Chinese Creative: On the Road to "Priceless"

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Chinese ad students and creatives mastered MasterCard advertising in winning work from the seventh annual edition of the One Club%u2019sOne Show China Workshops, on view at the One Club Gallery in New York through May 23. The workshops/competition, held at universities in Beijing and Shanghai in December, was open to both students and professionals, who submitted 1,831 entries representing 119 universities and 57 ad agencies. In both the consumer branding MasterCard brief as well as a "green" public service brief on behalf of a nonprofit organization promoting hybrid cars, Duffy & Partners' Joe Duffy—perennial China Workshops mentor—believes Chinese creatives demonstrate a maturity and originality that bodes well for their future and ours. As he says, "China is where so much of our future lies." The People's Republic, with its dazzlingly accelerated marketing universe, has passed through what might be called the capitalist equivalent of one of Mao's Five-Year Plans, absorbing pretty much the entire history of Western advertising in a comparative blink, he notes. (Speaking of Mao, this year's entries are ironically collected in a "little red book," an idea that originated with One Club president Kevin Swanpoel, designed by Duffy's Joseph Duffy, son of Chairman Joe). "When we started the One Show China program, all of the kids would copy—ads off the internet, from awards show books—but now they're combining elements of Chinese and Western culture into something new," says Duffy senior.

A fine example of this is a Gold-winning MasterCard campaign from creatives at an agency called Tianjin Back Sea, which takes an unflinchingly edgy sociological tack for this category in ads that feature a "cat lady" whose children have grown up and left home, leaving her alone; a doll-collecting childless couple; and a transvestite (seen at top) whose "priceless" desire is "being able to dress the way you want." On a more Westernized note, students from Dong Hua University featured the art of Marcel Duchamp, as well as Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes, with English copy to make a simple statement about MasterCard, art and the art market, in a Bronze-winning campaign. As for Chinese students referencing the Duchampian likes of "Bicycle Wheel" and "Fountain" (above), this, too, may be an East/West blend. Duffy points out that Duchamp "represents the fundamental contradictions of life and art—this is perfectly natural to the Chinese mind."
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