China studio says US ad firm helped with psychedelic propaganda video

China studio says US ad firm helped with psychedelic propaganda video
A woman walks under Chinese flags decorating a hutong in central Beijing.
PHOTO: Reuters

SHANGHAI - The Chinese producer of a slick music video which used psychedelic images to promote Communist planning said Thursday it had a little help from its friends - a US advertising agency.

The shadowy Fuxinglushang Animation Studio, believed to have links to Communist authorities, produced an animated clip about China's 13th Five-Year Plan policy roadmap, which went viral after being released on state media this week.

In it, four cartoon characters - including a David Bowie lookalike - travel through a mint-green and fuchsia dreamscape atop lily pads, China's Great Wall and a Volkswagen bus.

"If you wanna know what China's gonna do, best pay attention to the shisanwu," they sing in the chorus.

The phrase translates to "13-five", an abbreviation for the forthcoming blueprint that is being discussed at a meeting in the capital until Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Beijing-based Fuxinglushang studio said the China unit of the BBDO advertising agency, a member company of the American Omnicom Group, assisted with the project.

"In the process, we continuously coordinated and cooperated (with BBDO)," spokeswoman Li Jinyan told AFP.

The Shanghai office of BBDO declined to comment, but an employee confirmed the studio was a client.

Its New York-based parent company Omnicom is one of the world's largest advertising and marketing agencies.

BBDO has worked with several big-name brands and companies around the world, including Barbie, Gatorade and ExxonMobil.

Fuxinglushang's name could mean "the road to rejuvenation" in Chinese, or be an indirect reference to a street in the capital where state broadcaster China Central Television has an office.

It has a history of producing glossy clips for China's ruling Communist Party aimed at foreign audiences, and the latest video was released in English with Chinese subtitles.

A rubber duck, disembodied lips, mannequins with lightbulb heads and Albert Einstein make appearances in the three-minute video, as does what appears to be the Death Star from George Lucas' Star Wars movies.

"This is a very elevated and distant subject and we wanted everyone to be able to understand it, so we wanted to do it in a light way like a song," Li said.

She added the makers were surprised the production received so much attention.

"We didn't think the video would be this popular... it is quite strange," she said.

The version posted on the YouTube channel of the official Xinhua news agency has been viewed more than 120,000 times, but reaction has been mixed.

"It looks like their research on how to appeal to the West came from studying the propaganda portrayed in Hollywood movies set in dystopian societies," one comment said.

"Then they did acid for inspiration."

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