“Sunshine” – A Short Film About An American Ad Man In China

Sunshine - A Short Film About An American Ad Man In China

Economist Martin Jacques said in his 2010 TED Talk, Western people will never understand China if they insist on trying to by “simply drawing on Western experience, looking at it through Western eyes, using Western concepts“. A new short film by Doug Nichol titled ‘Sunshine‘ follows American advertising producer, John Benet, as he heads to the PRC to film a new TV Commercial for McDonald’s whilst simultaneously going on a personal journey where he learns about the Chinese way of doing things.

Watch on Vimeo

Watch on Tudou

The film opens with a Chinese (Singaporean) man on a phone describing an idea for what is later unveiled to be the family friendly Mcdonald’s TV ad. You can’t help but chuckle when the man explains “you know the music video by Prodigy ‘Smack My Bitch Up’…that’s kind of the idea”. This sort of somewhat sums up what John Benet experiences in his visit to China – obscurity and weirdness (at least from his perspective). ‘Sunshine’ is full of various insights into China and its ad industry that will raise an eyebrow to outsiders, from the “Sunshine People”, to the aim of promoting happiness in ads, all the way to the “dee doo” sound Chinese fire engines make.

Since its online release McDonald’s China and its ad agency TBWA have been less than impressed by the film, as it turns out permission was not given for it to be made. However, ‘Sunshine’ is a great watch and we find John Benet beginning to conclude that despite working in advertising for the last 23 years, he seems to lose all concepts of what it is good and what is bad creativity when it comes to making a Chinese TV commercial.

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  • Aduh

    SOFA =3=

  • Aduh

    Where do I find those Propaganda posters’ exhibitions in China, it looks really cool
    * v *

    • Jesse

      By the end of this documentary I felt less that I had learned anything about the advertising profession and more that it was an expose of a certain kind of China visitor. We get presented with a character who never engages with his environment throughout the fifteen minutes (the closest they get is going to old shanghai and snapping photographs), gets repeatedly hustled and talks about what he observes in a condescending way. Sure, I get that he’s jaded from 23 years of incessant travel in the business, but he has already decided before he gets there at all that China is some kind of alien place, and goes searching for evidence by finding vintage communist propaganda posters and making a trite comment about macdonalds being the new Mao. Is it any surprise that he never asked any of the companies involved in the documentary for permission?

  • Zhang, Yi

    Hey Daniel, thanks for sharing this video & it’s an interesting watch,


    “The film opens with a Chinese man … “You can’t help but chuckle when the man explains “you know the music video by Prodigy ‘Smack My Bitch Up’…that’s kind of the idea…This sort of somewhat sums up what John Benet experiences”

    FYI that is a THICK SINGAPOREAN accent (not just the guy but the girl at the end of the conference call too!!). So unless you know the voice irl, I don’t think you can use the “Chinese” label, it gives a very wrong and misleading impression!

    Obviously the way the video is edited, Doug (the video maker) is impressing upon the audience that the voice is Chinese, and Daniel, I think you are right that the use of the edit/device is to “somewhat sums up what John Benet experiences in his visit to China – obscurity and weirdness (at least from his perspective).”

    Overall, i feel the video wasn’t really about his experience in SH. As in, not so much an American ad man in China but rather an American in China on ad.

    IMO, a lot of the perceived “obscurity and weirdness” is really just ignorance.. I mean he already got things wrong & mixed up in the start! It becomes much less obscure and weird once you realize that it’s not a Chinese working w/ a Foreigner, but instead it’s two culturally-iffy Foreigners working together on the Chinese market… no wonder things can get confusing…

    P.S. This video reminded me of that movie “Lost in Translation” because it touches upon a lot of the similar themes. On the grounds of those topics interacting between two cultures, I’ve always disliked the title of that movie, because I’ve always thought it misses half of the point, i think the real deal is What’s Lost and ADDED in Translation.


    • Daniel Gilroy

      hey Zhang Yi

      Thanks for your comment. Apologies my accent recognition has never been that strong – but noted! Regarding the obscurity and weirdness, I agree and that’s the point I was trying to make in the first line.


      • Zhang, Yi

        lol np but you mispelled my name

        • elizabeth

          Good for you to call him out on misspelling your name as well as the accent in the film.
          Like Jesse, I am weary of provacatuers mascarading as “free-lance journalists” entering China in search of a Pulitzer with no respect for the Chinese culture and little regard for the truth.

    • Michael

      That’s not a “thick” Singapore accent, it’s a very normal Singapore accent.

  • who cares

    very interesting short film

  • Rod

    Enjoyed the video –

    It was interesting to see some real shots of China instead of stuffa bout rice paddies or grass hats and all that stereotypical stuff.

    But I guess I’ve been here too long, because the firetruck noise on the McDonald’s commercial seemed perfectly normal. Haha.

  • ChinesePride

    That was not a Chinese man talking but was more like a Singapore man talking and he doesnt respect Chinese culture. He can go to hell. These are the kind of people Mcdonalds uses to fleece and make money from China, non Chinese! Do not think we will forget, it is happening too much and will stop by smart Chinese people. Your 15 minutes of famous in China is over and Chinese will turn off the switch and send you back to capitalist dirty vultures land .

    • mr. wiener

      Are rides any good at capitalist dirty vultures land?
      In addition the 15 minutes of fame thing works both ways, so remember to be nice to people on your way up, as you will surely meet them again on your way down.

  • elizabeth

    This guy really has no clue. He comes to China for the first time ever and now after what, 1 week, he is an expert on China??? Please go back and take a course in Asian studies, then live in China for at least 10 years, THEN, MAYBE, he might understand 2 percent.
    Until then, my message to all Chinese is: Keep selling this idiot fake Chinese artifacts and 10 dollar cups of tea!!! hahahaha what at moron!!!

    • mr. wiener

      Ahh…So this is how Asians feel when they go to the west and meet uptight snobbish white people. Thank you for the reverse polarity. Very educational.

      Keep fighting the good fight Liz, Foreigners shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this.

  • pette

    Not bad film. Man in his biological climax after 23 years of hard work in advertising business finally coming to a new world .. A little bit sad that he’ll never be able to enjoy this world .. I like John Benet role of victim.

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