Wednesday, December 08, 2004
China Too Irate at Nike Ad? Depends on Whether you're Chinese or not.
There's nothing new about symbology in advertising. Ancient relics and architecture as well as modern monuments and art of Europe, such as the Roman Coluseum, the Eiffel tower and the Mona Lisa are often used in advertising, as are Egyptian wall paintings, etc., sometimes even as punch lines. Everybody seems to understand that recognizable objects are semaphores for the ideas they represent and that in advertising, you get a bit of the stretch factor. When Chinese icons are used, however, it's a different horse. The Chinese are so serious about their culture; their symbols are woven into how they think of themselves.
It could be argued that the Chinese take themselves too seriously, but the fact is this is how they feel and they have no compunction about defending it. It is their long-standing privilege, as the oldest extant civilization on the planet, to do so. However, as they become a major player in the globalized market, this mentality might well be at cross purposes for peaceful coexistence in the commercial world.
The Japanese want to sell a lot of Toyotas in China, so they concede here, knowing full well, as any even neophyte Asia-watcher does, that this was more about lingering resentment over the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930's. What will Nike do?
Ohio News Network ran a story on this incident, citing Nike's "edgy" ad's appeal to teens, their target market, which was picked up by AP. Read it here. And yes, they did pull the ad, with apologies.
While Nike quickly backtracked, issuing an apology for the ads from its headquarters here in Oregon, the manufacturer has a long history of edgy sales messages - a strategy that has helped endear Nike to youth by positioning the company as a corporate rebel.
Well put, I'd say. From my two years experience teaching Chinese university students, that's a fair appraisal.
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.
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