What do courage, dreams and hope taste like? Why, a hot cup of Nescafé, sipped by the dying ember of another castrated day, of course.
In a new campaign for super-hip Nescafé, edgy it-boy Han Han hits the road in his bad-ass motorbike, searching for stories that inspire him: watching paraplegic racers, hitting on cute buskers, and helping build pretty autumnal-looking rural schools.
We’ve spotted at least a few archetypes packed into the ad, including Han Han as the seeker of truth, the rugged easy-riding individual, the humanist searching for communion with his fellow man, and the sipper of instant coffee by scenic roadside areas.
Han (who we think is due for an English moniker, since we’ve never been big on the name repetition thing…we’re liking ‘Hanson’ and ‘Solo’ best so far) was already featured in a campaign for local online clothing label VANCL last year (video below), which seemed edgy and plenty interesting at the time: a slightly underground bad boy blogger is on subway billboards? How bleeding edge is that!
The full text of his commercial for VANCL bears translating:
“Love internet. Love freedom. Love racing, love waking up late. Love late-night daipaidong’s, I also love 59RMB canvas shoes. I’m not a trendsetter, I’m not anyone’s representative. I’m Han Han, I only represent myself. I’m the same as you. I am VANCL.”
“Dare to Live! Nescafé.”
With his latest choice of a corporate patron willing to sponsor his occasional literary habit, Han is now announced as being firmly entrenched within the mainstream of China’s popular culture amongst under 35’s. How long do you get to maintain outsider status when you’re sponsoring the McDonald’s of coffee?
At this point, does Han Han still get to (or need to) distinguish himself as being separate from any other celebrity endorser trying to sell us shampoo, cars or yoghurt? Marketers have seemingly caught on to the notion that aligning themselves with a little online political edginess equals access to the eyeballs of coffee-drinking young professionals and students throughout China.
In his defense, selling out does actually mean something different on the mainland, where youth culture seemingly has few qualms about being aligned with a corporate entity. There’s a long way to go before an anti-corporate ethic forms in China, since most younger citizens are too busy being Occupied with getting a high-paying job or having a good time above all else.
So what do you think? Has the generational poster boy who Evan Osnos of the New Yorker said “made dissent cool” let himself be somewhat too co-opted?