When in China, play by the rules

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* Place a high emphasis on group and family values. Even ads aimed at teens should be laced with peer solidarity and a healthy respect for parental authority.

* Be careful when using humor and sex appeal, particularly for national campaigns, because language and values vary greatly from province to province.

* Opt for warm, sincere and courteous campaigns.

* Add a modern twist to traditional Chinese fables. For Nippon Paint, Leo Burnett yielded "fantastic results" last year with spots that used ancient Chinese tales to highlight product benefits.

* Play on human interest stories in southern China. Don't do so in Beijing, where residents prefer no-nonsense, information-based advertising.


* Use the number "four," a homonym for "death" in China's tonal language.

* Insult competitors in ads or packaging, even by implication

* Link a brand with practitioners such as doctors, dentists or lawyers.

* Make claims such as "No. 1 in China," "best-selling" and "recommended by" on ads, packaging, signage and promotional items.

* Show patients or symptoms in pharmaceutical ads.

* Associate brands with icons from pre-Communist China, such as images of imperial China and its emperor, or modern-day maps, national flags and anthems.

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