(An example of the sort of thing I’ve been posting on LinkedIn. This was originally a fairly lightweight bit of fun, but in fact it opens up a lot of interesting avenues about how the increasingly monopolised and siloed digital spaces – FAANG – seek to work the PRC over the control, aesthetic and exploitation of that online territory, and the vectors of attack and defence.)
This viral Chinese ad for Peppa Pig is wild.
Here’s the explanation. You’ll need an explanation.
It’s doubly interesting because Peppa was actually banned last year or purged according to the NYT.
As with much of Chinese culture it takes a real expert to understand all the cultural subtexts, but it seems that she had been associating with shèhuì rén (社会人). This literally means ‘society people’ but seems to refer to young, jobless slackers. Not sufficiently culturally aligned it seems (or ‘anti establishment’). Friends of mine don’t like her because she perpetuates gender stereotypes, which shows… something anyway.
Someone who does know about Chinese culture has pointed out how much heavy lifting this ad is doing. It’s relocating Peppa from her foreign context into new soil (or muck). It’s very strenuously placing her in an approved socio-political context. And in doing this, by reducing her foreign caché and boosting her state approved credentials, it’s also presumably reducing her desirability for those ‘soceity people’.
All designed to help rehabilitate her in time for the release of Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year.
When I posted this on LinkedIn, I’d kind of missed the important point that this a major example and case study for the sort of work that brands will need to do if they want to be able to distribute effectively in China.
The aesthetic of this seems likely in some way designed to meet strict cultural and political rules on what is and isn’t appropriate.
Media distribution platforms and content owners will still struggle though. Despite high ambitions in China, Netflix ended up taking the time-honoured approach when faced with significant cultural and regulatory hurdles, and ended up partnering with a local platform, producing ‘modest‘ revenue. (Stranger Things, Black Mirror: yes; House of Cards: absolutely not).
This hasn’t stopped the likes of Google contorting uncomfortably to try and find a way into to what would be the world’s biggest growth market, the worth of whose data will be seen to be astronomical. It will be interesting watching the heavyweights of surveillance capitalism go up against the heavyweight of the surveillance state. My money’s on the PRC.
There’s a useful article here that covers the specific issues around digital publication in China. Short version – nothing much has changed around foreign interests publishing directly: they can’t. It’s more about trying to reframe publishing to include digital platforms – where “material that would traditionally be published in print form is clearly intended to be included”. However:
The unclear area applies only to new forms of publishing developed solely for the Internet and with no traditional print analog.https://www.chinalawblog.com/2016/03/chinas-new-online-publishing-rules-another-nail-in-the-vie-coffin.html
As with regulation in my area – accessibility (subtitles, captions, audio description) – regulators are struggling to define the content the rules cover, and the companies to whom it applies. That’s probably a post for another day.
Who made the ad and why did they take the approach they did?
A partial answer here:
“Besides drawing attention to the movie, what I wanted to do through this trailer was to share the same values that are highlighted in the movie – family, reunion, harmony and love,” its director Zhang Dapeng told local media last month.
And, Who is distributing Peppa in China – who is set to make money here?
And another partial answer from the same article: the film is a joint venture between the British ‘Entertainment One’ and Alibaba. And there’s a shitload of merch.Who made the ad and why did they take the approach they did?
Surveillance capitalism v surveillance state – exploiting a population’s data? (worth thinking about the burglar’s guide to the city – helicopters for LA, cameras for London).
The aesthetic and style of western firms attempting to enter China.
Regulating online – working out what and who does and doesn’t count.