Contemporary Advertising

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As a result of economic reforms and economic growth, the quality of life in China has improved steadily for many, especially in the cities.  In the early 90s Deng Xiaoping reaffirmed his support for market reforms when he declared that it did not matter whether policies were capitalist or socialist as long as they made China prosperous.  Many Chinese responded enthusiastically to Deng’s call to make money by plunging into private enterprise.  The new entrepreneurs included both well-connected Party officials and young people who migrated into the cities in search for new opportunities. 

One result is that disparities in wealth have increased enormously--especially between remote areas of the countryside and the major cities on the coast.   Another result has been the creation of a generation gap between those who grew up in austere times and the younger generation with access to new wealth, new consumer products, and changing fashions.


Even state run buses often have advertisements painted on them.

Bus with painted advertisement for alcohol, Xian 2001                                      source

Magazine kiosk in Beijing, 2000                    source

Magazines on display, 2001                              source

As a result of Deng’s Open Door policy China also had much greater contact with foreign countries in the 80s and 90s.  The growing number of televisions in Chinese homes brought knowledge of what was happening in the outside world.  Such knowledge was enhanced by travel abroad and by encounters with foreigners who came to China for business, travel, and study. More and more the Chinese began to participate in global trends.




Look at the magazine covers on the left.  What kinds of things are being endorsed?  How do these compare with magazines of the 1930s?


Compare the two Pond's ads below.


What are some similarities and differences? 

Pond's cream ads, 1925 and 1991                                                         source


What is being advertised in the product on the left?  What do you think is the woman’s occupation?      





1994 magazine ad                          source

Billboards are an ubiquitous sight in China and are used to advertise a variety of products. 


What do you notice about the text on the billboards below?


Billboards in Beijing, 2000                                                                                           source

Does the use of images of women in the billboards below reflect western influence?  Would similar ads appear in the US today?

Billboards in Shanghai, 2001                                                                                      source

Billboard claiming that its product "brings about change as soon as it is put on" and evoking "a beautiful body and an improved shape"                                                                              source