TBWA Teen Study

Understanding China's diverse youth population

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SHANGHAI--Skaters, dancers, entrepreneurs, Goths and hip hop fans, computer game addicts. China's diverse, urban teen population includes all of them. Many have surprising spending power and an affinity for Western brands, which makes them one of the most important demographics for marketers.

To better understand this powerful yet capricious generation, TBWA Worldwide went into their homes, clubs, malls, basketball courts and skate parks in Shanghai and Beijing earlier this year.

"We talked to kids in their teens and early twenties who we felt represented emerging behaviors and attitudes. People who reflected a new, energetic diverse China," said Nick Barham, TBWA Worldwide's Shanghai-based planning director for China. The study found "Chinese teens feel ambition and passion, as well as a strong sense of competition, a fear of being left behind and a preoccupation with money and material comfort."

Interviews took place with the help of 100 students at the Raffles Institute of Design's Lasalle design college, who filmed and photographed the respondents, "which gave us impressions of Chinese youth through the eyes of Chinese youth," said Mr. Barham. The most interesting and diverse pictures were exhibited in late April at Xiantiandi, a hip mecca of bars and restaurant in Shanghai.

The most consistent attitude shared by the kids centered around the importance of being part of a new, internationalist, successful China.

"Nearly everyone we spoke to mentioned a generation gap. They stressed the huge difference between their parents? world view and their own. Here's how one teenage girl describes her parents, "Born at the time of the Chinese cultural revolution, they didn't get a high level of education, they don't like to communicate with the world and they don't know anything about fashion. I don't think they know anything about my world so I don't like to talk to them that much."?

The results and exhibit were organized under several themes, and featured 10 individual profiles of teenagers who represent different emerging values and behavior. Below are a few of their comments.


BEING ALONE
I have two personalities, one is extrovert and the other is introvert. Sometimes I like social activities and sometimes I just want to be alone.

I used to live with my grandparents. They are backward-looking, living with them almost drove me crazy. So I always went out alone.

There are too many things that I don't understand. I haven't really connected with society yet.


OPTIMISM
No matter what happens in the future, I want to enjoy my life right now.

As a student, my life is rich and colorful. I don't need to read books if there is nothing to do at home. I prefer entertainment to learning.

There is a huge generation gap between my parents and me. We have different thoughts.

Society is developing quickly. There are lots of opportunities around me. You only need to catch one of them to be successful.

I"m happy when I"m dancing with friends. All of them dance energetically, and the lights shine on everyone's body. Everyone looks so beautiful.


FRIENDS AND LOVERS
It's too early for me to think about marriage. I can't understand people who get married at our age. We can still play, but they have to nourish a family, I just can't stand it.

Marriage is the most important thing for a girl. Because it is the most beautiful moment for all girls and I want it to be perfect, I need money.

No, I never had a one-night stand. But I want to try, I just couldn't find anyone who wants to do it with me.

Best friends are those who unconditionally do everything for you. Best friends never put forward unreasonable requirements; they grant whatever is requested; they do everything together; they keep no secrets from each other.

I have more than one hundred friends on QQ (the No. 1 Chinese instant messenger service).


SPORT
The winner is king. The loser is slave. If you win, you're alive. You lose, you die.

It is important to win. Everyone wants to win. Because everyone wants to do well at everything.

I am an extrovert and I like to try new things. I"m fond of extreme sports like skateboarding and hip-hop dancing because I like to challenge myself.


LOOKS
I really admire people with a good body. My upper body is great but too fat at my waist, which makes it hard to get slim. Every time I think about my body, I always feel bit sad.

My face shape is perfect for make up. Also the way I dress, I think I know fashion very well, I know how to dress.

I hate to copy others. I cannot imagine people walking on the street with the same appearance.


NORMALITY
My life just goes between school and home, nothing new and interesting. It's always the same boring things.

When I was a student, I wanted to leave school. Now I left school, I think it's better to be a student. In school, you have lots of friends to talk with. Now I only play games and chat online.

I imagine people deceive each other and distrust each other in the grown-up world.


THE WINNER: Wang Jia
I always try to do my best, so that I win a place in a table tennis and basketball competition. I try to earn money. Money is almost everything, if you don't have money, you have nothing.

GOOD BOY: Qu Wen Jie
I have responsibility to take care of my future wife. You know, now in Shanghai, marriage needs a lot of money. A terrible amount of money. I have to work hard to make money. I want to be a man with a strong sense of responsibility. But at the same time I don't want to be too good. It is better to have some badness. A bit playboy like. My dream is simple. I want to buy a villa and a good car in the future.

RISK TAKER: Zhang Jie
Racing is high-speed. When you turn a corner, you don't have enough time to think. Everything happens in seconds, and you're dependent on your instinct. I have never thought about having a serious accident when motor racing. If someone dies while motor racing, it's because they are incompetent.

DO-IT-YOURSELF GIRL: Gu Lin Wen
My dream is to rob banks and travel the world. I want to see different scenes all over the world. We're all going to die, so we should satisfy ourselves as much as possible. But this is not my real hair, it's fake, I did it myself. The red color reflects my extrovert personality. Other people may have one earring, but I have got eight of them. I used to have lip ring, but because it is hard to speak, I got rid of them.

PERFORMER: Jin Xia Xia
The entertainment industry has got a bad reputation. But it can give me what I need, such as fans, fame and reputation. You have your own style designer, visit different countries, have beautiful clothes and contact with different males. One thing that I must do before I die is to live with Jay Zhou for a whole day. A one-night stand with a star is OK, but others aren't.

DARK GIRL: Lian
I like dark things. Life is not bright at all. Darkness is the truth of life. Marilyn Manson is my idol. He's done lots of crazy things, like have some of his ribs taken out. He challenges all the conventions and does what he wants.

DANCER: Han Yang
I like listening to music and dancing at hip-hop bars. Most people don't understand hip-hop. They think we take drugs in bars. We just want to enjoy the music. The thing that makes me proud of myself is that I have found true best friends. Lots of people don't have true friends during their whole life. But I have already got them.

SKATER: Xu Zheng
We want to express ourselves. We get really angry if you stop us from expressing ourselves. If you stop us from doing things we like, we get depressed. If you understand us, then everything will be OK. Our relationship will be much better. The grown-up world might have different views on what we are doing and how we are dressing, like dying our hair yellow. They tend to think we are edgy or bad boys, but we are not.

VIRTUAL KID: Zhao Xiao Guang
There are too many limits in real life. I am nothing at all in this world. In my virtual life, I can do anything I want, and I can be anybody I want to be. I live on my own. I once ate just noodles and pasta for six months. If you help others to train game characters, you cannot leave the computer.

THE PRINCESS: Li Hui
The first thing I do when I come back home is to log on QQ. I hope to find my husband on QQ. My dream future is to have a good job and a perfect husband and to live happily together with him.
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