The history of sexy advertising ladies in China

From Daily Telegraph correspondent Richard Spencer's blog:
A tough Old China Hand

...Paul French ... was in Beijing to promote his latest book, Carl Crow: A Tough Old China Hand.

Who to talk about first?

Paul is a Londoner, with many years experience in China, who runs a marketing consultancy and is one of the best-informed people about what really happens in business here there is. He also writes books.

Crow was an American, who lived in Shanghai on and off from 1911 to 1937, ran an advertising agency and was extremely well-connected throughout the city. He also wrote books.

His most famous was "400 million customers", a riveting account of the pratfalls experienced by those who thought that China's population was so huge they could hardly fail to make a profit here. If you think it's familiar, well.... actually, it's partly familiar because the title has been semi-ripped off on more than one occasion in recent times...

...He did, however, work at the forefront of business trends that would also be recognised today. He was one of the handful of ad execs who introduced the "sexy modern ladies" who you will see on all those (copies of) old advertising posters for sale in the Shanghai bric-a-brac shops, wearing qipaos, western hairdos and various brands of cigarettes. It seems to have been Crow's genius to infuriate the then socially conservative political bosses by lifting the slit on the qipao bit by bit each year till it reached the thigh.

The book does not seem to available on Amazon yet, but here is the Hong Kong University Press page about it. The image above is the cover of Carl Crow's Four Hundred Million Customers: The Experiences--Some Happy, Some Sad of an American in China and What They Taught Him, which you can buy on Amazon.

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Comments on The history of sexy advertising ladies in China

At the risk of appearing to be a ruthless self-promoter (which I suppose given this post I am anyway, but never mind) anyone interested in Carl Crow and around in either Hong Kong, Guangdong or Chengdu might be intersted in the following events. I think most of them are free or if you have to pay something you do get wine and nibbles:

Hong Kong: Monday November 20- Carl Crow Lunch at M at the Fringe 1/F South Block, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong- Contact +852-2877 4000 for reservations

Hong Kong: Tuesday November 21 - 7.30pm- Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club - Carl Crow: His Newspapers, His Adverts and the People He Knew2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong- Reserve with FCC reception on +852-2521-1511 or email

Hong Kong: Thursday November 23 - 7.15-9pm- Hong Kong University Library Reading ClubSpecial Collections, 1/F, Main Library, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong- Free admission - register on

Chengdu: Tuesday November 28 - 7.30pm- Chengdu Bookworm- Section 4 Renmin Nanlu, No 28, Chengdu- contact Peter Goff on

Chengdu: Wednesday November 29 - 2.30pm- American Consulate Speakers Corner Event- 4 Ling Shi Guan Road, Chengdu

Guangzhou: Tuesday December 5- British Chamber of Commerce- contact John Jamison on

Shenzhen: Tuesday December 5- British Chamber of Commerce- contact John Jamison on

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