CHINA

The campaign that went too far?

A campaign about the Beijing Olympics produced for Amnesty International France was considered so aggressive by its creators that they decided to call off its release. Too late to stop it from getting to Chinese webusers though... Read more.

Advertising

A campaign about the Beijing Olympics produced for Amnesty International France was considered so aggressive by its creators that they decided to call off its release.

Advertising agency TBWA\Paris did however seek permission from their client to present the project at the Cannes Lions advertising festival. And it even received a prize. Since then the images, which show Chinese prisoners tortured with the help of Olympics sports equipment, have been circulated on blogs and forums in China, causing outrage in the country.

"This was perhaps a little brutal"

Marie Holzman is a French specialist on China and works as a human rights activist with the association "Solidarité Chine"

I was there when they shot the photos for the campaign. The imagery was very provoking and direct. It was designed to blow your mind - if you're French, not Chinese. But because of advertising, the French understanding has become very sophisticated; this was perhaps a little brutal.

It makes me think of another case that happened recently. The Samuel Bollendorf exhibition was supposed to have been displayed at the World Forum on Human Rights at the International Convention Centre in Nantes, but some associations opposed it. The organisers compromised: they removed the exhibition, but kept a photo of it on their poster.

If you don't fight against these dictators, they'll eventually arrive on your doorstep. And it's happening faster than I feared."

 

"If the police treated a prisoner like they do in these scenarios, he or she would face serious punishment"

Our Observer posted this comment, directed at TBWA\Paris, on a forum for advertising professionals, Adsoftheworld.com. F Shi works for Ogilvy in Beijing.

Let me give you some facts. China has made huge improvements when it comes to human rights. I took part in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations when I was a student in 1989. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have dared admit it. But now, I feel able to talk about it openly, because I'm not scared of being punished anymore. According to current laws, if the police treated a prisoner like they do in these scenarios, he or she would face serious punishment.

Let me tell you about social responsibility. Advertising should be based on the truth. You should be able to tell that an advert is a creation and not a news bulletin. But your campaign, while visually perfect, is lacking accurate information about China. Are you sure that people will be able to tell the difference between a visual creation and a factual message? If the answer is no, then you're making a mistake."

China's fury against the Campaign

Amongst a bombardment of insults and death threats hurled across the web towards France, we found these reasonably moderate opinions on Anti-CNN.com:

"Jarod47":

Why don't these bloody nuisance human rights advocates bugger off to Korea [North, we assume]? Right now the people there are suffering slavery and government oppression."

"Yehao":

I only hope that when I wake up tomorrow I'll hear that the US is no longer the world power, and that China is the economic might. Then all this Amnesty International-style scum will go away and never come back."

"Ahp":

As the venerable Mao said, "We should support whatever the enemy opposes and oppose whatever the enemy supports".

The photos deemed "too aggressive" by their creators