Taobao Mall: The Empty City Of China

Taobao Mall - Empty City Commercial 2

Taobao Mall is the largest online shopping emporium in China (and Asia). To highlight its strength, the online retailer has launched an advertising campaign that depicts an eery picture of a deserted Shanghai.

The campaign’s theme is “没人上街,不一定没人逛街” (Méi rén shàng jiē, bù yīdìng méi rén guàngjiē) roughly translating to, “Empty streets, does not mean no-one is shopping“. Here is the advert below:

On Youtube

On Youku

Its a not a bad TV advert, but at the same time it’s also not that good. This is due to the commercial’s distinct lack of originality.

The creative agency, ‘Lowe China’ described the commercial in its official press release as “revolutionary”.

However, there are countless examples where the concept has been used before. Here is the original, it was an advert created for British Airways by M&C Saatchi, all the way back in 1994. Its an absolute classic:

On Youtube

On Tudou

Aside from the TV commercial, four print advertisments were also created for the campaign. I came across the original concept designs too via, you can view them below.

Taobao Mall - Empty City 1a

Agency credit to: Lowe China

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  • Ahwong

    i like the idea of the ad, but knowing that the concept was used before somehow turns me off

    china best at copying?

    • Hi Ahwong,

      I feel the same. In terms of China being best at copying – for many products i would say probably yes (Shanzhai goods are great aren’t they). Korean imitations are pretty good too though.

      Advertising-wise, agencies from all over the world borrow ideas from previous ads and re-package them. This is a fairly common thing. The Chinese ad industry has just got a bad rep, which is on the whole unfounded.

      China has created some great original work in recent times and this year’s D&AD / Cannes Lions awards will hopefully reflect this.


      • GAC

        I agree with you that borrowing ideas is common. That applies to every creative work. It’s just natural for concepts and tropes to be borrowed and re-imagined.

        Now to the bigger question: How the Hell did they get so many shots of empty streets and empty malls in freaking Shanghai!?

        • TylerDurden

          heheh borrowing.. hah.. could you be anymore PC?

          • GAC

            … ? I was not trying to be PC. That’s just a common term for it. “Stealing” is used just as much. In any case, it isn’t really nefarious. Just the natural exchange of ideas that occurs with creative works. Blatant copying of someone else’s product, or using someone else’s creative work (maybe reshot or recut) would be another matter, but that is not happening in this particular ad.

  • xmcx

    Wow, pushing consumerism onto 1.3 bn greedy people: well done to the smart alecks who don’t see how this is a recipe for disaster.

  • john digmeme

    When I start to see such blatant parallels between these Chinese oriented ad’s (incl. recent GAP ad) and US consumer culture based on the ad’s produced in the west, and I remember that US consumer spending is responsible for 65-85% of its GDP, I get kind of excited to see where this is going.

    Part of me wants to be an idealist that claims that China should embrace a culture of simplicity (a la Buddhism), accentuate its differences to the west and maybe be a bit more like Bhutan; at the same time I understand these people are hungry for what they’ve been denied for so many generations, the chance to experience some kind of comfort for once.

    I get excited because, as a kid, I always wanted to live in “the future”. I think about how China is not even at max power economically and already they seem to be leaping ahead of everyone. When will “the future” become profitable for China, more importantly, when will 1.3 billion people be willing and able to buy it?

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