This Day in History: China’s First Post-Cultural Revolution Ad

On January 4, 1979 an advertisement for Blue Sky toothpaste was published in the Tianjin Daily, becoming China’s first post-Cultural Revolution newspaper advertisement.

The reintroduction of commercial advertising to China was announced indirectly in an editorial in a Shanghai newspaper. While it conceded that advertising had garnered a bad name due to its association with deception, excessive boasting and half-truths, the editorial argued that its managed reintroduction into China would provide the same benefits it had in capitalist countries:

“In China during the interval in a sports programme broadcast on television, viewers had no choice other than to rest for a moment… I think this is an enormous waste of the screen. I have heard that in other countries the evening period between 7-9pm is ‘Golden Time,’ during which the viewing rate is highest. Inserting commercials into this time period obtains effective results and high prices.”

Immediately after the publication of the editorial, advertising for both consumer and industrial products began to appear in the newspapers of large cities. As China sought to justify the reintroduction of something that it had previously eschewed, it made links to the advertising history of ancient Egypt and China’s classical past, with the borrowing of advertising from Western capitalistic societies played down.

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