Dumbest in-flight advertisement

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  • Anonymous


    Here in Asia we get some – usually unintentionally – hilarious advertisements. The best are often those which have been translated from another language by someone who apparently can’t speak the language they are translating into. I suspect this is what happened with a Samsonite advertisement which is currently (and has been, for some time) airing on CX flights. You would think that an American multinational would be able to do better than this. Here is a transcript of the English subtitles, reproduced word for word.

    Open, there’s space
    Open, it can be enriched
    The inner-substance is accumulated
    In the process of enrichment
    But revealed unintentionally
    Built with inner-substance

    Well, quite…. I can only hope this sounds better in Chinese…

    Has anyone seen or heard a more bizarre in-flight advertisement than this?


    I saw the same advert on a CX flight to LHR 10 days ago…I didnt take much notice of the words except for the obviously google translate use.


    You have to understand the Dao, Confucius, and Buddhism to understand this ad. Lao Tsu, Confucius, and Bhudha are known as the three Vinegar Tasters for a reason: you must understand them before you can understand the East.

    In Daoism, the most common phrase is “the emptiness of the cup is the usefulness of the cup.” Emptiness and openness is highly valued. What makes a bowl useful but its emptiness?

    The bag in the commercial is a metaphor for the soul and mind.

    If it’s open, there is space. If it’s open, it can be enriched.

    Inner substance is a popular English translation of a concept found in Confucius’ Analects.

    Unintentionally revealing beauty or value in nature is a common theme in Bhuddism, particularly in the Southern School of Sudden Enlightenment, Zen (and Chan before it), even though Zen is less popularized in China than it is in Japan. The concept ties in with Confucius’ idea of “wei wu wei”, or action with no action.

    It’s all tied together.

    From a marketing perspective, it’s pretty clever, actually. Samsonite is tying in to some core themes of what’s perceived as valuable in life, and associating that to its products. P&G is doing the same thing right now in the West with its Olympics ads supporting mothers.


    Thanks for the explanation, and you are right that with all that background, it makes sense. Let us assume, however, that someone who can’t read or speak Chinese (me, for instance) doesn’t have all that background. Someone like that is going to see a load of complete gibberish. I can’t help thinking Samsonite would have been better off without the subtitles, or writing something else completely for the non-Chinese speakers!

    Does anyone have any other contenders for dumb adverts? I am sure there must be plenty out there!


    Interesting thread and very interesting reply from Alpenglow. I’d never thought about an empty cup being useful till now. Logical though I suppose.

    No dumb adverts come to mind as I don’t watch much tv nowadays, though soap powder ads always seemed dumb to me.

    A quick Google search came up with some hilarious images as did this link.


    I look forward to seeing other posters suggestions.


    Indeed, althought I would argue that the usefulness of a bowl (or cup or glass) is not its emptiness, but its ability to be full (however briefly!) 🙂


    Afternoon Ian

    If you can find some more of these gems, please enlighten us more.!

    And thanks to AK for the deeper cultural understanding.

    I have 7 weeks to remember them, before I start reciting them to my mates on the 3.30am ferry back to DB.

    I’m sure they will be most impressed with my wisdom and overall sageness !

    I will put my grey matter to work, there are a few similar examples of adverts from Chinese into Canadian culture ,back in Richmond that made me laugh!


    Since when has CX been an american multi national?


    Erm, I think he was referring to Samsonite, not CX?


    I was indeed. CX, of course, is a British multinational (it just masquerades as a Hong Kong one!)

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