Media and Advertising

JWT: Confused about Confucius

Advertising: in case you hadn't noticed, it's all about hype. Which is why you should treat press releases from advertising agencies with a huge dose of salt. Such as this one that arrived in Danwei's inbox today from global agency JWT, titled:

Understanding and Embracing China's Different Worldview Is Main Theme of Billions: Selling to the New Chinese Consumer by JWT's Tom Doctoroff

The press release contains "Twelve Facts about the Confucian Consumer". Despite the tired old number "billion" and the meaningless adjective "Confucian", the "Twelve Facts" are worth a read (link below). Some of the "facts" ring true, but some of them are really good for a laugh:

1. Chinese people put pineapple, not pepperoni, on pizza. All foods are divided into "heaty" and "cooling" foods, and the two must be balanced at all times. Pizza is heaty, so the pineapple cools it down.

As opposed to Americans, who would never ever think of putting pineapple on a pizza? Aside from the fact Hawaiian pizza is one of the most popular variations of the dish everywhere outside Italy, pineapple is actually considered a "heaty" food in traditional Chinese medicine. (Thanks to Duncan Mak for pointing this out.)

2. In China, "fresh" means "alive." Daoism is still a force in the People's Republic. Daoists believe our natural state is the only "balanced" state. Therefore, Chinese have a deep aversion to manmade preservatives. For that matter, Chinese women get prickly about chemicals in shampoo.

When you visit a Chinese supermarket and see row upon row of preserved meats and vegetables, cheap ham, instant noodles, and 1000-year eggs made with various substances, you can really feel the Daoism.

Chinese people would never go for artificial preservatives. Nor would anyone here even dream of actually using the glow-in-the-dark flourescent yellow shampoo available in every supermarket from Dalian to Dali. Oh no. It's all about nature in the Middle Kingdom.

7. In China, feminine beauty is a tool that moves a woman forward. Cosmetic surgery is all the rage because it helps a young woman land a job, not a man.
There are plenty of power career women in China. But why does one have the sneaking suspicion that Mr Doctoroff doesn't get out quite enough?

Ah well, bullshitting is part of the game in the advertising industry. But your correspondent works in that industry too. And you can't bullshit a bullshitter.

UPDATE: IN the 24 hours since the above was published, the ESWN blog linked to it, while blogs China Herald and Shanghaiist commented and linked:

China Herald: Do we need Confucius to sell aftershave in China?, Confucius as a way to confuse people
Shanghaiist: JWT’s ‘Twelve Facts About the Confucian Consumer’

So perhaps JWT's Tom Doctoroff really does know what he doing as an adman: whatever you think of his book, people who follow English blogs about China now know exactly who he is!

UPDATE 2: The blog coverage crosses the Pacific, where they are less informed and less critical:

Adrants: JWT Defines China's 'Confusion Consumer,' Definitions Questioned
Fast Company: The Confucian Consumer

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