Media and Advertising

World of Warcraft, S.H.E., and Coke

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Having defeated the lecherous orc, S.H.E. finds a thirst-quenching treasure cache.

World of Warcraft has arrived on the Chinese mainland, and Blizzard, the producer, has joined hands with the Coca-Cola Company in a new "iCoke" ad campaign. The latest ad spot features CGI avatars of S.H.E.'s Ella, Selena, and Hebe vanquishing a fearsome monster that wants them to sell out.

The S.H.E. ad is aparently meant to be inspirational, fitting with Coke's slogan, "For satisfaction, look to yourself." The group faces an unscrupulous music executive who wants them to dress more revealingly in order to sell more records. They refuse, and when the exec reacts angrily, the girls take a sip of Coke, which launches them into the World of Warcraft universe. They proceed to teach the guy a lesson while wearing the chaste costumes female video game characters are well-known for.

Fantasy battles are quite common on the Chinese front of the Cola Wars. Pepsi's campaign last year featured their entire line-up of young stars slinging magic missiles around in an immense amphitheater. The most recent Pepsi spot, which introduces new recruit Nicholas Tse (see Danwei's previous post on the subject), is a frenzy of icy CGI wings and projectiles. Coke's ads are red where Pepsi's are blue, but there's not much else to distinguish between the two.

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Creative independence at Chinese gaming magazines.

World of Warcraft promotions are saturating the media. The June covers of two separate gaming magazines (eGamer and Play!; image at left) are so similar, with identical screenshots and similarly placed logos, that one wonders if they came ready-made from Coke and Blizzard. WOW has a full-color ad inside the back cover of the newly launched fantasy magazine The Fantasy World of Novoland. The magazine itself features a directory of races available in the game, although the only piece of gaming-inspired fiction is based on Diablo.

Not everyone is please with the way the girls destroy the ugly monster, however. Hardcore WOW gamers object to the blatant racial discrimination shown in the ad: the elves, played by S.H.E., are good, while the orc is an evil monster. But this presents a warped understanding of the way the game works; no race is fundamentally evil.

WOW is a world of equality. Any discrimination or prejudice harms the game. I ask the Coca-Cola company to examine its actions so as to avoid doing anything that will upset the gamers.
The writer's burning desire for justice is colored by the taunting he and other orc-players receive for getting beaten up by pop stars.

For reference, here's the script for the S.H.E.-WOW Coke ad:

(on a street)
Selena: Oh, where's Hebe?
Ella: She's always late. (Hebe rides up on her boyfriend's motorcycle) Hurry up. We're late.
(in the meeting room)
Music Exec: The more outrageous you are, the hotter things sell. Get it?
Ella: No.
Music Exec: What do you mean, no? (turns into an orc)
S.H.E.: No means no! (turn into CGI elves)
(after an epic battle)
Voice-over: For satisfaction, look to yourself. Coca-Cola.

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