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National image lights up Times Square

Updated: 2011-01-19 08:22
By Chen Weihua in New York and Li Lianxing and Duan Yan in Beijing ( China Daily)

Grand New York display aims at promoting understanding. Chen Weihua in New York and Li Lianxing and Duan Yan in Beijing report.

National image lights up Times Square

A promotional video on China illuminates New York's Times Square as it debuts on Monday to coincide with President Hu Jintao's US visit this week. The 60-second video - which features basketball superstar Yao Ming and astronaut Yang Liwei, among other celebrities - will be shown 300 times daily for the next month. [Photo/Xinhua]

As advertising spaces go, you cannot get much more high profile than New York's iconic Times Square.

An estimated 1.7 million people pass through the landmark every day, making it a prime location to promote major brands - or, in China's case, a national image.

On Monday, there was a new addition to the usual billboards for Coca-Cola and Samsung: a 50-meter display called "China Experience", a looped 1-minute promotional video featuring some of the nation's most famous faces.

The display, which opened a day before President Hu Jintao's arrival for a four-day state visit to the United States, is part of a major campaign to promote China's image among Americans.

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Also included in the project is a 30-second commercial to be aired on US television and a 30-minute documentary, according to the State Council Information Office.

Experts welcomed the move on Tuesday, including one professor who told China Daily he hopes the project will undo some of the damage caused by anti-Chinese advertisements used by several candidates during last November's mid-term elections in the US.

The promo in Times Square, which will run until Feb 14, features a range of successful people, such as NBA basketball star Yao Ming, pianist Lang Lang, film director John Woo, hybrid rice scientist Yuan Longping and Alibaba founder Jack Ma. It also features ordinary Chinese from across the country.

Wang Lijun, assistant to the chairman at Shanghai Lowe & Partners, the advertising firm behind the production, said people from various specialties were selected for the campaign "because they represent the optimistic, upwardly mobile spirit of contemporary China".

Some of the celebrities chosen to appear even expressed their surprise at the invitation to take part.

"I never thought I would be chosen as my audience is mainly Chinese," said Chen Luyu, a popular talk show host often referred to as China's Oprah Winfrey. (Incidentally, Oprah appears on a billboard for the OWN channel opposite "China Experience".)

"Now I realize that my responsibility is to let the outside world hear Chinese voices," added Chen.

Data obtained by China Daily shows that the 30-second commercial will be aired 48 times - up to four times a day - on CNN, the 24-hour news channel, until Feb 13.

The 30-minute documentary, which was also funded by the central government, is also a mix of celebrities and ordinary citizens, with each offering a glimpse of the country's politics, economy or society.

According to a report by Guangming Daily, a Beijing-based newspaper, one scene shows ethnic youngsters using cell phones in a remote, mountainous area of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, while another has a man catching fish with cormorants in the picturesque southern city of Guilin.

"These scenes illustrate social changes and sustainable development," director Gao Xiaolong told Guangming Daily.

The documentary and advertisements will be shown in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Initial media reports suggested the BBC World Service had already scheduled the campaign. However, a spokesman for the broadcaster said via e-mail that the corporation has "not signed an agreement" with the State Council's Information Office.

National image lights up Times Square

The screen at Times Square shows scenes from a 1-minute looped commercial that has been specially made for "China Experience", a promotional display that is part of a major campaign to promote a truer image of China abroad. The commercial features some of China's most famous faces, including Yao Ming. [Photo/China News Service]

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