2012-10-31

廣告街坊:香港魔力 The Magic of Hong Kong

I had a friend who stopped over Hong Kong for various business and personal reasons over the weekend and just like every other time he stopped over Hong Kong for any other reasons, he ended up doing lots of shopping (well, to me it was quite a lot).  The 'shopping' has now become a 'ritual' in which among friends he has in Hong Kong would very much like to be a part of - just to experience how it feels to be treated like an 'VIP'.

He confesses there seems to be 'the magic of Hong Kong' which induces him to do lots of shopping here.  I wonder what 'the magic of Hong Kong' could be - besides the cliche (often well-argued and represented) reasons of it being a free port (tax-free and thus many come to take advantage of the tax-free goods), reputable (well, to a certain extent, people seem to trust products made/sold in HK than products made in geographical regions beyond the northern border of HKSAR, but I was warned of the 'electronic black-market' here by my professor in the UK) and provides relatively good services (this point depends on if you are from a country with excellent service like Japan or Taiwan or places where good services are unheard of).  These are all fine and valid reasons.  Being an anthropologist (in-training), however, I'd like to go beyond the cliche to propose an alternative possibility.

There is something that partly induces and partly exploits.  It induces you with the 'perfect life' you might get and exploits your 'insecurities' of not being happy/good/pretty/wealthy enough.  To me, there seems to be an attitude and belief of 'buying your way into happiness' which permeate in the air of Hong Kong through our encounters with the city everyday - the omnipresence of advertising.  

If it hard to go by your daily business in Hong Kong without encountering any of these:

On your way to work/school:

Bus TV Ads  -

MTR Ads (some even animated ones) -





In order to avoid these ads, you probably need to shut your eyes and ears (with the help of the ear-plug), in other words, to shut yourself from the outside world in order to have a little bit of peace and quiet.

While shutting yourself from the outsider world is an option when being in transit, it might endanger your life if you do so while walking down the street and in order to save your own life inevitably you see -



The famous neon signs of Hong Kong:




Huge ads on building facades, on top of buildings (which can be seen even across the harbour and becomes a tourist attraction!)





The ads have now even penetrated into lift lobbies (little TV), lift doors, along the corridors, even having big wide screen at a street junction!


They are everywhere and inescapable.  They insinuates you with images of 'perfection', of 'beauty', of 'happiness'.  These images seem to sell you these 'perfect, beautiful and happy' stories that are available to you if you consume their products.  They have done an amazing job of selling what this city has to offer considering my friend (as well as lots of other tourists in Hong Kong) is indeed being seduced into buying stuff here.  These ads work!

The sad part of this incredible success to many of us who live in this city is that we are bombarded with noise and visual pollution everyday.  Not every ad is worth looking at - some of them are plain ugly without any aesthetic appeal nor a sense of humour - they are hard-selling you.  We walk in a city cluttered with lots of ads, some of them work wonderfully, some of them do not.  I learn to turn an blind eye on most of them (if not for the articles I need to write here) and these ads need to compete even more fiercely for our attention.  Brighter colours, louder noises,  gestures and plots that stir debates.

I wonder if there will be a day when the residents of this city have had enough of noise and visual pollution that demand for ad-free zones - or limit the size and noise level of ads.  Will there be a change of ads culture to that of a more sublime art oozes with gentleness?  It probably takes a whole culture to change the culture of advertising - if we can put up with all the noises and visual pollution, I guess we can only blame ourselves for the everyday encounters with the ubiquitous ads.   Or perhaps all that sounds and images these ad generate are what make Hong Kong 'magical' and being pragmatic residents of Hong Kong, money-making is all that is to justify all other 'inconvenience' we encounter in our daily life.

Cherie








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