Sex-Related Advertisements in China
(Southern Weekend) Why Are Sex-Related Advertisements Running Amok in China? By Xiu Yangyun (宿泱韫). October 18, 2007.
In September this year, a certain Guangzhou metro newspapers published a news story on <State Administration of Radio, Film and Television bans sex-related advertisements once more>. Ironically, right underneath that news story was an advertisement about "the unique Chinese method to increase penis length and thickness." It is the "hidden rule" for the companies to "work with" the media to forge 'low price' contracts in order to pay for the fines imposed by the State General Administration for Industry and Commerce.
So have you realized this? That these vulgar things are all around us --
Guangzhou: When you go to work, a salesman hands you a finely printed magazine. You open the magazine and you read the big-lettered words: "Nerve-stimulation method makes a man hard and strong."
Taiyuan: When you are leisurely reading a local news digest, you get annoyed: a certain "power pill" to cure premature ejaculation has just drawn attention from the featured text.
Qingdao: On a public bus, the television screen is showing an advertisement: an eight- or nine-year-old boy jumps out and says: "Whey I grow up, I want to go to the XX men's hospital!" Of course, even if you are driving in your own car, the various traffic radio stations are probably filling your ears with advertisements about cures for sexual frigidity.
At night, you are visiting the women's channel at the web portal and you read "penis lengthened by XX millimeters"; late at night, the various local television stations are showing explicit advertisements about "giving you a brand new manhood in twenty days." You will surely blush ...
From south to north, from morning to night, from print media to stereophonic broadcasts, the sex-related advertisements are everywhere. Otherwise, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television would not have issued the <Notice on further administration of broadcast television advertisements>. Among the regulations: No advertisements that make false claims, or contain harmful information, or refer to vulgar sex-related health products and other sex-related advertisements shall be shown. In August, the various levels of broadcast television organizations went through a clean-up process. As of September 6, broadcast television stations that violate the regulations will be criticized and ordered off the air. Twenty days later, SARFT prohibited eight more kinds of sex-related advertisements about medicine, treatments, products as well as related information programs and television shopping programs.
But today, there are still some media ready to take the risk.
In their view, sex-related advertisements do not stand for vulgarity and baseness. Rather, they regard these advertisements as steady sources of income. According to a Ms. Yang who has been in a media advertising sales department: A certain metro newspaper in Guangzhou draws 70 to 80 million yuan in revenue from advertisements on medical products and services in the year before last, and this represents one-third of their total revenue from advertisements. Rights activist Huang Zhihong from Wuhan city said: Out of the more than 500 million yuan income for a certain newspaper group in central China, medical products and services accounted for almost 400 million yuan.
Among the advertisements related to medical products and services, sex-related advertisements account for a very high proportion. According to the reporter's rough estimate, there were 54 sex-related advertisements (including only those about improving male sexual performance but not including female breast enhancement or cosmetics) in a certain Guangzhou metro newspaper in September. Sometimes, there were five or six sex-related advertisements in a single day. "This proves that there is a market demand," explained Ms. Yang. The dazzling array of sex-related advertisements shows that there is a booming market in front of us.
According to trustworthy tabulations, there is a large number of Chinese people with erectile dysfunction problems. According to an experienced doctor, an accurate number is 100 million. Psychological problems or over-fatigue can cause erectile dysfunction. This problem requires regular therapy and adjustment, but most sufferers will not take this road.
When these people are anxious to cure their problems but are clueless about sex, they become bedazzled by the various sex-related advertisements. "Even when some people are deceived by the false advertising, they are too embarrassed to complain," said Chinese Healthcare Association deputy secretary-general Jia Yaguang.
At the same time, the hyperbole in those sex-related advertisements has managed to draw in another group of consumers. The manufacturers understand the mindset of their customers, and they do not beat around the bush in promoting their products. An advertising industry worker said brazenly: "Actually, we don't bother with using oblique hints. Most of the customers are migrant workers, and so we want to be fast and direct."
So what is the true effectiveness of these products? "Those products that advertise immediate effects include ingredients from western medicine." Jia Yaguang said that many of the so-called sex-related healthcare products are supposed to be food products which include prescription medicine. Without a doctor's instruction on how to use these products, the users may even get into more trouble without curing their original problems. As for those products that have no listed address or telephone number for the manufacturers, their effects are dubious.
Since the 'weeds' have surfaced, the only hope is through 'weeding' them out. There are usually two ways of weeding. First, the media has to monitor themselves. Secondly, the State General Administration for Industry and Commerce and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television should monitor the media.
Most media will use qualified inspectors to watch over whether the advertisements violate the relevant regulations. But in the face of the interests of the media group, the inspectors often had no say. A person who had been involved in the operations over these advertisements said: "The television station itself is a protective umbrella. They must surely know all about the relevant orders from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Before the relevant department begin their inspections, they will inform us: You better not broadcast this program over the next couple of days; you should wait until the pressure is off."
Since self-discipline is ineffective, it is all up to government monitoring. In October 2006, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the State General Administration for Industry and Commerce issued the <Notice on further administration of broadcast television advertisements>. It was clearly stipulated that "medical products, health foods, disinfectants and other products must not hint at anything about increasing or enhancing sexual performance or sexual organs." In September this year, a certain Guangzhou metro newspapers published a news story on <State Administration of Radio, Film and Television bans sex-related advertisements once more>. Ironically, right underneath that news story was an advertisement about "the unique Chinese method to increase penis length and thickness."
The regulations on advertising stipulate: the penalties on the persons responsible include confiscation of all advertising fees, fines, suspension of advertising, etc. In practice, the only penalties are fines. None of the advertising industry workers have heard of any cases in which advertising was suspended. The fines are usually rigged. On one hand, according to informed persons, it is a "hidden rule" for the advertiser to "work with" the advertising media to create fake 'low-priced' contacts because the fines imposed by the State General Administration for Industry and Commerce are proportionate with the advertising income. On the other hand, it is normal to negotiate with the State General Administration for Industry and Commerce over the size of the fine. Someone had once successfully negotiated a 100,000 yuan fine down to 20,000 yuan.
Behind these fines, there is also the game play between the State General Administration for Industry and Commerce and the media. Rights defender Huang Zhihong has a rich media experience. Recently, it was reported that the Wuhan city health system intends to enhance administration of healthcare advertisements. So Huang Zhihong was besieged by the media who were trying to seek out negative information about the health system in order to "expose" them.
When Huang Zhihong walked by the announcement board at a certain newspaper group, he accidentally discovered a ban order on him and his associates. They had been actively denouncing the fake advertisements and causing the reputation of the group to be harmed: "Although there were various kinds of problems with the advertisements that the group has published, we recommend that the various media outlets in the group not publish any reports on XX for the sake of the overall interests of our group."