The Chinese Professor

Here’s how you create an effective ad

Have you seen the so-called “Chinese Professor” ad?

Here, check it out, and then we’ll talk about why it’s so effective.


I don’t care whether you’re conservative or progressive; that spot makes you feel something, doesn’t it?

Here’s why, and the principles apply to your own marketing, if you ever get to do any again.

1. This spot tells a story.

2. The story is believable.

3. The story is designed to have an emotional impact.

I could make a case that this spot is xenophobic, and makes use of the brain’s tendency to view those who don’t look like us as “others.” I’m certain the writer and director understood the brain science behind this spot and used it to enhance the power of their message.

But what I really want to focus on is those 3 points above.

How many political ads have you watched in the past weeks that blast the other side with quotes and facts, 30 seconds of pit bull attack and name-calling?

And how much more effective is the “Chinese Professor” simply because it tells you a story, much of which you already believe.

See, this spot is not trying to persuade you to feel something you don’t already feel. It takes advantage of anxiety already planted in your brain.

All of us are worried about our deficits.
All of us have heard talk about the rise of China.
All of us worry that maybe America’s best days are behind us, that we are in decline.

Ok, fear is one of the easiest emotions to target because it’s so hard-wired into our brains, but there’s still a lot you can take away from this spot when you’re able to market your station again.

Go back to those three main points.

Human beings are naturally drawn to narratives. Tell a story. Don’t spew a bunch of facts at me about at-work, or your great variety.

Make the story credible. It’s easier to do that if you reinforce what I already believe about your station and your format than if you attempt to create new beliefs.

Make me feel something when I watch your spot. Go for the emotions.

Do all three things, use a professional producer, director and cast, and I think you’ll find people respond to your spots too.