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

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Chinternet

OK, I heard from a couple of you wondering what the century eggs tasted like, so today I'll tell a story that at least incorporates that information.

I met today with Jason C., the managing director for the Asia-Pacific region for my company's Web development division, and the creative director of the division's Beijing office. (While in Beijing, I'm working for the traditional ad agency - TV, print etc. - but I am interested in the Web as rule, and was glad to make a connection with a counterpart.)

It was a social call, and a chance to talk a little, but we did talk a little business while he ate a late lunch. I asked how much of their Web work was banner/rich media advertising.

He was somewhat dismissive and said it really doesn't work in China.

Sensing my surprise, he explained that it wasn't a shortcoming of the medium or the creative. Rather, it's a matter of how the Web is used in China.

"Imagine your favorite portal site," he said. "I bet it's pretty customizable, pretty efficient, pretty clean. Now let's look at a Chinese portal site:"

(To all my user experience friends: NOW my concepts don't look so busy, eh?)

He's right. Unless we find a way to actually set the user on fire, there is NO WAY to get anyone's attention with a Web ad.

Anyway, the conversation then turned to food. I mentioned that I had eaten century eggs, and he asked what I thought of them with a smirk.

"Not nearly as bad as they looked to me," I said. "The yolk part tasted kind of like egg yolk, and the rest of it was just kind of indistinct." I could have added that it was maybe a little sour, a little cheesy, but not real strong.

He raised his eyebrows for a moment, then returned his attention to his salad and salmon ravioli in tomato-cream sauce.

"Ooookay," he said.

Maybe I got a bum one.