Ever since the May holiday, Shanghai’s Zhongshan Park has been housing a big The Mummy Returns promotional activity. It’s like a mini Egypt-themed fair. The main entrance of the park is all Egypted out, and a huge-screen (but low-res) TV has been installed which shows nonstop The Mummy Returns clips, interspersed with advertisements for the mummy fair going on inside the park. Each ticket costs a ridiculous 80 rmb per person.
After you pay, you head into the park and find the mummy section. If you’re unlucky there’s a line. (There were really long lines all throughout the first week of May, but there rarely are now.) You’re herded into the mummy’s temple, a sort of Egypt-themed haunted house. The haunted house was actually quite well done. The best part was all the workers inside dressed up like statues (they really did look like statues). They would remain motionless for a while, and then suddenly come to life, totally freaking people out. Good stuff.
When you come out you’re in the familiar carnival setting. You are surrounded by booths selling everything from National Geographic videos to The Coffee Bean Tea Leaf refreshments. There are lots of impossible games you can play, paying with expensive tokens for a chance at impossible odds to win a virtually worthless “prize.” The familiar favorites were there: shooting (ridiculously small) hoops, fishing, ring around the bottle, etc. The one game with decent chances was a dart game. You just had to pop balloons with darts to win your crappy prize.
If you’re there at the right time, you may also get to see a live show. Yes, it’s Shanghai’s version of the Egyptian craptacular! When I was there the performances alternated between dances which tried to stay on theme, using Middle Eastern music and costumes, and dances which seemed to appeal to teenagers, using flashy clown colors and pop music. Guess which are which!
All this is somewhat odd, of course, but the big question in my mind is: WHY?The Mummy Returns was released in 2001! Why go to all this work to promote a movie that’s already four years old? (I think the event has increased sales of pirated copies, though.) Is it a coincidence that Shanghai started whoring out Zhongshan Park to carnivals the same year that it stopped charging park admission for a lot of its parks?
P.S. Did anyone think it strange that there were Egyptian designs behind the video Coke machine I wrote about? Didn’t think so. Well, it was at this Mummy Returns carnival.
Is this common back in the States now, or is this marketing trick being tested here in Asia? You can’t tell from this shot, but that screen at the top right is displaying nonstop Coca-Cola advertising.
The people at Coca-Cola are pretty much universally regarded as marketing geniuses. What, then, were they thinking when they thought this up? Apparently it’s supposed to work something like this:
You’re walking by a Coke machine. You don’t feel like a Coke. But then you notice something new: a video screen on the Coke machine! You are lured in by the familiar glow, then entranced by the saccharine smiles of the pretty people on the screen all going gaga over Coca-Cola. Suddenly you’re thirsty…
Yeah… somehow I don’t buy it. It is sort of a novelty the first time you see it, but after that, you ignore it as usual. I’ve never seen anyone watching the screens. Seems like an awfully big investment, considering I am seeing these things all over Shanghai now.
I bought this book a while back solely because of its title: 老外也会喜欢你 (“Foreigners Will Like You Too”). The author was a twenty-something Chinese woman and, judging from the book’s cover (oops), the intended audience was Chinese women. It seemed likely that the laowai referred to in the title were male ones. Like me. This was going to be entertaining, I thought.
I was very wrong. Every time I tried to read the book, it failed completely to hold my interest. I demoted it to “bathroom book” status, figuring I’ll read anything on an extended visit to the commode. But even as a bathroom book, and even read in the “open to a random page” fashion, the book was utterly uninteresting. I was intensely disappointed. Of the few sections I did read, I remember virtually nothing. I vaguely recall a few ridiculous generalizations.
Please keep in mind that this is not a book review, because I didn’t read the book. I did, however, look at the pictures. Thoroughly. They were pretty.
In keeping with an incomplete treatment of the book, I will loosely translate the table of contents:
1. Where there’s a will, there’s a way
2. Where are the laowai?
3. No barriers to communication
4. Using charm in communication
5. Etiquette when getting to know each other
6. Communication’s visual etiquette
7. Dealing with a foreign boss
8. Foreigners’ taboos and customs
9. A beautiful mood
10. Foreigners have something to say
11. My view of foreigners
OK, now for the pictures. As I said, I found them the most interesting part of the book. I like the style. The question, however, is: what do these illustrations communicate to the reader? (more…)
For about half a year now, I’ve been using software called Skype to communicate by voice with friends back home. In the past month or two I’ve even gotten my family into it, and we’ve enjoyed an excellent connection (at least as good as long distance phone calls) many times. The really great part, of course, is that it’s completely free. The network connection uses similar technology to Kazaa, the popular file-sharing (P2P) software.
Jump back to several months ago. Major Chinese entertainment portal Tom.com partnered up with Skype. Advertisements for Skype appeared throughout the Shanghai subway system and around town. Tom.com was apparently putting a lot of money into promoting Skype, which, I should remind you, is free software.
Now here’s the interesting part. For about the past 2-3 weeks, I have noticed that I can no longer access Skype.com in Shanghai without a proxy. (Skype.com is accessible in Beijing and Hangzhou, however.) Due to some issues with my Skype installation (which I later discovered was a driver conflict), I wanted to reinstall with the newer version of Skype. Since I couldn’t access the Skype website, my only easy option was to get Skype from Tom.com.
Predictably, it had Tom.com advertising built in, but I was able to install English-mode Skype; I wasn’t forced to use Chinese. Fortunately there seems to be none of the spyware or malware that plagues Chinese software.
Screen capture of Tom.com’s version of Skype
I find it strange that Skype.com should become inaccessible in Shanghai after making a deal with Tom.com. I would think that Tom.com would have the guanxi to protect its partner fromthe chill shadow of the Great Firewall. On the other hand, since the Tom.com Skype page still works just fine, maybe Tom.com is using its guanxi to force Chinese surfers to use its version of the Skype software in order to drive more traffic to Tom.com?
This is all just crazy speculation, though. It’s likely just another case of Shanghai’s fickle internet connection, especially since Tom.com seems to be Beijing-based. I should note, however, that last week when the internet connection in Shanghai was faster than it had been in a long time and even sometimes-blocked sites were loading too, Skype still did not work.
Skype could be a great tool for global communication, and it’s great that many Chinese users are now getting into it. I hope that China doesn’t screw this good thing up.
Update:Isaac Mao was all over this when it first went down. The issue that neither Isaac nor Fons Tuinstra, in his comments, address is why Skype is accessible in other parts of China, but not Shanghai.
eBay currently has an ad playing on the flatscreen displays of the Shanghai subway system. It shows a series of short Chinese phrases, each followed by a brief illustrative video clip. The phrases are:
– 拍球 (dribbling a basketball)
– 拍瓜 (smashing a cucumber — a typical way to make some cucumber dishes)
– 拍脸 (daubing shaving cream onto a man’s face)
– 拍粉 (powdering a girl’s face)
– 拍被子 (beating the dust out of a quilt)
These images are followed by the phrase “不管你怎么拍… eBay” (“no matter how you 拍… eBay”). I think that’s most of the commercial. I might have missed a little of it, though.
I’m pretty sure the word 拍卖 is never uttered in the commercial. 拍卖 is the obvious 拍 reference — 拍卖 means “auction.” eBay is referring to its various ways to auction items, I suppose.
I find the choice of 拍 objects pretty interesting because none of them are the most common examples. The really common ones would be 拍照 (take a photo) and 拍手 (clap). Of the usages chosen for the commercial, I think I’ve only ever encountered the first: 拍球 (not to be confused with 排球). I think I usually hear 打 used most commonly for the last one.
I also thought it was cool that I could gain a better understanding of the scope of the verb 拍 just by watching a commercial. For me, that sort of understanding is usually gained by discussion with a teacher or tutor.
Why is eBay China advertising on Shanghai’s subways? Well, because it’s engaged in full-on war with Alibaba‘s online auction service Taobao, of course. More info:
Recently I was cleaning up the China Blog List. Some of its image links had gone dead. I had to replace the Living in China image as well as the Chinese Forums image. At first Roddy couldn’t find the proper size, so I made him a new one:
He returned the favor:
I think I like the one he made better.
P.S. If anyone else wants to e-mail me one, I’ll post it if I like it.
Ever since he wrote to me, I’ve been in communication with Mark Rowswell (AKA Dashan) via e-mail. Well, this past weekend he came to Shanghai to shoot a few commercials, so we got together for a chat.
As a public figure, he really has to watch his image, and there’s a lot he doesn’t talk about publicly. It was really interesting, then, to meet Mark and hear some of his opinions. We talked about a range of topics, including English education in China, the meaning of the recent loss of the Stanley Cup to Canada (go Tampa Bay! — I guess), what it was like to be a student in Beijing in 1989, and running a website (he manages his site and all its content all on his own).
I spoke with him on the set of his commercial in between shots. I have to say that observing the shooting of a commercial is both interesting and very boring. Once is enough. I’d hate to have to do it to pay the bills.
After the commercial he treated my girlfriend and me to dinner. I never would have guessed where he wanted to eat — Malone’s! It’s quite the expat hangout, and although it’s not the cheapest, the burgers are really good.
I was also curious if he was going to be recognized as we walked the streets of Shanghai. He wasn’t, for the most part, although I did hear some of the staff whispering as we went into Malone’s, “isn’t that Dashan??”
Anyway, it was good to meet someone so high profile and yet so poorly understood as Mark. We also discussed some small projects we may be collaborating on in the future. Stay tuned.
I saw Cheerios in the grocery store the other day. Not at Carrefour, which has all kinds of imported foods that those foreigners who live in remoter parts of China can only fantasize about. I mean the regular Chinese grocery store.
Its Chinese name is “Guduoduo Cuigule,” which kind of mystifies me. Yes, 谷 can mean “grain,” but why such an unnecessarily long name? I would think that Cuigule (“crisp grain happiness”) alone would be enough. (Any Chinese people want to explain that, please?)
Anyway, the price was only 10rmb ($1.25 US). When I’d seen breakfast cereals before, they had always been around 30 rmb, which is kind of expensive for what it is, in China. So I bought it. Chinese pop star Wang Lihong‘s (I refuse to call him “Leehom”!) smug face was on the box reassuring me that I had made a wise purchase.
Well, the morning I tore into the box I immediately noticed that something was seriously wrong. There were 5 small cereal packets inside. Each cereal packet contained a measly 30g of Cheerios! (To give you an idea, a smallish 11 oz. box from back home has over 300 g of Cheerios in it.) I had to eat two packs just to feel like I had even eaten anything.
(There is only one pack of Cheerios in the bowl in the photo.)
Sitting there munching my ripoff Cheerios, I fixated on Wang Lihong. What a pretty boy. I don’t think he used to be this bad. I didn’t find any images of it online, but in his promo photos for the Chinese McDonalds “I’m lovin’ it” campaign, he looks so cosmetized it’s scary. I think this pic gives you an idea of how lame he is.
The worst part about it is that Wang Lihong is an ABC. He grew up in the States. I can only conclude that (1) he has completely sold out, rejecting any American identity imprint he might have once had, or (2) he is just a shameless money grubbing pretty boy.
Either way, he has my contempt. I wouldn’t have blogged about it until he conspired with Cheerios to rip me off, though.
See if you can guess what the deal is with this pic. Or, just be lazy and see below.
We ran into this guy in the Holiday Inn lobby. He was being interviewed, and he let me take his picture. This is how he advertises. Chuck has the (very short) story in his blog. This particular ad is for a soccer pool.