‘Western media portrays Chinese as barbarians’


Campbell: ‘China is the most brand literate place on earth’

The Western media only covers negative stories that make Chinese people seem like “barbarians”, one of Asia’s most influential strategists told delegates at a conference in Sydney yesterday.

In a talk titled ‘You don’t have to be a sadomasochist to work in China but it helps’, Rob Campbell, Shanghai-based head of planning at Wieden + Kennedy, said opportunities for agencies and brands were being lost as a result of ignorance.

“China knows more about the West, than the West knows about China,” he told delegates at the Mumbrella 360 conference. “There are huge opportunities, but you have to understand the context and respect the culture.”

“Too few people give China the time or have the patience to appreciate its value,” he said.

He also said Australia is a “racist, inherently nervous country” that failed to understand Chinese culture and values.

Simon Baker in ANZ commercial

Simon Baker in regional ANZ commercial

Campbell criticised Australian bank ANZ for its “arrogant” approach to advertising in China and elsewhere in Asia, using as an example an ad from the ‘We live in your world’ campaign – created by Whybin\TBWA\Melbourne – that features a banker at a bus stop.

“A banker standing next to you at a bus stop would never happen in China. Chinese people would expect him to be driving a Rolls Royce. To assume that just because something happens in Australia, it must happen in the rest of the world is as arrogant as it is ignorant,” he said.

“You can’t read books to understand China’s culture. You need to get off your ass and go there,” said Campbell, who moved to China three years ago to take his current role at W+K.

“It’s an amazing country where people love their country.”

“The West is no longer best in China.”

“And it is the most brand literate place on earth, because everything in China is about conspicuous consumption,” he said.

Campbell also defended China’s reputation for copying Western brands. “Though that may be true, the Chinese are incredible cumulative learners, and they’re the quickest developers.”


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