The last word from the East: Solace and liberation

Barney Loehnis
Ogilvy & Mather

The only way to understand how people use digital, social and mobile – now mainstream media – is to fully understand the roles they play in their lives.

In China, ever since Deng XiaoPing unleashed economic development on the nation in the 80s, growth has been extraordinary, but not without sacrifice. Understanding the core tensions – both laments and drivers – helps to show why and how the internet plays such a crucial role in people's lives and how brands can leverage it to build business.

The first tension is the urban population growth now over 50% of total population – up from about 10% in the 1960s. Every year, there is still a shift of about 12.5 million people coming into the cities, with about 250 million people in total who do not live in the place they were born. That leaves 30%, 58 million children who are 'left behind', to be looked after by their grandparents, who also don't have their children to help to look after their fields, their ailments and their frail health. The social impact of tearing apart parents from their children creates an emotional gravity that is omnipresent. In this context, social media and the internet offers a chance to bridge the gap of separated families.