Advertising in North Korea

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The World's Alex Gallafent describes some new advertisements airing on North Korean TV. The ad is long, colorful and features a floating piece of ginseng root.

MARCO WERMAN: Normally ads on TV are 30 seconds long. Sometimes less than that. In North Korea they like to run them long ? two minutes sometimes. Last month we brought you a taste of North Korean's TV's first ad for a local beer. Now North Korean viewers can enjoy some more ads including one for a brand of ginseng products. Here's The World's Alex Gallafent.

ALEX GALLAFENT: Get ready for ginseng ? the wonder root.

[SOUND CLIP IN KOREAN]

That rhetorical style is not unusual in North Korea. Ginseng, beer, international news ? it all gets the same declamatory treatment. Only in this ad you get images of a sparkling, floating ginseng root too. We asked advertising expert, Jan Slater, to check it out. She's a former ad exec now with the University of Illinois.

JAN SLATER: The production qualities and the production elements are amazingly bad.

GALLAFENT: Bad perhaps but generous. Find me another ad where you get ginseng root, mountains, temples, cans of ginseng, maps of the Korean peninsula, microscopic views of ginseng ? you name it.

SLATER: When we do advertisements we look at what is the one key thing we want them to know. There's a lot of information going on here.

GALLAFENT: And yes the ad is still going on strong. By this stage the floating ginseng root has reappeared and now there's a scrolling display of ginseng related products. To our eyes it is a monumentally terrible ad. But it's not meant for us says Jan Slater. It's meant for North Koreans only now sampling the pleasures and pains of advertising.

SLATER: They're not used to any of this. They are not predisposed to our way of thinking about what advertisements are. So this might be very effective.

GALLAFENT: Although in another way they're very much used to this style of broadcast. If there's one thing North Koreans get a lot of it's messages telling them what to do. For The World I'm Alex Gallafent.

[MUSIC AND KOREAN]

WERMAN: For your pleasure we've put the ad online at The World dot org.