First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Chinese Advertising Review: Nestle Coffee Posters -- plus, Banana Baby Steps

Today, as an advertising 'expert,' I'm going to take an in-depth look at the world of Chinese marketing. I'm going to start with the kilometer-long stretch of Nestle posters that line my walk to and from work each day, partly because I'm lazy, and partly because one of them has become a daily touchpoint for me.

So you understand, Nestle is EVERYWHERE in China. My apartment has a 5 gallon Nestle water dispenser. I drink Nescafe from a machine at work (Secret recipe: First, a cup of what comes out when I press the Latte button, then I sip it to make room, then a shot of what comes out when I press the Espresso button), and they have some wafer-cookie-chocolate thing with a shark on the package that I quite enjoy.

I also happen to live next to Nestle's headquarters in Beijing, and not surprisingly they have backlit posters along the entire front of their property.

Each day, for some reason, my eye was drawn to this guy:

I like him. I like what I presume to be his sunny, optimistic, can-do attitude and his improbably perfect hair. I might be having a rough day because I don't speak the language, I hold no currency, I am a foreign man, I am surrounded by the sounds, the sounds of Hyundai taxis and bicycle bells, and here this guy is, and he says "You hang in there, champ! Life is a jewel, just sitting there waiting for you to SEIZE it! Yeah! Want some coffee?" And somehow everything is better. He's who I would like to be if I were younger and more Chinese.

Now, contrast his earnest, almost violent optimism with this ad just down the road:

Now, she's just trying too hard. I don't buy the whole "I am so cute! Tee hee! Buy my coffee!" act. No ma'am, it's a fine product, but your siren's song has fallen on deaf, stupid American ears! Fie on you, Jezebel! Fie!

And that there is pretty much all you need to know about advertising in China.


A coworker from Hong Kong took me to lunch today and showed me some more shopping nearby. We went to a Japanese buffet with some blessedly safe-looking food. As we went down the line, we got to the fish, and my coworker pointed out some small, whole fish, maybe 4 inches long. "These are very good. Just small bones. You can eat them whole."

"Really?" I said brightly, and helped myself to some salmon and Soba noodles.

One nice thing about this place was it had plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. I've been craving them given my difficulties buying them and the fact that they don't do as much frozen vegetables as we do at home, so I served myself some broccoli, corn, some kind of green, melon and peaches. They also had small bowls of premade salad, so I grabbed one of those.

It seemed pretty ordinary, but was good to have something leafy. It was lettuce and what seemed to be shredded cabbage with a dressing that resembled Thousand Island. I was digging in and found something strange... could it be...? Yes! Banana slices!

No idea what they were doing there, but I take it as a good omen. In the next few days, I'm going in for bananas of my own!