Real-World Advertising

This week, Alaric Fairbanks introduces us to some of the more unusual forms of advertising to be found on the streets of China’s capital city.

Advertising is known as and certainly likes to be considered as a creative industry. Here in Beijing, many advertising styles would be familiar to the average visitor from the UK and probably most other countries in the world. Beyond these common approaches, however, there is sometimes an amazing creativity at work that is often overlooked – that is in finding or constructing physical platforms for ads, whether they are posters, screens, multi-media or sound. Notable examples include moving advertisements on linear screen on the walls of the Beijing underground which follow the train, and the TV screens that seemingly festoon every lift in every Beijing office building and shopping centre.

Beijing is never a quiet city, and the pervasive advertising ranging from the expected to the unexpected, the weird and the intrusive to the illegal, is just part of the environment. The more common approaches include giant screens, moving adverts, flyers and megaphoned tape loops, and they are all competing for your attention, but with familiarity it all becomes just more background noise. I did say that there is creativity at work, and sometimes this can startle or bemuse. One of the more unusual ploys for new advertising space in Beijing has been ‘fake’ bus stops. These have been the subject of several campaigns to eliminate them, but some bus stops are, of course, supposed to be around.

The rationale behind these fake bus stops was to provide a vehicle (if you’ll excuse the pun) for selling advertising space. Consequently, entire bus stops, including signage and shelters, and complete with advertisements, were erected and, of course, provided advertising revenue for the owners. This unsurprisingly caused a few problems with confusion among passengers and drivers and the inevitable missed buses.

It does, though, illustrate a certain amount of ingenuity (among, of course, many less desirable properties). Imagine the thought process that went on to come up with this bus stop idea in the first place. I don’t think it was from the same people who produced tattooed lucky fish (see picture below to illustrate one of the latest crazes in China: pet fish tattooed with characters intended to bring their owners good fortune and happiness), but they may have similar characteristics.


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