Friday, June 24, 2005

Clash of Culture?

I am not sure who had advised McDonald the burger chain store on how to advertise its ware in China, but its recent TV advertisement has backfired.

It showed a Chinese middle-aged bloke (not a kid) on his knees begging for a discount.

The McDonald people claimed it was meant as a humorous message that the company has a line of discounts throughout the year. It has apologised for the wrong impression that it obviously carried – a humiliating picture of a hard-up Chinese begging for the discount, nothing more than small change. How terrible! How insulting!

The AP released news as published by the Sydney Morning Herald stated that “McDonald's is the latest of several multinational firms whose advertising has run afoul of sometimes prickly Chinese national pride.”

To attribute the adverse reaction to prickly Chinese national pride or cultural clash is of course standard western prejudiced bullsh*t, as I haven’t seen any such McDonald's TV ad scenes in Australia or in a couple of other western countries. Why posit such a humiliating image with a Chinese, and in China? Why the double standards?

In Australia, some years ago a well-known company advertised its frozen prepared food in a scenario that showed a bachelor girl living by herself, and her concerned mum ringing her a couple of times to inquire as to how she was faring on her own.

The scene showed the young woman demonstrating exasperation at her mum because of her phone calls, and her eventual dismissive and rude ‘Yes, Mum, I’m looking after myself’. It coordinated that rude behaviour with an image of the young lady tucking away at the advertised food with an annoying overly smug (self centred selfish) look on her face. The message I obtained was ‘Bugger off, I am doing bloody OK.’

Though it was only an ad, some of us were fairly riled by the rude and self-centred manner in which the young woman responded to her concerned mum. Invariably we took to discussing the terrible ad but thought our annoyance must be a result of the clash of cultures. Maybe we just didn't understand Australian family values?

Surprise surprise, a week or so later the company took the ad off, apparently following numerous complaints from Australians. The moral of the story is that regardless of cultures, there are many universal values of decency, decorum and dignity.

So let’s not blame the Chinese for McDonald’s awful, pathetically insensitive, and highly insulting message.

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