| SHANGHAI, March 15
SHANGHAI, March 15 Chinese and global firms
steeled themselves on Wednesday ahead of the country's annual
consumer rights day TV show, an evening gala from China's state
broadcaster that can have brands and their corporate PR teams
scurrying to take evasive action.
Similar to CBS network's "60 Minutes" in the United States,
the China Central Television (CCTV) show known as "315" in
reference to global consumer rights day on March 15, has
previously named and shamed firms from Apple Inc to
The two-hour gala - a mix of undercover reports and
song-and-dance - can hit a firm's reputation if singled out for
bad corporate behaviour. Apple was forced into a rare apology in
2013 after criticism on the show of its after-sales service.
"The days that a big company would be completely caught with
its pants down are largely past," said James Feldkamp,
Shanghai-based CEO of independent China consumer watchdog
"Pretty much all the big corporations have their PR machines
ready to jump into action because they've seen what happens when
companies are not prepared."
The day itself often sees a flurry of goodwill gestures by
firms - from free apple pies to give-away iPads - to help soften
any blow from being named and shamed. It has also ballooned
beyond the CCTV show with smaller events around the country.
South Korean businesses, especially, may fear being singled
out this year amid pressure from Beijing on companies in
apparent retaliation for the deployment in South Korea of the
THAAD anti-missile system. China sees the system's powerful
radar as a threat to its security.
"The period around 315 is certainly when everyone's bow
strings get a bit more tense," said Wei Wei, Shanghai-based
marketing manager at communications firm MSLGroup China.
She said the firm would monitor the show for clients, create
reports to lay out the impact if a sector was targeted, or
prepare an emergency response if a client was snagged.
"If our client is really named on 315 then we have to take
immediate action, you can't wait," she said. "The golden period
for crisis response is the first three days, and you have to
come up with a very clear response."
The programme has lost some of its bite in recent years,
with some viewers jumping to defend targeted companies and
younger audiences simply switching channels. Chatter online
about the event has dipped sharply since 2014, according to a
Reuters analysis of posts on China's Sina Weibo.
Last year's show criticised local food delivery apps, fake
online sales and dodgy false teeth, but didn't take aim at any
major international firms.
Chinese shoppers Reuters spoke to said they weren't likely
to stay up to watch the show, but would check the next day who
was targeted. Some sectors were more sensitive than others.
"What I pay attention to is food safety. After all, what you
eat has a direct affect on your health," said Maple Zhu, a
27-year-old media professional in Shanghai.
"But the impact on consumers is usually short-lived, after a
little while most people just forget."
(Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Jackie Cai; Editing by Ian