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Internet firms taking opportunities in World Cup: these stupid ads may work better than you think

Written by Chauncey Published on   4 mins read

For many businesses in China, the opportunity to present themselves in front of millions of football fans will be a promising chance to promote their products and achieve some significant growths.

The 2018 World Cup is becoming a huge carnival for the Chinese this summer, albeit the absence of their national football team in the game.

While Chinese national football team failed to qualify into the World Cup Finals in Russia, Chinese football fans did not give up their interests in football. A news report suggests that 12 million fans tuned in for the World Cup opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

For many businesses in China, the opportunity to present themselves in front of millions of football fans will be a promising chance to promote their products and achieve some significant growths.

The art of advertisement now comes into place: they all need to produce the clip that will attract users in that 15 or 20 seconds. In addition, the cost of these advertisements is huge: It is reported that the promotion cost listed by China Central Television, the official partner of World Cup Games in China, is at least 25 million US Dollars.


Awkward Brainwashing Ads

It remains unclear the amount of time and efforts that these firms put in for these advertisements. Four Internet products, Boss Zhipin, Zhihu, Pinduoduo, and Mafengwo, made into the China Central Television advertisement section. However, their commercials are quite different from what many viewers expect.

Here is an opportunity to take a look at how they utilized their time in front of millions of viewers in China:

It is true: They only have 15 seconds. They need to grab viewers’ attention. They need to achieve their goals with the limited resources they have.

But the quality of these advertisements doesn’t seem to be meeting the standards from many viewers. China News Agency says that these commercials seem to be ‘dumb and awkward’.

Many World Cup fans also expressed their dissatisfactions of these ‘brainwashing’ ads via social media. “These advertisements look too fishy. I will not use their products.” One viewer commented on Chinese social media Weibo.

“They make themselves sound like scams.” Another user expressed his anger while watching these low-quality ads. Some users seem to find the tricks that these advertisers play: “Now I will remember your product for life, but I will never use your products. These ads are just so disgusting.”

There are also users reminding others the negative news Boss Zhipin had last year. Li Wenxing, a university graduate, was kidnapped and later killed by a pyramid scamming group. The scam criminals post fake job advertisements on Boss Zhipin that caused the tragic death of Li.

Many viewers believe that advertisements do not have to be repetitive and brainwashing. People’s Daily calls the brainwashing ads ‘pathetic’. The commentary article also mentioned the high-quality advertisements such as the Icelandic Coca-Cola commercial made by Icelandic goalkeeper Halldórsson. World Cup fans also brought up Superbowl commercials in contrast to the brainwashing promotions made by these Chinese Internet firms.


Perhaps these Stupid Ads Work, as Someone Else Succeeded Before

There is one thing that needs to be made clear: The brainwashing style of advertising is nothing innovative in China. There were firms who did it, and succeeded from this kind of promotion.

Hengyuanxiang (恒源祥), a wool clothing firm, became famous for its short advertisement published in 1992. The advertisement had nothing but its brand name and the voice of a child shouting the word ‘sheep’ three times. Probably with the help of its very successful promotion campaign, the Shanghai-based company now has a net worth of 1.45 billion US Dollars.

Another successful example was Naobaijin(脑白金), a form of melatonin that became popular in China because of its dramatic advertisement. “People do not take gifts in the holidays this year. They only take Naobaijin.” While the advertisement changed into many different versions later, that slogan never changed. Naobaijin is the best-selling product in the health industry for 16 consecutive years.


Not a Bad Option for Firms Seeking Exposure and Growth

Internet firms seek growth in user numbers and longer average usage time. Advertisements as such seem to be a good fit to attract a massive number of users. Indeed, the kind of ‘garbage’ advertisements will certainly let down the high-end customers, but for these firms focusing on the mass majority of Internet users in China, it is a cost that these firms may be willing to pay.

Pinduoduo features on cheap, low-cost merchandises for everyone. Mafengwo focuses on affordable traveling plan and discounts for those who have a tight budget. Boss Zhipin serves for small and mid-size companies. And having pressure in making profits, Zhihu now needs more users to be on board. Despite facing strong criticisms from the media and the public, the promotional strategy seems to be acceptable for all four firms promoting on CCTV.

These advertisements are certainly different from the delicate and classic commercials presented in the US Super Bowl. But you never know if they can work out just as well.

For those who hate this kind of commercials, perhaps the best way to stop them is really to not purchase their products and hope for more to join their ‘unorganized’ boycotts against firms who make low-quality commercials.


Chauncey Jung works with a unicorn Internet firm based out of Beijing. His professional experience pays him off an insider perspective over China’s internet industry. Completed his bachelor and master education in Canada, Chauncey is obsessed with trending technologies and economic developments across Asia. He can be reached at [email protected].



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