Trundled rather reluctantly along to the rather dreary launch of a new skin cream that involved a celebrity actress/singer sitting on a stage in Shanghai touting the virtues of the product as if she hadn’t been gifted rather good skin originally in her genes. The local media were all paid to attend and I did at least get a free goody bag.
Celebrity endorsement is still a default position of many advertisers and brands in China and does seem to work still. The interesting thing is the range of products a given celebrity will take on. The skin cream endorser is also to be seen around town selling everything from cameras to shampoo to diamond necklaces while others move apparently seamlessly from crackers to acne cream to gold without the blink of an eye. This combination of both horizontal and vertical product endorsement is avoided by celebrities in the West but Chinese stars don’t seem to mind and their audiences don’t seem to get too confused by it all.
Perhaps that’s due to tradition. Perhaps the most stylish of all the old Shanghai movie stars Chen Yunshang was happy to advertise cosmetics one minute and German chemicals the next – always stylishly – while screen legend Hu Die (above), ‘Butterfly’, advertised cars, soap, perfume, face powder and had a brand of cigarettes named after her. Celebrity sells and it doesn’t seem to matter what, though how many celebrities these days would like a packet of fags named after them might be fewer.