By Mike Bastin.

Guangzhou-based network Guangdong TV has succeeded with an incredibly audacious guerilla marketing ploy after using models in bikinis as weather reporters for its coverage of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship recently. Competition among China’s provincial TV network stations and China Central TV (CCTV) is fierce; however it is usually CCTV which tops the ratings with its vastly superior, powerful market position across China.

Such is the media frenzy surrounding this extremely risqué strategy that photos of the girls immediately went viral on China’s popular micro-blogs.

In stark contrast, state-owned rival network CCTV invited revered classical pianist Li Yundi to perform Chopin for its Euro 2012 coverage. Not a bad ‘fit’ given Chopin’s Polish nationality.

But do Guangdong TV’s decision and its immediate publicity suggest that China and the Chinese public are moving towards a more open, relaxed attitude towards sex and sexual imagery, or should it be seen as the continuation of a sexist, male-dominated society where women are portrayed and perceived as mere sex objects to gratify the desires of men?

I suspect that the answer to the above, along with many issues relating to social and cultural change inChina, is BOTH! My consumer research over many years in China supports this view, time and time again. Chinese consumers, especially those born after 1980, are changing but not simply becoming more Western. Instead, a rather complex picture is emerging with an increase in Western values but no resultant decrease in traditional Chinese values.

It is inevitable that societal values will change across all sectors of Chinese society as economic progress continues. But in the case of China such change appears to be revealing a uniquely new societal culture with some Western influence but also traditional Chinese cultural values. For example, some members of the Chinese public have complained about these ’weather girls’, claiming that they appear slightly overweight. This fits comfortably with the traditional Chinese male attitude towards women, ie physical appearance, looks and age are just about all that matters. Apparently, all the girls used (there are reportedly a total of 10) are between the ages of 18 and 30 and at least 162 centimetres tall.

However, complaints have also referred to the ‘weather girls’ lack of meteorological knowledge and poor presentation qualities, certainly a more modern perspective.

But in an increasingly competitive Chinese business environment where the ‘market economy model’ is even spreading to the Chinese media industry, it is consumption and the financial implications that really matter. Guangdong TV’s management can congratulate itself on a very successful guerilla marketing exercise. Lacking the funds and resources of their far bigger and more powerful rival, CCTV, Guangdong TV have shown that there is now rarely such thing as monopoly power and that with creativity and a little daring, smaller competitors can overcome the dominant industry player.

In order to succeed in today’s unpredictable and ever-changing Chinese, and indeed global, business environment more Chinese companies may learn from the initiative and ingenuity shown by Guangdong TV. For Chinese companies, big and small, the sky is the limit.

Mike Bastin is PhD student at School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.

Comments

  1. Sex sells, nevertheless this is rather Naughty of them.

    I doubt that this is the start of a type of third-wave feminism in China but it is certainly something different from the conservative norm in China. A defining move to show the rest of China that the Pearl River Delta is more open and liberal? Only time will tell.

  2. Got to say I’m a big fan of guerrilla marketing. Marketing used to be about catching peoples attention, and theres that much of it these days marketers need to think of something to stand out from the crowd. Sadly I think the fact that a large number of companies who do marketing half heartedly in-house doesn’t always help! Not sure if this is the right type of standing out either.

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