Tuesday, December 7, 2010



When examining the success of International reality TV shows across countries, we basically agree with the formula of it: Consistent in the basic format which is featuring "real" people's live in "Real life" settings, while adapting the contents to the local cultural and environments, such as using the local castings, languages, fashions, etc.
I found this similar to the U.S. based International Companies overseas strategy: which is the strategy I call "Contingency"

P&G is the Top 1 American brand in China and the Top 1 consumer products brand in China in general. Two key concepts in the P&G cross-cultural advertising strategy are uncovered: cultural threshold and cultural acceptance of American brands.
P&G has well understood the importance that culture and values posses in cross-cultural advertising, and therefore P&G has implemented a successful contingency strategy to sell to China. When taking a closer look at the contingency strategy of P&G, it is clear that P&G integrates the standardization and localization strategies to accommodate the Chinese cultural values in the hopes of facilitating cross-cultural advertising while still maintaining the consistent brand image via the standardization approach. However, the research also found out that by merely applying such contingency strategy does not guarantee success. P&G has got a special formula. P&G not only realizes the need to play the cultural game in cross-cultural advertising, but also has figured out how to play it in the way that Chinese favor. Since Chinese audiences are born and raised in a high-context culture which emphasizes symbolic cultural values, the two key concepts below have significant functions.

First of all, the cultural elements in P&G commercials serve as the Cultural Threshold. It basically means that Chinese consumers would not be able to acknowledge the unique function of the product without citing the cultural context in the commercials as reference of their values, and it is only after the values reflected in the commercials echo with that in the audience can the audience starts to pay attention respectively to the unique function and selling points of the products. Unlike consumers in Western culture who are more likely to focus on the quality and unique function of the products rather than whether or not the values imbedded in the products are consistent with theirs, the high-context culture and the popular symbolic cultural values has determined the way that Chinese consumers accept a brand/product. Chinese consumers have to accept a commercial as a whole, rather than merely focusing on the products and ignoring the sub-culture in it.
P&G commercials are constructed on the fundamental Chinese values which are deeply rooted among the majority of Chinese public. Therefore, the cultural cues in the commercials serve as the threshold to get people to accept the commercial as a whole. Without passing through the cultural threshold, Chinese consumers can hardly consumers be prepared well enough to accept and absorb the selling points of the products. Without passing through the cultural-threshold, the process of appealing to the Chinese consumers can be impeded by any pre-established cultural resistance towards American culture and brands, or any feeling of distance towards an unfamiliar new brand/foreign brand.

As mentioned before, Chinese consumers have to accept a commercial along with the culture and values it incorporated, but it is the next phase that actually leads from mind blowing to behavioral changes. The cultural acceptance basically means that after the Chinese consumers cross over the cultural threshold and are ready to know about the products, the large amount of culture and values imbedded in the commercial, which are tailored to the Chinese consumers’ value systems help lose the cultural distance/feeling of alienation and cultural resistance to the western brands. Thus, the consumers can easily relate the product to any familiar scenarios in their life, and subconsciously loss their cultural resistance or the feeling of alienation. The process of getting over the cultural threshold to accepting the values and cultures conveyed in the commercials actually leads to the purchasing behavior.
Moreover, this process also makes the products’ origin of country ambiguous to the Chinese consumers. From the result of the focus groups, we have already witnessed how much the respondents relate the products to Chinese domestic brands/manufactures/companies. As part of the process of getting audience losing their cultural resistance, the selected P&G commercials emphasize the high-standard quality of the products and down-play the products’ country of origin.

In summary, Chinese consumers take culture and values into account when they make decision to accept a western brand. The commercials, as a way to pitch the western brands to the Chinese consumers have to integrate the unique selling points of the products and the cultures and values as a whole. Merely focusing on the products and ignoring the sub-culture cannot effectively appeal to the target audience. The soft sell-contingency strategy which incorporates Chinese culture and values is proved to be effective for the American brands who want to sell to China.
As the biggest consumer products manufacture in U.S., P&G’s cross-cultural advertising practice has provided one of the successful stories for other American brands who are ambitious for Chinese market.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reality TV is still TV

Yesterday's presentations sparked some interesting dialogue around issues of both the effects and intentions of reality programming. While some tended to the side that reality television could serve a beneficial purpose, others were more skeptical of its perceived altruistic value. I side with the latter half. To me, whatever the positive effects TV might have for an individual, they are personal. The foundation for any television show is its value as an economic good. Reality television is no exception, it was created because of its economic advantages over programming that needed heavy investments in production. I have no problem with the overweight guy who watches The Biggest Loser and subsequently makes positive lifestyle changes. But TV executives have a handle on this tendency for viewers to seek out themes in shows with which they can reconcile their own identity. And they profit on it through advertising, merchandising, and making even more of the same programming. Although not reality programming, Subway Jared probably made a ton of money through the realization of Subway that they could capitalize by being relatable. As long as people are able to separate what is contrived and what is authentic on TV, then all is fine. But without trying to sound too cynical, many people cannot always make this distinguishment, myself included. It is because producers are so adept at blurring that line, and reality television is still supposed to be just that, real. It is why reality programming is only spreading and why advertisers are increasingly looking to the genre for opportunities to sell their products in the context of real life and 'relatibility.'

Reality TV can absolutely be beneficial, but I don't think those are societal effects. They are limited to individuals who identify with the shows in a positive way. In the case of The Biggest Loser, maybe they join 24 Hour Fitness, eat more Yoplait and Gortons products, lose 20 pounds, and spend a few hundred dollars. In the end, it is wonderful that someone was able to draw positives from watching the show-but the programming itself has no more inherent moral value than a thirty second commercial-they are both created for the same purpose. The societal effects of reality television may have more serious implications such as encouraging superficial judgements of people, creating unrealistic expectations, and perpetuating negative stereotypes of really tan Italian Americans.

Week 13: On Presentations--Reality Television

This week, we didn’t have a whole lot of time for a discussion of the readings, but since the group projects both focused on how cultural products are localized, namely, how television shows cross borders and achieve success, I think it’s a good jumping off point. Audience is the most important factor when trying to market a television show, despite a project’s budget or content. If the audience isn’t the first consideration, they will notice, and not return to a television show. This has been in large part why reality programs are so adaptable cross-culturally. Reality programs, which tend to aim for the lowest common denominator demographically, have a relatability factor which scripted shows can lack (in the sense that they are generally focused on niche markets). Whether reality programs focus on health issues, entertainment, competition, or personal achievement, there will always be an audience for it.

What audiences may not realize, however, is just how orchestrated a reality program is—everything from product placement to the people chosen for the show is a carefully strategized plan designed to create suspense and drama, or entertainment or salacious television that will suck viewers in. This could be representative of a Western culture (where the idea for reality programming originated) which is replete with consumerist messages, or could merely be reflective of a commodification of experience which is necessary in a convergent communication culture which requires profit to stay alive. Either way, the emergence and sustainability of reality television has been an interesting trend to watch.

Palestinian/Israeli Sesame Street!

Something that really I found interesting in the presentation of the second group Yesterday, is the Sesame Street collaborated versions. Specially the one for Palestine Jordan and Israel. at first I thought it is very good and would have been very successful in creating a new generation of children who hold less anger and hatred. Then I gave it another thought, especially among Palestinian desperate children, and i thought it is actually not working. Children in Palestine, who live in a non stop war condition, poverty, and deprivation, can not overcome the negative feelings for the ones who dumped them in this misery. The children who have lost their family members with the Israeli bullets, who have missed their friends at schools because they throw stones at Israeli tanks, and who see Israeli soldiers and bulldozers destroying their homes and their family properties to live in camps! The children who coop and adapt to their pathetic reality because of Israel. I dont think these children can overcome their negative feelings towards Israel. In fact, I think a human would accept to even forgive or forget their suffrage.
In fact, when I thought more about it, I think the sesame street collaboration was actually to normalize the situation for Israeli children to live and be around Palestinian ones. Children in Israel also live in fear from palestinians to certain limit, that the children program would want to overcome. But their fear is incomparable with the fear that Palestinian children live in. The WALL that sieges Palestinians in Gaza makes the children of Israel to live in peace, but on the other side it imprison the Palestinian ones, it sets them apart of their schools, families and lives. I actually think that this collaboration is very prejudice and very in humane, to frame the enemy as friend, to embody false thoughts in children who see disasters in their realities, it is just ridiculous and absurd ! its a mere failure. Above all that, the fact that the studios of the Sesame street were destroyed hampers down the whole story.

I think collaborative TV shows must be mutual and need to work at the same page and same agenda, in order to achieve its goals successfully .

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Public Diplomacy: Forming our Image

Part of James Glassman's description of PD 2.0 was centered around the use of new technologies, but also to use this new technology in a capacity that was more attuned to welcoming the voices of those countries with whom we aspire to build diplomatic relations. Listening and building conversation should undoubtedly be a focal point of a new public diplomacy, especially one that has an online presence. Merely participating in online forums, contributing to a blog, or making a comment on Twitter is a steps towards creating a more inclusive and participatory enviroment that is attractive to those looking at the US. I do wonder if as Glassman says, the 'gentle informing' of the State Dept. Digital Outreach Team is as welcomed as he makes it seem-but it is regardless, a step in the right direction.

How then does PD 2.0 fit into Jospeh Nye's 3 dimensions of public diplomacy? It seems to facilitate the first-daily communications of foreign policy decisions-it provides a new space for this information to be disseminated. However, it does seem that Nye sees this as a one-way flow, not a forum for discussion, although in PD 2.0 perhaps this is what it should be. The second dimension of creating strategic themes has great implications if one of these very themes can be the US as a country that is willing to welcome and listen to international viewpoints. These themes are supposed to be reflective of US interests, and perhaps the PD 2.0 dogma of dialogue and respectful listening should be at the top of the list. The third dimension of creating long term relationships is extremely powerful, and has great potential if the new public diplomacy is indeed centered around an exchange of ideas. The virtual exchange of ideas could well lead to more meaningful and substantive exchanges of people across cultures. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs already has several programs that accomplish this, but there is room for more.

Although it may not immediately seem like it, the central tenants of public diplomacy (as laid out by Nye) don't necessarily need to change according to PD 2.0. Rather, there is potential for them to be adapted in a way that increases their reach and effectiveness. By welcoming reciprocity and the creation of more open dialogues, the US is definitely on the right track towards maintaining its relevance.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 12: Cultural Products and Soft Power

In the globalized world, where non-state actors exert a serious amount of influence, examining soft power becomes interesting. What is the role of an advertising agency, let’s say, whose very job is to make the audience want something, either a product or a way of life, that they don’t have now or don’t have enough of now? The only effective advertising is that which attracts an audience, not one which blatantly dictates what the consumer should want. It’s done coercively, it’s done subtly, in a technique which some industries—let’s take fashion, for example—have done brilliantly in the past sixty years. And interestingly enough, it is in the past sixty years that enormous change leading to the globalized world—the rise in communication technologies, the fall of colonialism and the Berlin Wall, have seen with it the emergence of convergent and cross-cultural communication in the form of advertising.

Is advertising really a form of soft power? The way a company or a product markets itself is vital to its success—even in transnational boundaries. While global products may not be owned or marketed directly by a government, do they not also reflect some of the culture from which they originate? To go back to a fashion industry example, Chanel differs from Dolce and Gabbana, which differs from Juicy Couture, in the way of life which they promote, and is at least somewhat reflective of the culture from which each originates. Thus, when advertisers send messages out to an audience, promoting the way of life that comes with these clothes, are they not also promoting a cultural message that, while not coinciding with an orchestrated government message, still out to achieve the same goal of acceptance? Cultural products are exported to be accepted in whatever market they can be, and it is through advertising, through the promotion of a way of life, that this is achieved.

Soft Power Failure!

As post 9/11 measure, the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo prison, and the invasion in Iraq, the image of America in the world has changed dramatically, especially in the Middle East. In 2003, a cultural exchange program as a public diplomacy measure took place. My cousin who was a student at the King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals was among the host group, and he wanted to participate in the cultural exchange program. He applied for the program and he received the invitation. When he started the process of applying and issuing the visa, the US embassy in Riyadh had very strict procedures that caused delays, denials, or not responds to some individuals. My cousin applied for the visa 7 months before the day the Saudi team should have flown to the states. I remember how disappointed and frustrated was my cousin to not hear back from the embassy. He did not go on the program along with other friends of his whom visa were rejected or had not heard from the embassy as well. Despite the fact that my cousin has studied college in the US, and has been several times prior to the 9/11 hit.

Looking back at the incidence, I think that the US efforts in public diplomacy were completely failure at that time. To receive an invitation from the American government, and to receive a visa denial from the same part seemed very illogical paradox. It must have created different confusing perceptions about America among these people. Collaborative efforts should come about different governmental sectors working together in order to attain the wanted results of public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is a very strong and effective tool that governments use in order to create the image of their countries the way they want. But it needs strategic implementation. Arbitrary effort would definitely leads to nowhere if not fires back.

I think that the previous American administration caused a lot of deformation in the American global image at different levels. Fighting terrorism was urgently needed at that time in the American foreign policies, but I believe the government could have achieved that in a less radical measure that could have not distorted the American image. To many individuals around the world, America has become a country that only knows the language of war. Which is very hard and radical power, when in fact the American Government was trying to maintain soft power through Public diplomacy. That’s why many around the world appraised Obama’s announcement of the closure of Guantanamo prison, the US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. These actions in a way sooth the flammable image, that can be improved with soft power influence in the long run. The US foreign policy with the new administration has been working at different levels to restore the US image around the world. I believe that different governmental sectors must work comprehensively together in order to succeed in public diplomacy and retrieve the image of the American dream.