Doot doot doot! Doot doot doot!


I’ve already written about transit ads in Montreal, Paris and Milwaukee. Now it’s time for Hong Kong.

With several competing bus companies and a metro system that is constantly being expanded, Hong Kong is in many ways a public transit user’s paradise. That can be seen in the regularity with which the company that runs its metro system, the MTR, advertises its services. Unlike many North American transit agencies, the MTR doesn’t take its riders for granted: every year sees new advertising campaigns geared at reminding Hong Kongers that taking transit is the right way to go.

Those ads are, in many ways, a reflection of Hong Kong. Take the one above for example. Set on an apartment building roof, it portrays the classic child’s game of “traffic lights,” which involves a cast of people who try to sneak up on a man who isn’t looking. When he turns around, they must freeze or else they’re out of the game. Before yelling “stop,” the man gives them a warning sound — “Doot doot doot! Doot doot doot!” — which is, of course, the sound the MTR’s doors make before closing. The message of the advertisement? Stand clear of the train’s doors when they close.

It’s an odd mix of passive promotion (the MTR doesn’t even sell us on its services, it just reminds us that they exist), local culture (all of the people in the ad are Hong Kong stereotypes, from the old man holding bird cages to the see lai housewife) and public service announcement (a love of which Hong Kong seems to have inherited from the British). I don’t think you would ever see an ad like this anywhere else.

The advertisement below, which ran earlier this winter to commemorate the merger of the MTR with its former competitor, the KCR, is also typical of Hong Kong, though in a somewhat different way. The tributes to local culture and landmarks are there (shots of tenements plastered with signs, schoolchildren, the University of Hong Kong) but this time they’re presented with unadulterated sentimentality—and a saccharine Cantopop soundtrack—instead of absurdist humour.


This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Wednesday January 30 2008at 11:01 pm , filed under Asia Pacific, Society and Culture, Transportation, Video and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Doot doot doot! Doot doot doot!”

  • Evan says:

    Chicago’s commuter rail system, Metra, places ads on its expressway overpasses that seem, rather slyly, to remind drivers of the inanity and futility of car commuting in an urban area.

    On the Kennedy Expressway (the notoriously clogged highway between O’Hare Airport and downtown Chicago), you see the following:
    “Was Metra an option today?”
    “The way to really fly.” (near the airport)
    “Next time, take the real expressway.”
    “No congestion on our route.”
    “The most daily departures to and from Chicago.” (also near the airport)