Introducing the Consolidated National Advertising Co.
This is the first instalment of a new series of blog posts aimed at introducing the Consolidated National Advertising Company (Lianhe guanggao gongsi 聯合廣告公司). Established in 1930 by four leading entrepreneurs in Shanghai, Lianhe became the first Chinese giant in the advertising industry, along with the British agency Millington, Ltd.
The first essays will portray the five main advertising experts who stood behind that company – Zheng Yaonan, Yao Junwei, Liu Meiseng, Wang Yingbin, Lu Shoulun. This series of individual portraits is inspired by J. Walter Thompson (JWT)’s newsletter section “How well do you know your JWT’ers?” (cf. Fig. 1) and by the advertising campaign for the Chinese Commercial Advertising Agency (CCAA) that appeared in Hongkong newspaper South China Morning Post (SCMP) in 1962 (cf. Fig. 2).
In the series of advertisements below (Fig. 2), CCAA aimed to introduce its core staff members – starting with the founder Lin Zhenbin 淋振彬 (C.P. Ling) and his sons (Bill and Ronnie), and including the media director (Philip) and art director (Basil). Interestingly, both agencies used a familiar tone, calling their members by their first name or initials, in the same fashion as the Rotary Club.
As a synthesis, we will then propose a collective, institutional biography of the agency itself. Relying on Social Network Analysis (SNA) and using a two-mode approach, we will reconstruct Lianhe’s network by analyzing its actors’ shared affiliation (companies, clubs and associations), the places where they met and the events they (co)attended. By doing so, we hope to better understand how the agency became such a powerful conglomerate. We hypothesize that it is through its members’ joint participation in leading organizations (especially interlocking directorate, i.e. the practice of members of a corporate board of directors serving on the boards of multiple corporations) and through their connections with prominent business or political actors at the local, national and international levels, that Lianhe managed to multiply its influence within business and political circles during the Republic of China. This SNA-based case study will also illuminate the inner workings of the advertising profession more generally, which may be best modeled as a “linked ecology” (Abbott, 2003).
For this research, we shall rely on three major sources:
- Chinese Who’s Who (for individual biographies);
- Chinese and English-language newspapers (especially the Shenbao, North-China Herald, China Weekly Review, and China Press), which contain reports of meetings and other social events organized or sponsored by the agency, highlighting the roles and positions that participants hold during those events;
- the Shanghai Municipal Archives (SMA) (special files on Lianhe Advertising Agency in Q series).
South China Morning Post, Hongkong, June 25, 1962, p.7; July 9, 1962, p.7; July 16, 1962, p.7; July 23, 1962, p.7; July 30, 1962, p.7.
“How Well Do You Know Your JWT’ers?” The JW.T.’s News. Vol.III, no.49. December 6, 1948 (p.6). J. Walter Thompson Company, Newsletter Collection, 1910-2005, Box MN9. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Duke University, Durham, NC, USA.
Shanghai Municipal Archives (SMA), Q275-1-1840-37.
Abbott, Andrew. “Écologies liées: à propos du système des professions.” In Les professions et leurs sociologies. Modèles théoriques, catégorisations, évolutions, edited by P.-M. Menger, 29–50. Paris: Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2003.