Back to the Drawing Board for Chinese Advertisers?
I swear I’ll scream if I see Avril Lavigne just one more time on my TV screen.
It’s not that I have anything against her personally, you understand; in fact to be perfectly honest I doubt I could even name you just one of the songs this Canadian chanteuse has recorded. But day after day, hour after hour – almost minute after minute – she pops up on CCTV15 telling us that she’s working on a collaboration with an Italian sports fashion brand. In the ad she swallows one of the words as she is speaking and even now after having seen this ad possibly 1,000+ times, I still have no idea what she is saying.
It turns out that Ms Lavigne signed a two year multimillion-dollar contract with the sportswear brand last June and ever since then this ad has cropped up relentlessly on a number of channels. With another 17 months left of her contract to run, will this ad be boring us all to death way into 2013?
Surely the ad agency must have heard of aversion therapy? (This is where a patient is subjected to unpleasant associations every time a specific subject is brought up. It works on changing positive emotional associations with sight, smell and taste and is regularly used to wean addicts off drugs.) I doubt I would be likely to go out and buy sports branded goods anyway; but if I were so inclined, I am pretty sure I would avoid this brand – if only to get my own back for being subjected to this terrible advert so regularly.
It’s not just sports clothing ads that get my back up; there’s also an advertisement for a Chinese brand of milk that is played at almost the same frequency, featuring Western families shouting out (dubbed) Chinese slogans extolling the taste of the milk. No doubt the recent milk scandals account for this ad. But what do the Chinese make of European faces extolling the virtues of Chinese milk? Again, I can’t see myself rushing out to buy this brand.
Shampoo? Equally as bad! Here a girl swishes her hair back and forth as a very butch-looking hair dresser looks on admiringly. (Mind you, this isn’t a patch on a shampoo ad I used to love watching in Saudi Arabia which featured the rear view of a girl washing her hair in the bathroom, only to switch to a front view of her, still in the bathroom, wearing a veil since, of course, Saudi women can be heard but certainly can not be seen!)
Then there are the car advertisements. “Better products; better world” is the slogan of one Chinese marque that aired for a good six months last year. As if people are going to rush out and buy one of these cars after hearing that!
The problem has now been exacerbated by the recent order by China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television that bans advertisements during TV dramas as part of its “reform of cultural activities”. Adverts are no longer allowed in the middle of programs lasting for 45 minutes or more.
The problem is that this new regulation came after most advertising deals for the year had already been signed. And this is probably why the same ad is often now repeated twice or even three times in the same advertising slot.
China's TV advertising industry was said to be worth nearly 500bn yuan last year; and the rights for one top slot before the main evening news on CCTV cost 440m yuan for eight months at an auction last year. So the industry is anything but chicken feed.
So while I would humbly suggest that advertising executives could to a lot worse than to swat up on the basic psychology of buying as well as what turns consumers off, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the very near future we find that TV dramas are rewritten to last only half an hour per episode… with back-to-back episodes being run throughout the evening – complete with Avril Lavigne popping up between each one, of course!