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Bread, circuses and hair removal creams

By Jules Quartly | China Daily | Updated: 2012-10-30 09:27

Oftentimes hacks like myself go into public relations. Some think of it as a logical development, the next challenge, others are shell shocked by the battle to produce daily copy and retreat into something better paid and with easier hours.

While not all journalists are clever, there are some brilliant minds in marketing whose job is to create demand for products. It is, after all, the way capitalism works. Consumption is king and it keeps people happy and busy, much like bread and circuses.

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If I was in PR, I guess the most brilliant thing I could do was create universal demand for something no one needed.

Which brings us to anti-depilatory creams that contain chemicals and dissolve keratin in hair so it is easily removed. In plain speak, that means no body hair.

Bread, circuses and hair removal creams

While I think it's a miracle application for women from certain Mediterranean countries, who have little fuzzy moustaches; Western or African women who want silky smooth legs; or even Brazilians who love brazilians; I'm not sure why the majority of Chinese women need it.

They are generally not hirsute, yet the Reckitt Benckiser Group and its PR people have managed to find a way to make its hair remover Veet appear absolutely necessary, particularly to newly fashionable female urbanites. It has done this by giving out free samples on campuses and sponsoring articles on the subject.

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The face of Veet is popular actress and singer Yang Mi, who has helped boost sales by 20 percent year-on-year and convinced users that not only does a fur-free body feel good, it also creates confidence and "shining glory".

Aditya Sehgal, head of RBG in China told Business Week: "It's not how much hair you have, it's how much you think you have If your concern level is high enough, even one hair is too much."

Domestic manufacturers are now clambering onto the bandwagon and coming out with their own hair removers. It can only be a matter of time before there is some dreadful story about fake products skinning some unfortunate woman.

As it stands, even the best hair removers are not for everyone and the corrosive chemicals can cause allergic reactions, inflammation and pain. They may also leave "shadows" of dark hair under the skin. Best of all, the effects don't last long, so the products have to be used often.

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But this is not deterring anyone and while presently only 0.6 percent of Chinese women use hair creams, this is expected to rise exponentially.

Hair removal creams for women without body hair, whitening creams for dark skins, bronzing products for white skins are great examples of creating want for what you don't have and don't need.

I really should go to the local branch of Ogilvy Public Relations and pitch hair removal cream to men. The ad would go something like this: Chimp in forest, discovers Veet, applies, transforms into a glabrous Homo sapien, admired by all.

In the Age of Conspicuous Consumption there can be no higher achievement.

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