod­uct was avail­able—in­dus­trial ma­chin­ery, health aids, daily es­sen­tials—usu­ally placed in a news­pa­per, with terse ex­pla­na­tions of its func­tion and lit­tle pro­mo­tional fan­fare. It was a much sim­pler time when ad­ver­tis­ers in China had yet to learn the pow­ers of per­sua­sion.

At the end of the PRC’S first FiveYear Plan in 1957, com­mer­cial advertising be­came ob­so­lete, since the so­cial­ist re­forms put ev­ery­thing un­der

state own­er­ship; there was no need for pro­mo­tions in a planned econ­omy where the state was in charge of dis­tribut­ing all goods. De­nounced as a prod­uct of cap­i­tal­ism, com­mer­cial ads dis­ap­peared en­tirely dur­ing the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion and it was not un­til the Re­form and Open­ing Up era that they re­turned.

Shang­hai TV be­came the first Chi­nese sta­tion to broad­cast a com­mer­cial in over a decade on Jan­uary 28, 1979, the first day of the Lu­nar New Year. It fea­tured a nour­ish­ing gin­seng wine and a short mes­sage an­nounc­ing the sta­tion was back in the busi­ness of advertising. Since then, ads have evolved to form part of the coun­try’s col­lec­tive mem­ory, with their jin­gles and slo­gans en­ter­ing pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Per­haps the first iconic ad was for the “Yanwu Ra­dio Recorder” in 1984, which fea­tured pos­si­bly China’s ear­li­est ear­worm:

Yanwu, Yanwu, love comes with a song Y3nw^, Y3nw^, y# q^ g8 l1i y! pi3n q!ng

燕舞,燕舞,一曲歌来一片情

At 500 RMB apiece, a se­ri­ous price tag at the time, a Yanwu recorder was the Walk­man of its era, a must-have prod­uct for any 80s youth who wished to prove they were cool. As ac­cess to tele­vi­sion in the home grad­u­ally be­came more wide­spread in the 1990s, com­mer­cials be­gan ap­peal­ing di­rectly to con­sumers’ emo­tions, such as a Nan­fang Black Sesame Paste ad which showed a child en­joy­ing a bowl out­side a wel­com­ing stall at dusk, as the nar­ra­tor tells about “warm child­hood mem­o­ries.” For the post-80s gen­er­a­tion, the ad it­self has be­come a child­hood mem­ory, as well as its slo­gan:

A whiff of fra­grance, a touch of warmth

Y# g^ n5ngxi`ng, y# l) w8n­nu2n

一股浓香,一缕温暖

As the im­por­tance of brand­ing be­gan to as­sert it­self on Chi­nese ad­ver­tis­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers be­gan to de­velop more so­phis­ti­cated ap­proaches, some­times even adapt­ing to dif­fer­ent mar­kets. Though elec­tron­ics and home ap­pli­ances com­pany Haier’s cur­rent English slo­gan is “Made for Mod­ern Liv­ing,” the Chi­nese ver­sion takes an al­ter­na­tive ap­proach by em­pha­siz­ing in­tegrity:

Haier, sin­cere for­ever

H2i'0r, zh8nch9ng d3o y6ngyu2n

海尔,真诚到永远

Sim­i­larly, re­frig­er­a­tor brand Aucma prom­ises to con­stantly im­prove it­self:

There's no best, only bet­ter M9iy6u zu# h2o, [email protected] g-ng h2o

没有最好,只有更好

Cos­metic brand Haodi, mean­while, de­fines what counts as “good”:

If it's good for all, then it's re­ally good

D3ji` h2o c1i sh# zh8n de h2o

大家好才是真的好

As a new gen­er­a­tion of con­sumers has come of age, pop cul­ture and ad­vert­ing have be­come in­creas­ingly in­ter­twined. From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Wa­haha, the largest bev­er­age com­pany in China, ran a se­ries of cam­paigns in which pop­u­lar male singers pro­claimed their love of Wa­haha Bot­tled Wa­ter through their mu­sic. These song ti­tles be­came Wa­haha’s slo­gan each year:

Wa­haha, all I see is you

W1h`h`, w6 de y2nli [email protected] [email protected]

娃哈哈, 我的眼里只有你

Lov­ing you equals lov­ing one­self

Ai [email protected] d0ngy% 3i [email protected]@

爱你等于爱自己 You're the one I love Ai de ji&shi [email protected] 爱的就是你

The age of celebrity en­dorse­ment had ar­rived, and quickly came to in­clude star ath­letes who sym­bol­ized not only phys­i­cal prow­ess but na­tional pride. One of the most mem­o­rable com­mer­cials of the early 2000s was a Sprite ad fea­tur­ing Syd­ney Olympics div­ing cham­pi­ons Tian Liang and Guo Jingjing, ru­mored to be dat­ing at the time. The slo­gan played on the com­bi­na­tion of their names:

Spark­ing and chill­ing the heart J~ngj~ngli3ng, t7u x~n li1ng

晶晶亮,透心凉

When the two al­legedly broke up, fans joked that “chill­ing the heart” was prob­a­bly an early sign that the re­la­tion­ship was doomed. But while some brands turned to sen­ti­men­tal­ity or star power to sell their prod­ucts, oth­ers re­lied on their own con­sis­tency to be a sell­ing point in an ev­er­chang­ing era. Nongfu Spring Wa­ter, for ex­am­ple, still uses the same slo­gan it al­ways has:

Nongfu Spring is a lit­tle sweet N5ngf$ Sh`nqu1n y6u di2n ti1n

农夫山泉有点甜

In­deed, most food and bev­er­age com­mer­cials de­pend on be­ing sim­ple and down to earth, so their ad cam­paigns hope con­sumers as­so­ciate their re­spec­tive brands with the ap­pro­pri­ate slo­gan:

Nescafé, tastes great Qu-ch1o K`f8i, w-id3o h2o j! le

雀巢咖啡,味道好极了

Master Kong's In­stant Noo­dles, de­li­cious­ness you can see K`ng­shi~fu F`ng­bi3n­mi3n, h2och~ k3n de ji3n

康师傅方便面,好吃看得见

Yummy Snack, eat more if you think it's so tasty H2och~di2n, h2och~ [email protected] ji& du4 ch~ di2n

好吃点,好吃你就多吃点

In the 2000s, as elec­tronic prod­ucts be­gan to be­come more main­stream, “sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy” be­came the buzz words of the decade. For­mer tech gi­ant Nokia’s fa­mous slo­gan “Con­nect­ing peo­ple” took on its own Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics:

Hu­man-based tech­nol­ogy K8j# [email protected] r9n w9i b0n

科技以人为本

Len­ovo, on the other hand, went with some­thing a lit­tle more as­pi­ra­tional:

Tech­nol­ogy cre­ates free­dom K8j# chu3ngz3o z#y5u

科技创造自由

Hi-tech Wealth’s Per­sonal Dig­i­tal As­sis­tant was one of the most sought-af­ter prod­ucts for busi­ness pro­fes­sion­als in the early 2000s, with its slo­gan:

Tech­nol­ogy light­ens your bur­den K8j# r3ng [email protected] g-ng q~ngs4ng

科技让你更轻松

Com­mer­cials also started to ap­peal to con­sumers with di­verse val­ues, putting an em­pha­sis on in­di­vid­u­al­ism to cater to a younger au­di­ence. Echo­ing L’oreal’s “Be­cause I’m worth

DE­NOUNCED AS A PROD­UCT OF CAP­I­TAL­ISM, COM­MER­CIAL ADS DIS­AP­PEARED EN­TIRELY DUR­ING THE CUL­TURAL REV­O­LU­TION

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.