When you die - and you will, you know - whatever triumphs you may
have savoured or sloughs of despond you may have overcome, you can
depend on one thing: your death is unlikely to cause a nationwide
blackout of sanpro ads.
But then you are not Deng Xiaoping. Since the death of China’s elder
statesman was announced on 20 February, the Chinese ad business, which
ironically the arch moderniser helped to get started, has ground to a
Almost all TV commercials have vanished from the screens, particularly
those for product areas deemed most unsuitable. This is a bigger list
than might be supposed. It includes alcoholic and soft drinks, washing
detergents, cosmetics and sanpro. Only a handful of ads in a suitably
restrained style have been allowed in between extended news bulletins
and lavish tributes to the former leader.
Nor has this process been restricted to television - newspapers have cut
down on their ad sites to accommodate more articles in memory of Deng,
and the cinema has stopped screening foreign films.
’I think what something like this brings home is just how sensitive to
the depth of these cultural issues advertisers have to be,’ Paul
Woolmington, the Ammirati Puris Lintas worldwide media director,
explains. ’Because in China there are no regulatory bodies for
advertisers, there is just the Government. This market is growing fast
and will continue to grow fast, but advertisers have to be aware of all
The situation in China is starting to ease following the memorial held
for Deng in Beijing on 25 February, but it will be weeks before the ad
business returns to anything like normal - especially on the centrally
administered China Central Television.
Copywriters should avoid writing an ad with anything that could be
construed as an upbeat ending.