News / Asia

China Launches Ad Campaign to Improve Product Image

The "Made In China, Made with the World" campaign is appearing in the wake of a tainted milk scare and other scandals concerning Chinese products.

A scene from China's new television ad campaign "Made In China, Made with the World"
A scene from China's new television ad campaign "Made In China, Made with the World"

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Elizabeth Lee

The Chinese government and four Chinese industry groups have commissioned a television commercial to help improve the battered image of many of the country's products.  The commercial aims to show the world that Made in China also means quality.  Advertising experts in the U.S. disagree on whether the ad will make a difference.

From toys coated with lead paint, to tainted milk, to contaminated pet food, these mishaps have shaped what it means to be "Made in China." 

Now with a 30-second TV commercial, China is trying to change years of bad press.

Commissioned by China's Commerce Ministry and four major industry groups, this commercial is believed to be the government's first bid at global branding.  An offshoot of an American ad agency made it.  

The TV spot highlights Chinese products made with worldwide partners.  

"I think it's reasonably sophisticated for western audiences. I think it has a modern feel," said Tapio Christiansen, an international media consultant.

He says the commercial is necessary after melamine tainted milk produced in China killed at least six Chinese children and made hundreds of thousands sick.

"I think they did a pretty decent job in trying to potentially dispel some of the perceptions that some in the West have about Chinese goods," he added.

But business professor Johny Johansson sees another message in this commercial.
 
"It's so defensive - meaning don't blame us we're working with these big boys," he noted.  "Made with other people means that if you blame us, you also blame the other people."

In recent years, Chinese companies have bought major brands from American firms including IBM's PC division. In June, General Motors announced it was selling the Hummer to a Chinese company.

Johansson believes Chinese companies are trying to take on too much before they are ready to produce high quality products.

"I don't think, in fact, quality... manufacturing is as good as they believe," he stated.

Johansson compares China to Japan's industrial development in the 1950s.  He says Japanese vehicles were at first poorly made.

"China is trying to leapfrog the development. Japan was patient. Japan took time. Most of the countries take time. You can't really do this so quickly," he added.

But Christiansen says new technology is allowing China to do what other countries could not in the past.

"You have this massive leapfrog in technology," he said.  "The environment today relative to the 1950s in terms of how quickly you can acquire information, how quickly you can create new things, has rapidly changed.  Chinese goods have really moved up in terms of quality and Western companies are trusting their brands to Chinese manufacturers."

Christiansen says, next, China needs to transform itself from a place where products are made to a birthplace of innovation.

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