I think commercials here in China really showcase the difference in cultural priorities, and what a culture finds appealing.
While stopping at ‘Family Mart’ this morning (think 711) as part of a new life campaign to drink cheaper coffee, I couldn’t help noticing the commercials playing on the little TV screens pointed our way on the back of the cash registers.
The commercial being shown was for the prepacked sushi being sold instore and featured all the obligatory edited to perfection shots of food being made, however with a noticeable difference.
A sushi commercial back in Australia will typically showcase a completely unbelievable facade in an attempt to convince you that the convenience store sushi is food.
Artisan Japanese chefs are filmed hand picking the rice and doing unimaginable and unnecessary cooking techniques like throwing cut vegetables into the air that slow right down near the camera. The slow motion vegetables will slowly rotate before our eyes, the surface of the vegetable gleaming like a suggestive wink. These vegetables will then land, be diced up and arranged carefully onto the sushi. We might even get shots of a fisherman fishing the dangerous and wild ocean to bring that perfect catch right into the kitchen to also be diced up in the sexiest way possible.
The sushi is then wrapped carefully, cut and placed on a clean plate that is pushed towards you, the viewer, and your expected to believe that this perfect creation is being sold in the sad refrigerated packs halfheartedly thrown in rows in the cool box.
(In Family Mart the word ‘Sushi’ is strangely swapped out for ‘healthy sandwich’)
The Family Mart sushi ad was very different to the one I just described, and perhaps more believable although still with a toe in the world of fantasy.
The sushi is being prepared slowly, cleanly and carefully, and the commercial is still well shot with gleaming vegetables and slow motion cuts. But this time the chefs are swapped out with machines.
The sushi moves down an assembly line where fish and vegetables are lovingly inserted by automation and conveyor belts.
Pressing machines press the sushi’s together and packing machines place them individually into their wrappers and arrange them into a box.
Near the end of the commercial the box is taken into a Family Mart and a human places them lovingly into a fridge.
Another human is then shown walking in slow motion towards the sushi, she picks it up and buys it from the supermodel working at the front counter.
The last shot is the satisfied customer eating it, and boy is she satisfied.
Both commercials do their job and add truckloads of glamour to whatever the real process is in the daily production of millions of packages of cheap sushi.
The big take away for me is how much more comfortable a Chinese audience is with watching machine automation make their food products.
Unlike consumers in the Western world, the average Chinese person is very aware of factories and how many of their products are factory made. Most people also know someone who works in a factory.
My good friend from my cruise ship days had a factory job right out of school and my housemate’s uncle owns a factory, and it has made him filthy rich.
There isn’t a stigma against factories in China, both because there isn’t a public distrust of them and because it’s well known and accepted that China’s history of taking advantage of their population size and buckling down with factory production pulled the country out of poverty and into the first world.
I personally really love those TV shows where you can see a factory make a car or something, seeing the engineering that goes into a machine that can put something that complicated together is astounding for me.
So of the two commercials I’m more likely to respond to the factory one. Sure the real factory wont be anywhere near as beautiful or clean, but it feels more like reality even if it isn’t.
Although no-matter how good they make the commercial it’s still convenience store sushi, I’m not sure how desperate I’d have to be to eat that.
Plus I’m living in a city with extraordinarily low food cost, why do I need this?
I perhaps am not the target audience.