"Sometime ago a foreign company, started a vast million-dollar campaign to boost its brand into the Chinese market. For months there appeared not only in all papers but also in Chinese general storekeepers, restaurants, theatres, and public amusement grounds large advertisements depicting a ponderous Chinese character (烤) with a circle encircling it. There was no effort to explain that lone character (烤), which stood for "toasted", and led one to wonder whether it was meant for toasted pork or toasted mutton. Little did the millions of bewildered readers imagine what toasted product it actually was.
This mysterious advertisement must have had its full swing for more than a month before it was substituted by another advertisement in which the Chinese character (烤) still remained but became diminished in size and was coupled by a line of smaller characters in partial explanation, which rendered the whole thing still more puzzling.
The exact wording of the line I have forgot, but it must have gone something like "toasted, it tastes good".
Then another thing happened after another month. The Tan Kwei First Theatre (丹桂茶园), a then very prosperous Chinese Opera announced in every paper that it would shortly present a new serial play entitled (烤). The curiosity of the readers was further increased when they learned after witnessing the new play that it depicted the story of a secret society, which avenged its enemies by actually toasting them to death!
Naturally the clever advertiser of the resourceful British American Tobacco (B.A.T.) Co., meant to keep silent of the secret until the readers were fairly mad, and then tipping off the climax by informing the world that there was a toasted tobacco. Dramatic, no doubt. But the trouble was that the secret had been kept so long that no longer it remained a secret. Somebody who knew had whispered it to all! Further, those who still did not know became bored of it and no longer cared about it. So, when the final climax came, when every nook and corner of the earth were told of the coming of the King Fisher, "toasted" tobacco, nobody seemed to take any serious attention. And not long after its debut the King Fisher had altogether vanished from the market."
By Kinglu S. Chen, The China Weekly Review, August 18th 1928
Write a comment