By Published on .

Most Popular
[hong kong] Following the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, at least one U.S. ad icon was demolished in China. Busts of Tricon Global Restaurants' Col. Sanders character were smashed to pieces as angry mobs mistook the image for that of Uncle Sam.

"This is part of the learning curve of doing business in China," said Shanghai-based Tony Chen, Tricon's director of public affairs for greater China.

About 20 KFCs were closed throughout China in the days following the bombing. Some will take weeks to repair, but two stores in the Hunan province are "a total loss," Mr. Chen said.


Chinese protesters blurred the line between U.S. multinationals and American foreign policy, wreaking havoc for many marketers. Rocks were thrown through windows at many McDonald's Corp. restaurants; some of its 229 locations were closed.

Rioters in Wuhan, in central China, lacking a U.S. consulate to attack, marched on an Anheuser-Busch brewery instead.

Tricon's Pizza Hut outlets escaped unscathed, apparently because the Chinese believe the chain is Italian.

In addition to the boycotts, "There's a rumor that Chinese media will stop accepting ads from NATO countries on June 1, but we're still booking ads after that date with no problem," said Jorg Dietzel, general manager of DDB China, Beijing.

He is doubtful that Chinese media could afford such a move, but does worry about the growing tendency of Chinese marketers to talk up boycotts of U.S. brands for commercial advantage.


"We've seen leaflets that say, 'Don't buy Compaq, buy [local computer brand] Legend instead,' and we're suspicious of their origins," Mr. Dietzel said.

Protesters are still on the move, using leaflets and e-mail to advocate a boycott of U.S. brands, including Budweiser, Compaq, McDonald's and Pepsi-Cola.

A handful of local cable TV stations have pulled U.S. programming, and some are said to be yanking ads that are overtly American, to avert public anger, according to Leo Wong, director of media-buying service MindShare, Shanghai.

For some marketers, such as General Motors Corp., this is a bad time for U.S. brands to lose their allure.

Shanghai General Motors' first Chinese-made Buicks go on sale this summer, and a major ad campaign by Bates Worldwide to woo the Chinese is scheduled to break in June.


China's foreign business community is worried, but hopes the mood eventually will change.

"I wouldn't put much stock in any boycott that's 3 days old; it will probably be gone in two weeks. My gut feeling is the Chinese will still buy the best products, even if they are American. It's hard to believe the downward slide [for U.S. goods and services] will continue," said Michael Furst, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce China, in Beijing.

But marketing departments are anxiously re-evaluating their advertising, with slogans once chic in China -- such as Budweiser's "America's best selling beer" -- now likely to help sink sales rather than make sales.


Some U.S. marketers, including McDonald's and Motorola, have "put advertising on hold as a mark of respect," said Shelagh Lester-Smith, Motorola VP-director of corporate communications for Asia-Pacific, based here.

"But we will resume our advertising schedule as soon as it's appropriate, which we hope will be quite soon, and we are still committed to China," Ms. Lester-Smith said.

Tom Doctoroff, managing director of J. Walter Thompson/Bridge, Shanghai, which is the agency for PepsiCo, Nike and Warner-Lambert Co. in China, said no campaigns were canceled, although at least one was toned down to avoid "brazen American-ness."

One commercial shoot scheduled for Beijing has been re-located to calmer Shanghai, he said.

At KFC, Mr. Chen said it never "highlighted" its U.S. roots. But the chain will test upcoming campaigns more intensively than usual, because "we don't know how

In this article: