Advertising and Marketing

Ben Marcom Wednesday: Grannie Wang and the IT industry

There's a Chinese saying 'Grannie Wang boasts about her melons in order to sell them' (王婆买瓜,自卖自夸). In other words, she blows her own trumpet, so you can't really believe her when she says the melons are tasty. So what does Grannie Wang do? Well, she can hire a 'tuor' ( 托儿) and a 'muliao' (幕僚). A tuor is a kind of tout employed to say good things about a company or product to entice customers; muliao is an old Chinese word meaning an advisor to a high official or general.

This dynamic is repeated on daily basis in the much-used and often-abused 'testimonial' style of advertising. Grannie Wang is the company that wants to advertise, the tuor is the person or company that provides an endorsement or testimonial, while the muliao is the advertising agency that sets up the whole deal.

This week, Ben Marcom Wednesday hands out various Grannie Wang awards to testimonial advertisers in the IT industry.


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The Pioneer Award
This goes to the first advertiser that used testimonial advertising in the Chinese IT industry.

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Grannie Wang: IBM
Melon: E-business solutions, laptop computers and other products
Tuor: Ordinary people from different fields and companies
Muliao: Ogilvy & Mather

In early 1998, Ogilvy created three TV commercials and many print ad for IBM to announce the arrival of 'e-society'. These ads featured various people telling success stories about using IBM products. IBM later expanded this testimonial tradition to advertising for other products, such as the pictured ad for ThinkPad.


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The Enthusiast Award
This goes to the most enthusiastic user of testimonial advertising.

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Grannie Wang: HP (Hewlett - Packard)
Melon: All products and services
Tuor: Philips, Fedex, Amazon, BMW-Williams F1 tea, etc. etc.
Muliao: Goodby, Silverstein and Partners

After merging with Compaq, HP launched the largest promotional campaign in its history, starting in March of last year. The theme is "everything is possible". The total global budget for the campaign was 450 million US dollars (according to the 21st Century Business Herald, October 24, 2003). Full-page print ads from this campaign have been published in a newspapers and magazines across China. In the pictured ad, the CIO of Philip semiconductor is telling you how HP provides excellent IT solutions for them.


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The Butt Following Bug Prize
'Gen pi chong' is a Chinese expression that literally means a bug that follows your butt, in other words, a copy cat.

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Grannie Wang: Microsoft
Melon: Windows Server System
Tuor: China Unicom, Siemens...
Muliao: McCann - Erickson

Ah, Microsoft, bravely going where many other companies have gone before. The same communication concept, similar creative execution...


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The Koolaid Award
This prize is for total irrelevancy.

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Grannie Wang: Kingdee
Melon: HR solutions software
Tuor: General Eisenhower
Muliao: Who knows?

Shenzhen-based Kingdee is a CRM and HR solutions software provider. It seems they could not find a trustworthy endorsor, so they had to ask for General Eisenhower's help.

This year is 60th anniversary of D-Day: The idea behind the ad is that although strategy was essential in the Normandy landings, good execution like Kingdee software is also important. Er, yes.

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