Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I Really Thought About Red Star's Ad

Last week I wrote about a smog-filled advertisement for Red Star's erguotou, a type of Chinese liquor. This week Weijing Zhu wrote about the same marketing campaign and has inspired me to write some more on this topic.

In Zhu's post on The World of Chinese, my earlier post is referenced:
As Brian Glucroft writes in Isidor’s Fugue, one of the ads uses this imagery:
“Two people with bicycles on a narrow road passing by what appears to be a factory emitting copious amounts of pollution and contributing to the smog blanketing a nearby empty field.”
Glucroft tries to link images of pollution and driving people to drink, which he thought was the message. However...
Following "however" are some details and claims which are interesting but which do not rule out the possibility that the image of pollution was used in the hope it would drive people to drink. Whether or not Zhu believed this possibility had been ruled out, Zhu's characterization of what I wrote is not what I intended. Here is what I wrote:
An article on Red Star Wine's website (in Chinese) describes the marketing campaign. No, there is no mention of a strategy to use images of pollution to drive people to drink. Instead, Red Star Wine believes it can connect with younger people by evoking a desire for brotherhood and by tapping into the popularity of nostalgic themes in China through the use of Soviet-style imagery.

First of all, pointing out that an article on Red Star's website made no mention of the pollution-driving-people-to-drink possibility was an attempt at humor. I doubt that Red Star would want to publicize the idea it was deliberately trying to depress people so that they would buy its erguotou. Second of all, even if the humor is missed, what I wrote indicates that I am aware of a particular hypothetical explanation for the ad's design, but it does not indicate whether I ever thought this explanation was the correct one. For example, I might have mentioned the explanation because I thought it would reflect readers' first interpretation of the ad.

Later in Zhu's post, there is mention of an article on CNR which claims Red Star's ads have been successful. But Zhu either did not notice or chose not to mention that the article on CNR is the exact same article* which I referenced on Red Star's website and is found under a section titled "Company News". There is no author listed for the article, and it can be found on a large number of other websites as well. Although it smells like one, I am not positive the article is a Red Star press release. But there's at least good reason to ask if Red Star had a hand in its creation. Needless to say, I think some healthy skepticism of the article's claims of success is warranted.**

And even if the article is a press release, I would not necessarily be convinced its claims reflected Red Star's true vision for the ad. As I've already suggested, there could be reasons why Red Star would not want to be forthcoming about how it expects its marketing to be effective. Regardless, I believe the article's explanation of the ad's design is worth considering. I also see value in considering other possible reasons the ad might be effective, whether or not Red Star intended them.

* except for some sections of the text being bizarrely duplicated in Red Star's version

** Even if Red Star had no connection with the writing of the article, I'd have many questions about the evidence provided. That's another story though.

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