The Creativity Split (China’s No Panda Express, part 2)

Earlier this year my “China’s No Panda Express” presentation brought up a lot of interesting feedback, from whether Asians strike the cutest poses in snapshots to serious debate about why most US companies can’t seem to wrap their heads around the Chinese market. I’ve decided to start a series of posts inviting you to share thoughts about differences between the Western and Asian cultures.

Many people, including me (on occasion), believe that Chinese brands lack creativity in their marketing efforts. Whether it’s because there’s a business culture of plagiarism (that will be a post for another time) or because of the Chinese education system (yes, another topic to explore later), Chinese companies tend to have less innovative campaigns than their global competitors. Take Chrysler’s American “Made in Detroit” commercial for example.

It, along with its companion ads starring the likes of Dr. Dre and John Varvatos, is considered one of the best campaigns of 2011. The two-minute ad featuring Eminem has so far attracted 13.4 million YouTube views and created buzz so passionate that people all around the country still reference it in conversations about Detroit or the automotive industry. But when you look at a few of Chrysler’s commercials in China or Taiwan, none of them resonates as deeply as their Super Bowl ad.

This ad “Pursuit of freedom” features world-renowned Nobel Peace Laureates like Muhammed Yunus and even calls for Aung San Suu Kyi to be freed – “Unconditionally” – yet still doesn’t tug on the heartstrings like Eminem driving through the streets of Detroit in a Chrysler 200.

Chrysler “Pursuit of freedom”

These commercials either focus on the Chrysler brand itself or gently touch on a lifestyle their consumers might like to pursue.

Chrysler Taiwan 2011 commercials


(Pursuit of excellence)

But if you think Chinese-speaking countries (Hong Kong, Taiwan and China) do not have creative talents, you are wrong. Earlier this summer, in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, McCann HK (PaperBattlefield, Nike, JWT Beijing (Game of Death, Nokia, and many other creative agencies in Pan-Asia snapped up more than 50 awards in film, design, press, and media. The creativity split, in my opinion, rises from the subtleties of emotion approach. Consumers rarely see “loud and passionate” brand messages, nor do they express brand affinity that way. If you spend a decent amount of time living in or experiencing the culture of those Chinese-speaking countries, you can understand how creative expression evolves differently in such a dissimilar setting. Imagine living in a society where outward passion is restrained or suppressed, where the expectation of the majority is to work hard without questioning authority or the status quo. You’d end up seeking every possible way to represent the pinnacle of human nature (love and caring) in the least disruptive way. So what kind of messaging would sing to you?

I’d like to share with you one of my favorite commercials of the year. It’s called “Love. Continued.”

Extended splits. Read:

“Where is the creativity in Singapore?’, Apple co-founder Wozniak asks”


* Cannes Lions 2011

* Super Bowl Ad Stories: Chrysler, Eminem Break an Awkward Silence in Detroit

One Response to “The Creativity Split (China’s No Panda Express, part 2)”

  1. Mazy
    2012/02/05 at 11:21 PM #

    This is great! Help redeem ourselves =]. (I’m from Hong Kong) And honestly, there are great advertisements in Asia that I see, more so than the infomercials and insurance shpeel I see here in the States.

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