The shows follows David Wu Dawei, a well-known Chinese-American entertainer, as he leads contestants representing three countries, China, the U.S. and the U.K., as they take part in competitions around China. The series is less aggressive than reality contests created for the U.S. market, in part because of new TV programming regulations from China’s State Administration of Radio, Film & Television.
The state agency has told producers and broadcasters they have to take the bite out of the contests. The government is concerned that hotly competitive shows do not promote an image of equality and may fuel discontent among China’s poorer, rural residents.
“Quest China, Da Tiao Zhan, meets all SARFT regulations in both letter and spirit. Quest China shows viewers how westerners and Chinese deal with competition, cooperation, victory and defeat, giving insight into what separates us and unites us as people, by putting people against unfamiliar backdrops and seeing how they react,” said Ric DiIanni, president of the show’s producer, House Films, in Shanghai.
The contests include tasks like making a short film in Shanghai, picking tea leaves during a storm in a small tea village or running through Beijing’s hutong, areas with traditional Chinese courtyard houses, using hand held GPS devices.
Rather than “preying on young, inexperienced people by waving the prospect of instant fame and fortune,” Quest China’s contestants are well educated and multilingual. The real goal of the show is educating the audience “about life in modern China from experts,” Mr. DiIanni explained.
The contests were judged by Jiang Yong, CEO of ABC Capital, an arm of Asia Investment Banking Co.; Tom Doctoroff, CEO, China and area director, North Asia at JWT; and Du Qin, a tea farmer from Hanghzou.
The second season is sponsored by Burger King and Everlast Worldwide, an American sporting goods marketer. Each company will be featured in episodes to raise their profile in China, said Mr. DiIanni. "[Both] are new to the Chinese market and are using our show to announce their brands to the Chinese community."
Burger King opened its first outlet in China in June 2005, and now has 12 restaurants, but plans to have up to 300 within five years. The teams met at Burger Kings to plan for upcoming challenges and relax aftertwards and discuss their performance. The American and British team members also described to their Chinese counterparts the differences between Burger King and other western fast food brands, explaining phrases like "flame-broiling" and "have it your way," and helping the Chinese team members order.
The teams were also given Everlast clothes in the first episode, which were worn by the team members and the host David Wu throughout the series. While non-Everlast clothing was also worn, no other brands' logos were seen in the show. In the 11th challenge, the teams were asked to create print ads for Everlast. JWT's Mr. Doctoroff and George Williams, the CEO of Everlast, judged that challenge.
“Sponsoring this show is a no-brainer,” said John Barbera, a board member of Brand Management Holdings (BMH), the Everlast Licensee in China and former president of worldwide sales for Turner Broadcasting. “It’s the best use of media in China I’ve seen.”
In April 2007, Everlast made its first major push into the mainland, by entering into a licensing agreement with Hong Kong-based BMH, a subsidiary of UCCAL, a leading distributor and retailer of international apparel brands in China. BMH manages over 700 points of sale in support of international brands like Nike Sport Culture, Nike Golf, Jockey, St. John, M. Missoni, Fox, and Kuhle. In the second quarter of 2008, Everlast-licensed products are scheduled to ship to a planned 20 Everlast branded retail locations in China.
Quest China will air as a half-hour program on provincial channels in cities like Shanghai and Chonqing, which have distribution in other areas through pay-TV platforms, as well as on IPTV and SiTV systems in China. Three- and five-minute segments of the show will be seen on over 50,000 buses in 33 cities, in the subway and light rail stations of five cities and in Shanghai and Beijing taxis that are part of I-level media's network, as well as on Dragon Mobile's platform in China.