The future is also bright for design and brand consultancies in Asia, says John Woodward of Leo Burnett Hong Kong. "And it's all driven by China, in one way or another." Chinese companies are recognizing the value of branding for a number of reasons, says Woodward, including years of over capacity and its draining effect on product pricing. "Less well known, but perhaps more importantly," says Woodward, "many formerly government owned companies which previously functioned more or less as arms of the civil service brands strongly feel the need to remake their identity as they become more consumer focused in their home market."
But this isn't' about world economy, it's about design and, indirectly, advertising-the impact of new players and products in the marketplace, the importance of design in the marketing process, and the greater eastern influence on the lot.
And speaking, very loosely, and in an unrelated fashion, of eastern influence, Buddhism is evoked not once but twice in this issue's featured work. Fundamentally wrong? Maybe. Delightful and effective? Yes. Ari Merkin and the Fallon New York crew stir the politico-religious pot with some sublime Virgin Mobile spots featuring spiritual leaders trying to apply their teachings to earnest but decidedly nonspiritual questions about cellphone plans. The ads represent that rare and compelling combination, seen in the work of Merkin and a few others before: can't-look-away creative that evokes nameless discomfort and amusement, simultaneously. And Mad Dogs & Englishmen spinoff Mad Injection makes the most of the Manhattan Mini Storage assignment with a series of ads featuring the thought bubbles of stored objects. In one, a Buddha statue explains his being cast aside: "My Owner's a Jew.... Again." More of a piss-take on trendy religious dabbling than any religion in particular, but of course it's prompted complaints. Those who feel blasphemed; keep in mind-Bob Dylan is pitching ladies' gitch, for Christ's sake. All religious taboos have certainly been rendered meaningless.