Trojan Condoms Ads on Shanghai's Subways

On Thursday I noticed three kinds of Trojan condom ads in the subway car I was riding*, and I’d never seen Trojan ads on the subway before. Trojan is getting into the market a bit late; the dominant foreign company is Durex.

What interested me was the content of the ads. One of them was a long horizontal ad which read 不只是神话…… (“it’s not just a myth”). Another was a rectangular ad which briefly recounted in both Chinese and English the Trojan War story, focusing on Helen’s role as the motivation for the war. The last was on the subway door, and it was a 9-by-9 grid of the Trojan condom logo in various colors. None of the ads contained anything about condoms or safe sex, with the exception of the inclusion of the Trojan China website: (which only clues you in if you know English).

[I don’t think I misremembered it, but that URL gives me “Bad Request (Invalid Hostname),” and none of my searches (Google, Baidu) turned up a Trojan condoms Chinese website. “Trojan Condoms” is 特洛伊安全套 or 特洛伊避孕套, depending on which word for “condom” you like. Most of my searches did turn up this video on Chinese YouTube clones, which is pretty funny, but NSFW and not for kids.]

I know the Trojan subway ads could be a marketing tactic, but it doesn’t seem at all compelling. I doubt the typical Chinese commuter knows what Trojan makes, or will connect any of the ads with condoms, and they’re not interesting enough to get people asking what they’re for. So… What’s the point? I really wonder if Trojan knows what it’s doing in China.

Trojan condoms went on the Chinese Market in May of this year.

* Sorry, I wasn’t able to snap pictures even though I had my cell phone cam with me, because the car was just too jam-packed.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I’m from Australia, where we don’t have Trojans. I have seen these ads before, but didn’t understand what they were for. I thought they were public education programs, educating Shanghai citizens about ancient European history.

  2. I think Trojan condoms company is not very well in going internationally. They are not known in Spain, for example.

  3. I’ve seen the “It’s not just a myth” ad in Beijing subway cars too (presumably the story of the Trojan War was there too, and I just didn’t notice it). The Chinese word for the brand is really the name of the city, Troy, and would presumably be familiar to many people. Also, the ad features the Trojan logo, so even if people don’t know what the product is, it’s still selling the brand.

    Hey, maybe I could use the logo and name to sell grilled sausages outside Xizhimen subway station, cashing in on the company’s advertising campaign!

  4. hmm, the point… John, have you watched the instant-noodle ad 来一桶 or 开杯乐 before? They both use the same tactic i think, people will stop to consider what the ad wants to express. Don’t you agree it’s better than a stupid woman grasping a bar of soap in a laundry soap ad, or a big family eating ravenously at dining table in a condiment ad? No one will keep their products in mind actually. xD
    and now you become a good case example of Trojan ad, then come all of us finally.

  5. Oh, and i forget to say:
    Great Ukraine!

  6. Yes, the ads are all over the Beijing subway too, and the site is actually, not just .cn

    Interestingly enough, it appears only to have an English version, so I wonder what that says about their target audience (which is even more curious given the subway ads are all in Chinese).

  7. Condoms? I thought those signs were just put up by a bunch of expat USC fans.

  8. I read something recently about how Trojan has such a huge market share in the US (something like 80%) that they’ve switched from advertising themselves to just advertising condom use in general. The theory is that they’ll be lifted by the tide, and as the leader they’re happy with that.

  9. […] Sinosplice just did a post about Trojan condoms in China where he asks, I know the Trojan subway ads could be a marketing […]

  10. i actually overheard a group of shanghainese 20-somethings discussing the ad on the metro the other day; they focused on the “american import” phrase…they had no idea what it was, but figured out the key must have been hidden in the unknown meaning of the word “condom”. One girl was very firm in her guess that it was something edible… Thoroughly amusing. the only reason i didn’t interrupt and tell them what condoms were was b/c i didn’t know how to say condom, sex, or any proper terms in chinese…

  11. Can they be found in Shanghai? Are they the same size as the US version?

  12. kastner,

    Nope, I’m not convinced. It’s a bad campaign.

  13. Jeff,

    Don’t know.

  14. Kathae,

    Thanks for sharing that story! I think if Trojan had done any kind of research before they launched their advertising campaign, they would have found similar results.

    I was thinking about this some more, and since 特洛伊 also means “Troy,” and not long ago there was a Hollywood movie called “Troy” (which is the same story in one of the advertisements), some commuters might connect those two. If they remember that Troy is a place name, they might even think it’s a tourism advertisement (there seem to be a lot of those on the subway, for Singapore, Australia, etc.)!

  15. I’ve always been curious about this particular brand, simply because the historical events it references to don’t leave me assured about it’s use as a condom.

    The trojan horse was used to transport soldiers into a fortress. Once safely in, they sprung out and attacked, right? (I could have totally forgotton the history here, I’m remembering it from Monty Python’s quest for the holy grail) Um, so if someone were to utilize a trojan condom to sneak in their “soldiers” into “enemy territory”, what’s preventing the “soldiers” from jumping out? Sigh… stick with durex.

  16. Chip, that’s so funny.
    You’ve just explained how to kill the Trojan brand in all english speaking countries (most of the Trojan’s market).

  17. Just to correct what I said earlier — the Beijing subway only has the “it’s not just a myth” ad in various colours…no interesting stories or anything like that.

  18. Kathae Says:
    the only reason i didn’t interrupt and tell them what condoms were was b/c i didn’t know how to say condom, sex, or any proper terms in chinese…

    You can always say Tao tao, as we so fondly call it.

  19. i love the pig commercial which is trojan!!! hmmmm…yummmy!

  20. men are pigs?:)

  21. Yep, i recently asked a local friend about it – she knew me it was “tao zhi,” but tao tao is even better 🙂 o, the jokes i could make w. this new vocublary…

  22. I have seen the ad and i can say that its great because it promotes safe sex….

  23. This reminds me of the time I was trying to find the Paramount Hotel in New York City to meet a friend. The Paramount has a reputation for being cool with the “in” artsy-designy crowd. I had the street address, but there was nothing there but a nondescript glass door. And I walked past it back and forth about a dozen times looking for the hotel. Then I figured out that that nondescript door was it, and once you walked through it, you entered this other-world of cool architectural design. The point being that not having an obvious, huge sign and a “normal” hotel lobby entrance made it “cool”.

  24. And yet these ads are too hot for the Shanghai subway! They’re being pulled:

  25. Hey guys I’ve seen these ads also here in Beijing. But I could never find the trojans being sold in Watson’s or Wal-Mart, etc. As a person who has used different brands (and I am oen fo those loyal by heart products guy, specially things like a condom) I really would like to know where to purchase trojan condoms here in Beijing. I tried other brands, the generic Watson’s Brand condom and, I don’t mean to be generic/stereotypical but having that thing on, it made me feel as if I was a black guy in a porno shoot. Needless to say I am really wondering where to purchase Trojans because they have never failed me, where as with the Watson’s as well as the Jissbon brand condoms here in Beijing, I’ve panicked a bit already due to them breaking on me….Everything was fine though.

  26. -_-||| They are really willing to invest, i say.
    see this
    Don’t click!

  27. […] like last year’s Trojan ads, a new but more risqué Durex ad featuring a woman in hot pants and a construction worker that is […]

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