The Chinese Digital Marketing Industry Is Crying Right Now
China has just released their latest update on their advertisement conduct and regulation.
The majority of the document is made up of a list of “forbidden words.” This new law poses a minimum fine of 200k CNY and a maximum fine of 1 million CNY.
Scary, isn’t it.
Now… I’m all about freedom of speech, and I have never, ever agreed on China’s policy on “word restrictions.”
As a former fiction writer, I have suffered these ridiculous legislations more than anybody else.
But here’s the thing: When it comes to advertisement law, it is all about protecting consumer rights and prevent infringement of those rights. The entire list is extensive and unreasonable on certain aspects, and reflects the current “cultural policy” of China.
But it is not about freedom of speech this time. Rather, this latest update contains extremely valuable lessons for digital marketers all over the globe.
Before getting deeper into the lessons, let’s take a quick peek at what descriptive words are “legislatively banned” by the newest Chinese Advertisement Law:
At first glance, this is a quite extensive list, and almost unreasonable. A simple question - what if some product is the 1st of its type and does use the “latest” technology? Doesn’t this seem too brutal especially when we think about that minimum 200k fine?
However, if you look deeper into this list, you would inevitably realize one thing:
This is a list against deceptive advertising.
What Is Deceptive Advertising
Deceptive advertising is untrue, inaccurate, and maliciously manipulate consumers to make a purchase decision.
With a deeper look, any experienced digital marketer will realize one thing:
Deceptive advertising damages more than the consumer’s benefits. It also brings down the product/brand’s credibility. And most importantly, deceptive advertising could damage the entire industry.
Let’s take the digital marketing industry as an example.
How many “Gurus” have you seen on your social media feed, claiming they are offering this one secret of succeeding in digital marketing for free, then follow up with tons of “upsells” on desperate business owners who needed information to educate themselves?
How many of the repetitive copies you have seen, that next time you see one your instinct goes right to:
This person just want to scam more money out of me, like everybody else?
The thing with deceptive ads is that, they almost always
picture their audience as some incapable, lost lamb.
Make their service sound like the miracle-creator
Approach with a seemingly “free” or “great-deal” appearance
Carelessly use superlative adjectives such as the best, the most, or picture themselves as the only one thing that will work.
Sounds familiar? I bet it does.
Stop Calling Yourself The “Best” In Social Media Ads
Think about the days of your childhood.
Have your parents ever promised you one thing to get you to collaborate, and did something else instead at the end?
When I was five, I got obsessed with the waterpark. I so wanted to go.
So one week before finals, my dad said: “If you get all A+s this semester, I’m taking you to the biggest waterpark in town.”
Oh dear, wasn’t I thrilled?
I’ve always been a pretty good student, and somewhat a smart kid as well. All A+ was a stretch, but I made it with many nights of extra work.
On the day to cash my reward, my dad gave me an innocent laugh and be like: “Wait, you took that serious? But anyway, how about a regular amusement park - that’s cleaner.”
Was the amusement park nice? Sure!
Did I have a good time? Of course - what kid wouldn’t like an amusement park day?
But deep in my heart, I felt tricked. Worse, betrayed.
Similar things happen when you call yourself the “best,” the “no.1,” the “only type” — because these are such vast words and everybody have different, (and often unrealistic) expectations for these awesome offers.
Therefore, they are more critical with the service or product they receive from these ads. Anything below their expectation easily divert their thoughts to “this is a scam.”
Remember your least favorite car salesperson who tried to push an expensive ride on you? Or remember that one person in the clothing store who wouldn’t leave you alone even after you said you just wanted to walk and browse?
“I’m the best” ads created an allowance for exaggerated disappointment, which works in similar ways as the above-mentioned experiences. The end result, to say the least, is that people starting to build up doubt against all social media ads in that niche.
“I’m the best” Ads Attracts and Justifies Unreasonable Audiences
There’s an old saying in China that briefly translate to “you attract people of your kind.”
This was said a lot during my days as a fiction writer. My editors always told me the type of reader I attract was solely decided by the content I create. If I wrote a story featuring irresponsible teenagers tripping over sensations, I would attract those irresponsible teenagers, who usually trashed an author’s message board, bullied other readers, or even smeared the wall with hate posts, simply because they had no concern of the fact that the writer was a real human with an outside life.
On similar terms - by advertising that you were the best with mere words and exaggerated emotions, an advertiser/marketer would only attract people who lacked the ability of researching and making sensible decisions - people who were gamblers, betting the future of their career, finances or business on a random ad that claimed to understand their pain and self-proclaimed as the one magic solution.
Do you really want to work with people like that? People who refuse to hold themselves accountable for their life and future?
For me, that is a straight no. And I hope you feel the same way, too.
Self-proclaimed “Best” is not enough
If you, or your advertiser can’t come up with any other reason someone should purchase your product, except for that it is “the best,” “the latest technology,” and “one-of-a-kind,” you got yourself an under-educated, under-informed marketer.
Even in the digital marketing world, there are “best products” trying to prey off new-grads or people who just decided to give the digital marketing “gig” a shot. These advertisements pictured digital marketing, especially social media management as quick-money, providing “webinars” and “freebies” to both novice marketers and business owners who are not sure about outsourcing.
But here is the fact:
If the only thing you could say about your product is that it was “the best” and saved you from “the worst situation”…
… you shouldn’t be advertising.
The banning list of the 2019 Chinese Advertisement Law is extensive, and some of them were spin-offs of China’s cultural policy - which I 100% disapprove of. Other banning were a “one-cut-fits-all” behavior that affected some of the necessary terms in certain niche industries.
But overall, this was a harsh and long-due attempt to filter clean the advertising puddle. Because if as a marketer, one could say nothing about a product he/she is marketing for except for calling it the best or the latest or the greatest deal (price trick), that person really should be learning more before coming out into the industry, let alone taking on clients.
As a digital marketer specializing in lead generation, we put years of hard work into learning the industry, analyzing consumer psychology, and refining our arts in copywriting and content creation.
It would be lovely to have a skeleton key that sells every single product. But in reality, that is nothing but incompetency, and laziness.
Don’t let them ruin your perfectly fine business.
The cries in the Chinese digital marketing world will be over. And when the turmoils are done, mud will be washed away, and gold will once again shine.