Chinese Consumers’ Attitudes Towards Offensive Advertising: a Challenge For International Marketers

EXTENDED ABSTRACT - The recent opening up of the Chinese economy has seen a rapid growth in the advertising industry. However, this has also lead to the exposure of advertising for socially sensitive, or controversial, products. This includes advertising of products such as alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, contraception, underwear, and feminine hygiene products, or presenting messages that can contradict local cultural norms, values and beliefs or question aspects of the government’s authority. Despite all the efforts of the Chinese government, the opening up of the economy will mean that there will be some advertisements for products or visual/verbal images that may offend certain people in the community. Some of these advertisements might even clash with the traditional Chinese values like keeping oneself disinterested and pure, having few desires, respect for tradition, moderation, [i.e. following the middle way], modesty and having a sense of shame to name a few (Chinese Culture Connection, 1987, pp. 147-148).



Citation:

Kim Shyan Fam, David Waller, Zhilin Yang, and Regan Lam (2002) ,"Chinese Consumers’ Attitudes Towards Offensive Advertising: a Challenge For International Marketers", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 118.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Page 118

CHINESE CONSUMERS’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS OFFENSIVE ADVERTISING: A CHALLENGE FOR INTERNATIONAL MARKETERS

Kim Shyan Fam, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

David Waller, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Zhilin Yang, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Regan Lam, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

The recent opening up of the Chinese economy has seen a rapid growth in the advertising industry. However, this has also lead to the exposure of advertising for socially sensitive, or controversial, products. This includes advertising of products such as alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, contraception, underwear, and feminine hygiene products, or presenting messages that can contradict local cultural norms, values and beliefs or question aspects of the government’s authority. Despite all the efforts of the Chinese government, the opening up of the economy will mean that there will be some advertisements for products or visual/verbal images that may offend certain people in the community. Some of these advertisements might even clash with the traditional Chinese values like keeping oneself disinterested and pure, having few desires, respect for tradition, moderation, [i.e. following the middle way], modesty and having a sense of shame to name a few (Chinese Culture Connection, 1987, pp. 147-148).

This paper surveys 238 Chinese consumers to determine their level of offence towards various controversial products and the main reasons for offence towards advertising. The questionnaire took approximately 10 minutes to complete and was administered in a classroom environment. The format of the survey instrument included two main sections that comprised ofa five point Likert type scale from which respondents were given (i) a list of products/services and (ii) a list of reasons for offensive advertising. The respondents were asked to indicate their level of personal "offence" on a five-point scale, where 1 means "Not At All" offensive and 5 means "Extremely" offensive. Comparisons between gender, age groups and views towards western images were made to discover any significant differences.

Our study found that there are some products that are more likely to cause offence, such as "Racially Extremist Groups", "Gambling", and "Cigarettes". Some of these products are perceived to be more offensive than the reason given for being offensive, such as "Indecent Language", "Anti-Social Behaviour", "Racist Images", "Nudity" and "Western/US Images" which were the main reasons given for offensive advertising. When comparing different groups in the sample based on gender, age and views on Western/US Images, it was found that age was the main variable that had differences in the results. Those aged 17-22 were generally more offended by the advertising of particular products (addictive and social/political groups) than the older respondents, who were more offended by personal products. Two products resulted in significant differences in all three categories of comparison, these were: "Weight Loss Programs" and "Female Contraceptives". This would indicate that these products/services, although not extremely offensive by nature, does generate a degree of controversy when advertised in China.

In conclusion, for those involved with controversial clients or planning potentially controversial campaigns in China, it appears that they should be aware of the potential to offend the public. In particular when advertising towards younger markets; products including certain addictive products, social/political groups, and specific personal products like "Weight Loss Programs" and "Female Contraceptives"; and advertisements which may have elements at odds with social harmony, such as "Indecent Language", "Anti-Social Behaviour" or "Racist Images".

REFERENCES

Chinese Culture Connection, (1987), "Chinese values and the Search for Culture-Free Dimensions of Culture", Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, vol. 18., 143-164.

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Authors

Kim Shyan Fam, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
David Waller, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Zhilin Yang, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Regan Lam, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong,



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002



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