Vickers & Benson scores Chinese coup

While the sale of Canadian expertise in nuclear power captured the headlines during the recent federal government-led trade mission to China, a less publicized agreement, but of similar proportions to the communications industry, involved Toronto ad agency Vickers & Benson Advertising...

While the sale of Canadian expertise in nuclear power captured the headlines during the recent federal government-led trade mission to China, a less publicized agreement, but of similar proportions to the communications industry, involved Toronto ad agency Vickers & Benson Advertising and China’s state-owned broadcaster, China Central Television.

v&b and cctv, which reaches an audience of about 800 million viewers, inked a deal to co-produce a series of 26 30-minute educational television programs aimed at teaching English to Chinese businesspeople, as well as introducing the Chinese business community to Canadian and North American culture.

Each show will carry up to two minutes of advertising, a story about Canada, a lesson on the English language and other sponsorhip opportunities.

‘We will be creating the fabric of Canada – how we live, and how we do business,’ says John Hayter, v&b president and chief executive officer.

There are many wrinkles still to be ironed out, but at the moment, the format calls for each show to be built around the storyline of a Chinese family or business group on a trip to Canada.

The show would open with a billboard and a soft-sell commercial, then cut to the group engaged in some form of business exchange with Canadians.

This segment, produced in Canada, would run about six minutes.

Hayter describes this portion as an infomercial designed to give the viewers a snapshot of Canadian and North American culture, as well as an insight into the way we do business here.

The program would then move back to cctv, which would tie in to the infomercial theme and use it as a lesson plan to teach viewers English as a second language.

This portion would be produced by cctv.

A second commercial would close out the show.

‘We will be the only English-speaking country that will be taking our culture into China,’ Hayter says.

The show is scheduled to run three times per week in the half hour leading up to primetime in the first 26 weeks, and is expected to reach 20 million to 25 million well-educated Chinese, which is the show’s prime target.

v&b will be bringing together sponsors for the show and will co-ordinate production.

The intention is to maintain high production values in the show, with a considerable amount of original film footage.

v&b is currently talking to potential film production suppliers.

The agency hopes to have sponsors signed up by January, begin production in March, and hit the broadcast airwaves late in 1995 or early 1996.

Much of the developmental work leading up to the agreement was spearheaded by Tom Keane, general manager of Media Consulting Group, a division of Genesis Media.