What is it about that stupid fat duck? You can’t get near Ocean Terminal at any time of the day. It’s four or five deep with people hoisting children aloft for a better view and snapping away at that huge piece of yellow plastic. Even when it capsized, it made headlines on CNN, lying like a despondent pancake in what looked in pictures like a sea of green sludge.
But everyone loves it, and if you point out the best fun thing about the duck is the smartphone app which lets you pretend to blow it up, you are branded a miserable killjoy.
But I hear not everyone welcomed the arrival of the cute cuddly and now re-flated thing. Behind closed doors at Government Towers the timing of its appearance and subsequent antics caused great consternation. The reason being that they were all geared up to launch the “Hong Kong Our Home” campaign, when quack, enter the duck, stage left and stole the show. How could Carrie Lam bleating on about how much we love hot pot and dim sum compete for front-page space with a luminous bath toy bobbing about in the harbour? And to add insult to injury, bringing in the beastly bird was the brainchild of Peter Woo’s Ocean Terminal lot, not the Government of the Hong Kong SAR.
Something needed to be done, and fast. In Government corridors brows wee mopped and biro ends sucked. Then someone, who shall remain nameless, had a bright idea. It would cost lots of money, naturally, all the best government wheezes do. They would hijack the duck and take the credit for the pesky piece of poultry themselves. So a rather smudgy photo of Duck in Victoria Harbour was hastily found and a large advertisement taken out in the New York Times, announcing the launch of; you’ve guessed it, the all-singing, all-dancing “Hong Kong Our Home” campaign, illustrated by...what else, but Ducky. Well done chaps and chapesses. Peter Woo must be laughing his head off. We won’t ask why New York and why the New York Times, except that they have done this sort of thing before.
Excellent attempted out-flanking manoeuvre. So how much did this rapid piece of rearguard action cost? I happened to bump into the assistant to the editor of the New York Times, Walter Baranger today. He could not be exact on how much a full-page colour advertisement in the paper’s main book would cost: it depends on which page, what day and whether it was booked as part of a package. But he and his colleague’s ballpark estimate was somewhere between US$80,000 and US$150,000. It was the wrong time of day to call the head of advertising sales in New York for exact figures, but you get the general idea. It’s soothing to know our government is spending our money so wisely and well.