IT'S being billed as the greatest peacetime media event in history, but the unveiling of the Special Administrative Region lacks even the elementary ingredients of a 90s product launch: no billboards, no sensuous slogans, not even a McDonald's tie-in ('One Burger, Two Patties' - a gift, surely?). With 6,000 journalists set to descend on the territory itching to confirm the doom-and-gloom scenario of July 1, Hong Kong needs some serious promotion. So we commissioned an advertising campaign of our own. The brief for advertising agencies was simple: sell the handover to Hong Kong people and the world. Not all the agencies accepted the assignment. Several objected for reasons of conscience. There was, they said, nothing positive about the handover at all. But others welcomed the challenge. While language was not stressed, only one agency, Leo Burnett, presented its ad in Chinese. We asked two media-savvy judges to give verdicts on their efforts: former chief executive of Grey advertising agency Leonie Ki, and the brains behind the Better Hong Kong Foundation, the pro-Beijing group organising the July 1 harbour celebrations; and shock radio jock Albert Cheng, the host of Commercial Radio's weekday morning show. Despite his outspoken criticism of Beijing and the SAR Cheng has no plans to stop broadcasting after 1 July. this is what they said... 'British/Chinese Rules' James Morton, designer, Leo Burnett. morton: 'It's stressing continuity in the legal environment. In the run-up to the handover, you put a blue picture up stating 'British rules'; then on July 1, a red poster stating 'Chinese rules' is plastered over it. The next day, strips are torn off the top sheet to reveal the same laws underneath.' ki: 'This lacks Chinese features. Nor does it convey the importance of the occasion. But it is clever and more informative. It might work on an MTR track-side site, where you'd have time to read it.' cheng: 'This looks dreadful. Who would read this? It's a joke because the Provisional Legislature repealed the Societies and Public Order Ordinance. The shredded graphic suggests you should not put your faith in pieces of paper. In the sense that China's promise to stick to the rules could be torn up as easily as this poster, it is quite effective. 'Twinkle Stars' Conny Lo, copywriter, Brendan Lai, art director, Leo Burnett (the only ad presented with Chinese characters). lo: Hong Kong is renowned for its nightlife - people are still out enjoying themselves at 5 am. So the image is of the city's famous skyline at night. The rationale being that, under the nurturing of the mother country, Hong Kong will be even more exciting and prosperous. ki: This is better but so boring. It has some meaning to it, but is not outstanding. I think the twinkling stars is too subtle though it does convey the message of continuing prosperity. cheng: It looks like it took five minutes to design. It's like a Tourist Association promotion aimed at gweilos. It doesn't tell us much about what will happen after 1997. And why is it at night? Bad things happen at night. 'Feeling Social? Come Join the Party' Martin Lever, copywriter, and Tony Crampton, senior art director, McCann-Erickson Worldwide. lever: The actual handover is being billed as a massive celebration. The party of the century. We used a social scenario to create the Chinese flag. We're not suggesting the Communist Party cadres booze, smoke or lead generally unhealthy lives. ki: This shows no respect. Cigarette butts, bottle tops. It doesn't suggest at all that the return of sovereignty is a happy event. You drink and smoke when you're bored. cheng: Perhaps the cigarette suggests a subliminal message: that communism is like a cancer. 'Bye, buy' Greg Sutcliffe, copywriter, and Alex Muk, art director, McCann-Erickson Worldwide. sutcliffe: It's inspired by Tung Chee-hwa's comments that Hong Kong people are more concerned with making money and economic stability than personal freedoms. Our agency has conducted a survey which appears to confirm this view. ki: The protocol is all wrong. It should be Chris Patten and Tung Chee-hwa, or Jiang Zemin and the Queen. cheng: This is okay, but it focuses on money not democracy. Chris Patten is a great self-promoter and portrays himself as a hero of Hong Kong democracy. But he's leaving. Anyway, money is no compensation for freedom. 'Love new regime' Alan Jarvie, head of creative, and Steve Hough, copywriter, M&C Saatchi. jarvie: The vagaries of the brief meant we couldn't do a hard campaign. So we went for the feel-good factor. It's a bit like the 'I LOVE [Heart-shape] NY' ads of the 1970s. New York had a very bad image in those days. Today, that's true of Hong Kong. The heart is big, simple and memorable. A symbol of what Hong Kong's going to be. ki: This stands out better. It's like a pop art poster. It might suit a teenager's bedroom wall. cheng: Oh dear. This is bad. Visually it's a joke. But it's very negative. The term 'regime' has bad connotations, like a dictatorship. No one would love a dictatorship. Jockey Simon Handford, copywriter, Tom Shum, art director, DMB&B. handford: We wanted an example of something China was interested in keeping in Hong Kong. Racing is a popular pastime. Initially there were worries over its fate because gambling is contrary to communist ethics. We wanted it to look imposing to get people's attention. So we used the harsh image of a whip rather than a pleasant picture of a horse. ki: The message is right. Hong Kong people care about racing and this underlines the fact of 'One Country, Two systems' and that China keeps her promises. It's reassuring. cheng: This seems to be irrelevant. So what about horse-racing? What about house prices? What about free speech? But perhaps the red sleeve represents the communists. Who are they whipping? The people they are trying to enslave. Is it the people who are running - away from Hong Kong? 'Blow Up' Simon Handford, copywriter, and Tom Shum, art director, DMB&B. handford: The idea was to turn the 'doom and gloom' message back on itself. To play on people's fears, such as China taking business away from Hong Kong, and stress that Hong Kong will grow and prosper. The style of the text and colours are supposed to look explosive. ki: Quite striking and positive. But the graphics are too Western. It needs Chinese characters to express the national heritage. Hong Kong descends from China and is proud of that culture. However, it expresses the 'parental' idea because China will make Hong Kong grow. cheng: It's striking and fun but it doesn't promote the handover. Bigger doesn't mean better. Hong Kong people don't want to extend the territory's boundaries or increase its population. Five-Star Approval Kieran Simpson, creative director, and Tracy Chiu, art director, Euro RSCG. simpson: It's a simple ad. The news-peg is that Hong Kong is returning to China, so we wanted to use China's flag rather than a cliched picture of the Central skyline. The idea is that Hong Kong's high standards will be maintained. ki: Too much emphasis on the flag. It's nice in that five stars suggest the highest order. But it misses the point of 'One country, two systems'. This is overwhelmingly one country. Hong Kong people must remember they are now part of one country, and China must remember its promise to keep two systems. If this ad came from China, the whole world would complain that China was trying to impose one country and had ignored the two systems. cheng: This is what everyone worries about: communists coming to Hong Kong. It reinforces the fear that Hong Kong is now dependent on China. the verdicts ki: None of these would be acceptable. The designs are too light-hearted. They would be too disrespectful for Beijing. It makes a big difference whether you're designing an official campaign or an invite for a party. These look like they've been done by gweilos. They don't give the sense of a Chinese occassion. ki best: 'China's gonna blow up Hong Kong' is the right message - China keeps her promises - but the language is too strong. worst: 'Come Join the Party ki's ad: An ad from China should reassure the whole world that China hasn't forgotten about the two systems. Also, the design should be more Oriental. cheng: None impresses me, particularly. They'd be fine for promoting Hong Kong as a tourist destination, but not for allaying people's fears. They are very superficial and avoid the issues that concern people. If I were the client I would fire them all. cheng: 'British Rules/Chinese Rules'. At least it has substance but I don't like the layout. cheng's worst: 'Love The New Regime'. cheng's ad: In all these ads, the people are missing. People are the most important thing and the fact that they are staying in Hong Kong is a vote of confidence. I would highlight the fact that Martin Lee and others are staying to fight for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong. He's staying, his family is staying, his assets are here. And he will surely win election to the legislature in 1998.