A Chinese propaganda ad is playing about 120 times a day on a giant electronic billboard in Times Square. It's three minutes and 12 seconds long, which translates to a running time of 384 minutes daily – about the same as the original "Star Wars" trilogy.
In this case, it's 384 mind-numbing minutes of talking heads, elevator music and stock footage of the sea.
The video makes China's case in its dispute with the Philippines over the South China Sea; it was released after an international tribunal in The Hague ruled against China. China doesn't accept the ruling.
China's official Xinhua News Service carried an item about the 3-minute, 12-second video, made by something called China Review Studio. (There aren't many references to the studio online.)
Xinhua's report called the international court "a law-abusing tribunal." It also said the Times Square video "has attracted many eyeballs, with some Chinese tourists in the Big Apple saying that it is necessary to let the world know the truth regarding the issue." It didn't mention what New Yorkers thought.
China wants its state media dispatches and propaganda messages to influence how people around the world think about China, but it struggles to tell its stories in ways that foreigners find engaging, or even comprehensible. The government is apparently looking for help, though.
In April, Reuters reported that foreign PR agencies were pitching the Chinese government for a new campaign; it said Hill+Knowlton, Ketchum, Ogilvy Public Relations, FleishmanHillard and Edelman took part. Since then, there's been no news on which, if any of them, won. Whoever it is has an interesting task ahead.