I’ll link the ad itself at the end of the post, but first some observations.

The Chinese ad industry, whether it is billboards, commercials, or packaging, is pretty boring.  Literally every ad that’s jumped out at me as “cool” comes from a foreign company.  However, I’m almost positive that the actual design work for these ads (not to mention filming and casting for commercials) happens in China.  So I know for a fact that the Chinese artistic community has the ability to make cool, creative ads.  The real problem is the Chinese companies themselves, who either aren’t concerned or aren’t interested in “cool” marketing.  Why is this?

Part of this may be out of cost considerations.  It’s cheaper to pay someone to pass out a million print flyers than it is to put up a billboard somewhere, and a piece of paper in someone’s hand probably has more impact than a billboard you see for 5 seconds.  Another very distinct possibility is that Chinese people don’t like that kind of advertising.  Keeping it simple and straightforward might be what works best for mainland Chinese, even though Taiwanese and Hong Kongers have different tastes.  In this vein, it may also be income-related.

I think this lack of creativity in advertising is closely linked with a lack of creativity in film and TV programing.  “Why doesn’t China have something like  ‘The Vampire Diaries?'” comments a close friend of mine.  China has enough World War 2 dramas and “life in the palace” epics to last a lifetime, but practically no sci-fi, fantasy, or comedy programs.  This is reinforced by the foreign movies that actually get imported to China, which are almost exclusively blockbuster action flicks without much in the way of plotlines.

Zhang Yimou once commented that the Chinese film industry was crippled by the censors, and that this explains why Bollywood is more popular abroad than Chinese films.  This may well be the case.  The only two truly compelling Chinese short films I’ve seen had a political element to them (1 of the 2 is blocked here).  I think the censorship, whether imposed from the outside or within, trickles down into the advertising industry.  Nobody wants to do anything edgy because you might get axed – better to just stick with what’s safe and approved.

This is truly tragic, and what brings me back to the wedding cake ad.  When I first saw this, I thought it was pretty funny, clever, and cute.  I was thrilled that, while not earth-shatteringly innovative, the Chinese advertising community was doing something modern, fun, and unprecedented.  Imagine my disappointment then when I discovered the commercial is from Taiwan.  Ah well, if you’re a hopeless romantic, you will still like it.  But I will be much more excited when (and if) we start to see these kind of ads from the mainland.

From Youku:

click here

From Youtube: