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David Beckham appearing on a Chinese Variety Show in 2008

Japan, Korea and other countries in Asia have been using foreign celebrities to promote their products for a number of years. Yet, a recent press release from the Associated Press stated that foreign celebrity endorsement will now become an integral part of Chinese brand strategies as they try to establish themselves in their domestic and international markets.

This turn of strategy is likely to have come about as Chinese consumers now find themselves bombarded with, much like their Western counterparts, advertising everyday. It is quite incredible considering that 20 years ago the Chinese advertising industry barely existed.

The country is developing rapidly in certain regions and this has been reflected in the nation’s advertising spend on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines which grew 14 percent last year to 597 billion RMB (around £5.4billion) – a truly colossal sum.

China loves Kobe Bryant!

On my first visit to China I spent much of my time in Anhui Province (central China) and it was not until after a few months later that I visited Shanghai. I found the difference between Chinese people outside Shanghai and those living within the city was quite striking. The citizens of Shanghai are like ‘Westerners’; the way they walk, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, and the technology they use is so different to the majority of Chinese people living elsewhere.

A recent survey of 15,000 Chinese consumers by McKinsey & Co. found that Chinese consumers are now “extremely brand conscious.” They demand the same things that any other consumer living in a developed country would.

Kobe Bryant - Big in CHINA

These demands have arisen quickly, but advertising in China is still catching up – many people forget that China is still a developing country. In the US and UK brands have to be extremely innovative now to break through the advertising smog, but in China advertising is still relatively new and celebrity (particularly foreign) endorsement strategies currently have much greater effectiveness than they would in the western hemisphere.

To that end here are some examples of celebrity endorsements in China to date:

David Beckham – Motorola Razr V8 (2007)
David Beckham - Chinese TV Show 1

David Beckham - Chinese TV Show promotion 2

Kevin Garnett – Anta Sports
Kevin Garnett - Anta Sports 2010 (1)

Kevin Garnett - Anta Sports 2010 (2)

Orlando Bloom – Me & City (2010)
Orlando Bloom - Me & City (2010)

Wentworth Miller – Me & City (2009)
Wentworth Miller - Me & City (2009) ad

Wentworth Miller - Me & City (2009) promo

Lionel Messi – Cherry Automobiles (2010)
Lionel Messi - Cherry Automobiles 1

Lionel Messi - Cherry Automobiles 2

Thierry Henry and Kaka – Pepsi (2009)
Thierry Henry  - Pepsi China (2009)

Kaka - Pepsi China (2009)

Cristiano Ronaldo – Clear Shampoo (2009)
Cristiano Ronaldo - Clear Shampoo (2009)

This week it was announced that China’s State Council Information Office have hired Lowe & Partners advertising agency – Shanghai Branch – to produce a 30 second advert that will boost the nation’s image abroard.

Forbes Most Powerful Chinese Celebrity List (2009)
The ad (in production below) will feature 50 famous Chinese citizens from all walks of life. This includes:

  • Yáo Míng (姚明) — the tallest basketball player in the NBA, playing for the Houston Rockets and stands at 7ft 6in tall.
  • Láng Lǎng (郎朗) — a fabulous pianist of Hong Kong citizenship but was recently named an official worldwide ambassador for the Shanghai Expo.
  • Yáng Lìwěi (杨利伟) — the first man to be sent into space as part of a Chinese mission.
  • Guō Jīngjīng (郭晶晶) — an athlete who has the world record for winning the most Olympic gold medals in diving.
  • and finally Dīng Lěi (丁磊) — CEO of NetEase (a chinese internet company) and one of the wealthiest men in China. A surprising choice as he quite clearly represents the success of capitalism.

China’s leaders will also make a brief appearance. As well as the ad, a 15-minute film to be shown at a number of international events, is also in production.

China National Promo Ad - Production Photo

Why are they making this ad now?
According to a BBC survey, that was carried out in 28 foreign countries including the UK, many foreigners or Lǎowài (as the Chinese love to say) have negative views of China – the majority stem from Beijing’s handling of Tibet. To that end Chinese leaders want to show the world that China is now developing into a “prosperous, democratic and progressive nation”.

The ad will first broadcast on October 1st, 2010 – 国庆节 (guóqìng jié) which in English is the National Day of the People’s Republic of China.

Further developments about the campaign and the ad itself will be posted on this blog as soon as the information becomes available.

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