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Madison Avenue Takes On China

May 30, 1986|Associated Press

SEATTLE — Last summer, advertising executive Jayne Ferguson was in China, standing in line to confirm reservations on a Chinese airline.

As other passengers spoke at the counter, her interpreter leaned over and whispered, "Do you realize they're asking to fly on a Boeing jet?"

No small victory for Ferguson, whose accounts include Boeing Co. commercials on Chinese television.

Last year, the Chinese contracted for 64 hours of programming a year from CBS in the first regularly scheduled block of U.S. television to appear on the government-controlled China Central Television system. Part of that deal allowed CBS to sell 32 minutes of commercial time on the network.

Boeing and Weyerhaeuser Co. were among a handful of U.S. companies that jumped at the chance to show their products before a potential audience of 600 million Chinese.

The cost for Boeing was about $300,000--cheap by U.S. network costs--and the aircraft manufacturer believes that the price was well worth it.

"Just sheer numbers of coverage helped us accomplish our objective of making air travel synonymous with Boeing," said Don Charles, director of advertising and sales promotion for Boeing Commercial Airplane Co.

Boeing, a major provider of civilian aircraft in China, wants to reach the politicians and business leaders in charge of developing China's fledgling aviation industry.

The Boeing commercials show scenic photos of places in China where Boeing planes might fly.

Under the arrangement for the commercial time, the Chinese are promised half of the advertising profits and ownership of the programs.

Among the shows the Chinese chose from CBS' library of programs were a college football game, the National Basketball Assn. playoffs, "60 Minutes," a science show narrated by Walter Cronkite, a four-part animated Dr. Seuss special and several made-for-television movies.

Ferguson, the CBS account executive in charge of the China project, said sporting events have been among the most popular programs, though American football proved a little baffling.

"They really didn't know what it was all about, but they saw these Americans running up and down the field, and they thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen," she said.

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