The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Do You Want To Be Banana Hard Or Cucumber Hard?
August 16, 2007, 7:30 am
Filed under: Crap Campaigns In History


A billboard for Viagra in China.

I bet they actually believe they’re being abit subtle … but lets face it, they’re not – especially the way they’ve art-directed the word “HARD”. Genius.

I love advertising in China … I love the way they continue to treat the population like a bunch of imbeciles when in reality you couldn’t be further away from the truth.

Apart from being one of the most entrepreneurial societies on the planet, their culture is dictated by myth and legend so there’s an inherent ability to understand symbolism and complexity … yet more often than not, they get subjected to as-subtle-as-a-brick type of communication because many of the people currently running marketing departments in China are Westerners who either …

1 Have an incapability to appreciate or understand anything other than a visual pun or a bit of mission-statement copy.

2 Base all their views from a book probably called something like ‘How To Market To Asians’ which was written in 1986 by some expat who worked there for 6 months. In the seventies.

Never venture outside of their expat commune so they’re only exposed to festering cauldron of prejudice and cultural slight manifested by other people who also never venture outside their expat commune except to go to work. And even then it’s in a car with a company driver!

4 Think all the locals are intellectually ‘wanting’ so convince themselves anything more than 2 words and a picture won’t work.

Know all the locals are actually intellectually superior so try to perpetuate the myth they’re not and hope they start to believe it.

6 [If American] … think Benny Hill was a modern day Shakespeare so want ads as ‘subtle’ as the skits he used to subject us to each fucking week.

7 Ask their Western wife/husband/kids if they like the concept – and just go with what they say, even if all the local evidence points to the contrary.

Don’t read Mandarin so want something they can understand.

Know their bosses back home don’t read Mandarin so want something they can understand.

10 Want to keep their ‘global positioning’ inline – even though it was created without any thought/consideration/insight as to how Asia would view it.

So which one of these reasons do you reckon was behind the Viagra poster then? 

Come on … hazard a guess … though I do appreciate it could be the million-in-one chance of ‘all the above’, hahaha!

I’m in Oz for for alot of next week so if anyone wants to catch up, let me know … and that includes Kate who probably will want to kick me in the nuts then glass me, ha!

[Age: The burger is on, lets sort out when on Monday!]

21 Comments so far
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Isn’t this poster saying viagra gives you a hard, green penis? 🙂

Comment by Pete

G’day Rob. I’d love to buy you a beer when you get to Sydney.
I’m enjoying our conversation enormously. Debate is a great way of not only clarifying what you think but there is also an opportunity to gain the perspective of another’s opinion- I’m a fan.

Comment by katiechatfield

oi mate, perfect timing!
give us a call or SMS on Monday. I’m good any time.

Comment by Age

Hi mate,

One of my students just did something you’d be proud of (after all, you inspired him). I can’t put it in print, so I’ll have to wait till our next coffee chat to tell you about it.

Really looking forward to Sep 1.

Comment by Mark

Katie, actually you may not want to buy Rob a beer. Just take my work for it. Last time he had one was onboard a Danish ferry. It didn’t end very well (at least not from Rob’s point of view). He loves coffee though.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

I think it is Pete … which means they tap into the hard-to-get-to Martian market. What forward thinking.

Kate … I’m probably going to be mainly in Melbourne but if I venture to Sydney [which I want to do to see if my house is still standing, ha] I’d love to catch up and yes – a debate is always good so I hope you got my view as I got yours 🙂

Age … I cannot wait … though I am still trying to work out if its you or the burger I’m more excited about and Mark, I am VERY intrigued to what one of your guys have done – though I don’t know whether I deserve any credit, especially if its illegal, ha!

Comment by Rob

Thats so bad its unbelievable.
How could that pass ANY quality control tests??

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Advertising without balls.

Comment by John Dodds

i tell you what that fucking shit viagra ad says. it says you become fucking bilingual because the headline is in one language and the bodycopy in a completely different one. what a bunch of fucking twats. and why is the pill orange? have those sneaky chinese ripped off the best sex aid since a 19 year old cheerleader and fucked up the most well known attribute? cocks. literally 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

I still cant figure out what Jelly Beans have to do with Viagra…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

its an ad for paedophiles, gary glitter bought boxes of viagra after he saw this ad. possibly.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think you guys may, to a certain degree, be wrong about this ad.

Comment by marcusbrown

Go on Marcus…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

According to a medical study there has been a massive switch from Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM to Viagra products among Chinese men suffering from impotence. 22.8% of these men are apparently smokers – and smoking is strongly discouraged in TCM and Chinese Herbology. The Chinese believe that eating is living and living is eating, with each food having a direct effect on particular organs and most Chinese meals are balanced in order to do the whole body good. The cucumber is a “ying” food as has cooling properties. The typical age for men suffering from impotence is somewhere between 35 -75 years old.


1. What if there is some cultural association going on here that we simply don’t understand? We’re sitting here assessing this ad based on our western values.
2. What if (as happens in Germany) they’ve used English to appear cool to the lower end of the age range? (I’m not saying this is right. But as the German market has shown it’s strangely effective)
3. What if the cultural association is directly linked into some TCM positioning by Pfifer? And this is directed at the top end of the age range that are more likely to want to tap into traditional values but still want the “benefits” of western pharmaceuticals.

We can argue about the execution because it’s appalling. But do we really know enough about the culture to criticise this add properly?

But I may be wrong?

Comment by marcusbrown

i think katie will like that marcus, but the rest of us know its complete made up bollocks. well, the rest of us who arent planners.

Comment by andy@cynic

What’s scary Marcus is that is the sort of ‘deconstruction’ that many of the expat planning community out here would spout – and many would believe it as it sort-of makes sense – except for one fatal flaw, it’s bollocks and anyone who actually does appreciate the cultural aspect of Asia would know that.

Personally that comment represents the ‘NUMBER 2 Answer’ on my ‘JUSTIFY THIS AD’ chart.

Well done. B+

Comment by Rob

Right that it. I’ve had enough of being abused on this blog. I’m off.

Comment by marcusbrown

I understand your comments Marcus, and I think 2 is probably right. While in some cases you would be right with 1 and 3.

But I think in this particular case its just a cheap, nasty, patronising, insulting ad.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

i am sure “eating is living and living is eating” is something youve said before campbell. you dont fucking practice it though, unless living is a kebab cob special with a coke.

Comment by andy@cynic



Comment by Rob

i actually think the personal emails asking me if i want a penis extension or free ViARxGra a much better marketing strategy.

Comment by lauren

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