Over the years, Chinese ads have gone from being childhood memories to memes and pop culture

Stuck in an elevator, forced to watch a maddening commercial for some second-hand car app for the 100th time, you’d be easily forgiven for cursing the day the ad man came to China.

It certainly wasn’t always like this.

From the rosy-cheeked qipao girls promoting cigarettes in 1930s Shanghai to the less-glamorous era of the late 40s and 50s, Chinese ads have evolved with the times. In chaotic wartime and the early years of New China, there weren’t many products to promote or consumer markets to attract. Ads consisted of plain-speaking statements that a product was available—industrial machinery, health aids, daily essentials—usually placed in a newspaper, with terse explanations of its function and little promotional fanfare. It was a much simpler time when advertisers in China had yet to learn the powers of persuasion.

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Commercial Breakdown is a story from our issue, “Cloud Country.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Liu Jue

Liu Jue is the co-managing editor of The World of Chinese Magazine. She has a Master of Arts in Communication from Middle Tennessee State University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Minzu University. She has been working for TWOC since 2012. She is interested in covering history, traditional culture, and Chinese language.

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