How is China attempting to balance it’s: escalating middle class; government set–economic benchmarks; consumer growth; and the ideals of the Communist Party?
As China enters an era of unprecedented marketing and product placement in movies and television, the attitudes of its people and consumers will alter. As outlined by Wang on Forbes online (2011, Feb):
Today, China’s middle class is already larger than the entire population of the United States and is expected to reach 800 million in fifteen years. Full Article
Brands are clamoring to market to this middle class through an exploding movie and television industry. Some of China’s attempts to product place have been obvious and intrusive to narrative, similar to the brand hijacking of daytime television in America. One such example is China’s version of Ugly Betty. The adaptation “Ugly Wudi”, is awash in its main sponsors products–Dove. Levins from the AdAge has described it as “one long product placement.” Full Article
Examples of subtle and sophisticated placements such as: Cadillac’s deal to sponsor a film based on the “Birth of the Party”. Yes, a movie about the founding of the Chinese Communist Party — being sponsored by Cadillac to promote its long-wheelbase SLS series. A deeply, contextual placement that feels disjointed, it must, at some level ignite the battle of party ideology versus contemporary aspirational consumerism.
As an observer this is a fascinating mutation or hybrid of Chinese Communism (its story) and western Capitalism. The potential power of sanctioned placement is, obviously, massive. It could seamlessly integrate into the established party line–message delivery mechanism. Just as in the 1920’s, the American vision of achievement was: delivered through tenacity, hard work and inevitable consumption merged with industrial profitability that equaled success (Fromm, 1955).
Obviously, Chinese officials have been concerned about how all this effects control. Aspirational desire fueled by marketing and ingenious product placement is quite a contagious thing. A growing middle class broadens ideas and questions limitations. Though the party line wishes to dismiss this, as unlike the “Jasmine Revolution” protests in Beijing are doomed to fail as people want peace and stability and government policies are popular. Full article
With a growing middle class comes access to education, technological and financial freedom. All these when mixed with an oppressive state can fuel discontent. Tunisia was pushed to breaking point because of oppression, recession and high youth unemployment. This angered a highly educated, motivated and technology savvy society (Tunisian online news, 2010, March).
Keeping China’s economic engine burning is obviously at the forefront of the governments need to maintain this precarious balance. By observing and learning lessons from the west on how distraction is an excellent antidote to questioning is critical. As yet another consumer focused Chinese version of “The Devil Wears Prada” is released, titled “Color Me Love”. The movie focuses the middle classes attention on the product placements of art (star artist Qi Zhilong and Yue Minjun) alongside brands like Apple, Diesel, Cartier, Versace, Hermes and Prada.
It may be this balanced combination of growth, aspiration, product placement, and party message delivery machine that keep the masses appeased.
I’ll take two and make mine red!
9th global information technology report ranks Tunisia 1st in Africa (2010, March 25). Tunisia online news. Retrieved April 4, 2010 from http://www.tunisiaonlinenews.com/9th-global-information-technology-report-ranks-tunisia-1st-in-africa/
Fromm, E. (1955). The Sane Society. New York: Reinhart.