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

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What The Man Says, Goes

Hmmm. Feeling a little blue lately - probably a little homesick and a little run down. No big deal, because I know just the thing to cheer me up: A visit to my enthusiastic two-dimensional friend Nestle Coffee Poster Guy!


Seemingly overnight, almost all outdoor advertising appears to have disappeared from the neighborhood. This office park is ringed by the fence you see in the picture, and every 20 feet or so is a lightbox like this one. I easily walk past 30-40 of these along one block on my way to work, and now they're all empty.

The Makro Supermarket is bare too. Its 3-story exterior used to feature big billboards advertising some of the products they carry - now the building facade is bare concrete and mounting bolts trailing streamers of rust down the front of the building.

Yesterday I was riding back to the office from the recording studio with the client we were recording, and he filled me in: Apparently some official in the Beijing government decided they didn't like the look of all that advertising - not very OLYMPIC, you know - and ordered all businesses to remove their outdoor advertising. (I notice the bus kiosks still have it - maybe it's a city contract.)

So there you have it. Apparently these kinds of decisions can come down with no notice. Not that I'm in tune with the local news, but I never heard anything about it until it was done, and I work in an advertising agency. The client was a little annoyed, but nothing more: "Watch. In two weeks it'll all be back."

The funny thing is, I think this decision has made the area look WORSE. The Makro certainly looks worse for the wear, and all these empty advertising spots make it look more like a boarded-up ghost town than an ad-free paradise.


I was about to leave the office tonight when I was literally blocked by a coworker - the same one I lied to about my birthday - and apparently he was in the mood to talk. His English is fair - certainly light years beyond my Chinese - but not always clear, and he has a habit of inserting the word 'maybe' at the beginning and end of sentences, and maybe a few places in between for good measure, so I always feel like he's asking me a question.

Anyway, we had a nice long conversation about (I think) my beard, the nature of art vs. advertising, the price of drinks in Hawaii, the difficulty of the work I'm doing right now, the World Beard Championships, things I should import from China, an idea that I should give away my beard as a gift to coworkers, and assorted other topics, some related to my beard.

Then he mentioned that he had seen me talking with the other American in the office yesterday. This other American (who also has a beard) is roughly my same height and has the same hair color (although I think I have about 20-30 pounds on him. BOO-yah!) So my coworker tells me "I see you over the cube wall, maybe, and I see two heads with yellow hair, and I think maybe this means you are pure white."

I'm not sure if this was a question, but I was sorely tempted to tell him, "Yes, we are. You should see us dance." But then I decided that would probably require far more explanation than the joke was worth.