City of Neonlights: HK Neon Light Industry and some of its key players

York Lo: City of Neonlights: HK Neon Light Industry and some of its key players

Hong Kong owed its reputation as “the Pearl of the Orient” to its neon light industry which lit up the city from signs for small shops on busy streets to giant record-breaking signs atop skyscrapers on the Victoria harbor front from the 1930s to the 1980s before neon was replaced by the cheaper and more energy efficient LEDs in the 1990s. This article examines the evolution of the industry and some of its key players in chronological order.  

A Short History of Neon Light in HK and China

Neon light was invented in 1910 by French chemist Georges Claude (see article in the next section for more details) and was popularized worldwide in the 1920s. The first neon sign in China was set up in 1926 by Canadian bookseller Edward Evans & Sons on Nanking Road in Shanghai to promote Royal typewriters and the first bilingual neon sign and first locally made neon sign in China was built atop the Central Hotel in Shanghai in 1927 by Far East Neon (远东年红), a local firm founded by Tong Tsing-En (董景安, 1875-1944), the former professor and chancellor of the Baptist-run Shanghai University(沪江大学). Neon was originally known as 年红 in Chinese, a term coined by T.E. Tong which could also mean “annual bonus” but later a competitor by the name of New Light Neonlight Factory (新光霓虹电气厂) started calling neon light 霓虹 which is the term that stuck. 

It is unclear when the first neon sign appeared in Hong Kong but the government began to recognize it as a form of advertisement in 1920. Based on an article from 1929, the neonlight technology first reached Hong Kong that year through the introduction of a firm by the name of Neon Electrical Corporation of Asia. (HK Telegraph, 1929-12-16) Many of the early neon signs in HK were supplied by Claude Neon’s affiliate in Shanghai which announced plans to build a plant in HK in 1932. Firms such as Neco, Cathay and Lee Wah commenced their operations in HK in the late 1930s.   

In March 1938, a neon light sign in the show window of Dodwell’s premises in Des Voeux Road caught fire, raising safety concerns. The next year, the government amended the Advertisements Regulation Ordinance of 1921 and issued a new order demanding that electric current supplying neon be cut off once the No. 5 typhoon signal has been hoisted. (The Hong Kong Telegraph, 1939-7-29)

The neon industry began to take off after the War with the post-War business boom – signs were made for small businesses such as bars in Wanchai and large multi-story signs for major brands in the waterfront or major restaurants such as King Wah and Sun Ya on Nathan Road. Out of this boom a dozen major firms such as Nam Wah, Ming Wah and Far East operated alongside many small workshops. Proposals to tax neon signs were introduced to the Urban Council in 1949 and 1952 and both were shelved thanks to opposition by the neon industry.   

During the energy crisis of 1973, the government advised neon sign owners to shorten their signs’ illumination time but despite of the higher cost of building and operating neon signs, business kicked into high gear with world record-breaking signs being built. The industry reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s with signs becoming multi-million dollars projects before giving way to LED, which was 80% cheaper to run and more dynamic. Today there are very few neon sign makers left in HK and players who remained in the industry had transitioned to LED.  

Historical timeline of the neon industry worldwide and in HK: 

http://web259.secure.tigahost.com/neon-timeline/?lang=en

http://www.neonsigns.hk/neon-in-visual-culture/tomorrows-neon-a-history/?lang=en

Claude Neon Lights, Fed. Inc., U. S. A. (丽安电气)

HK Neon Light Industry Image 1 York Lo

Left: Article about Claude Neon’s plan to open a factory in HK (HK Daily Press, 1932-9-2); Right: Ad for Claude Neon by Advertising & Publicity Bureau in Singapore (1932-9-14) 

As mentioned earlier, French chemist Georges Claude (1870-1960) invented neon light in 1910 and his firm Claude Neon Lights had a near monopoly on the production of neon lights in the early years since a patent was granted in the US in 1915 and the firm quickly expanded worldwide through a technology licensing and monthly rental model. 

Claude Neon first entered Shanghai in 1924 with office in the HSBC building and showroom right across the Race Course on Bubbling Well Road where its principal rival Belge Neonlite (丽耀电气, entered China in 1929) was also located. In 1928 Claude Neon won the contract from Yee Tsoong Tobacco to build the largest neon sign in China to promote one of its brands. It then got the business to do the SINCERE sign atop the Sincere department store. In 1929, Lloyd E. Gale (agent for Boeing airplanes in China and silk trader), Bruno Schwartz (editor of Hankow Herald) and William Golding formed Claude Neon Lights Federal Inc in Shanghai as the Far East licensee of the Claude Neon franchise and branches were soon opened throughout China and Asia.

Initially Claude shipped its neon signs to Hong Kong and Singapore where it was represented by the ad agency Advertising & Publicity Bureau (to be covered). By 1932, there were 6000 neon signs in Shanghai and Claude’s Shanghai plant had 400 well-trained workmen making neon signs using highest grade materials from the US and Europe such as British wirings, General Electric transformers, Pyre glass tubings and the original Claude neon gas. That year, Claude representative W. Krause passed through Hong Kong en route to Bangkok where it built one of the world’s largest neon signs for His Majesty Theatre and speaking with the press, Krause indicated the interest to establish a subsidiary neon light factory given existing demand. (HK Daily Press, 1932-9-2)  

While some articles online assumed that the HK factory was established based on above article, there is no further evidence that the factory plan was fully executed. The firm however was able to set up Claude Neon Lights (Oriental) Ltd in Thailand to target the Southeast Asian market with Cambridge-educated Thai Prince Purachatra (1881-1936, father of Thai railways and radio and son of King Chulalongkorn) as chairman. The firm opened a factory in Singapore in 1935 to serve the Malay market but had to shut it down after a few months due to losses.  (Straits Times, 1935-7-16) After WWII, the firm had faded into history as its patents expired and its French founder was arrested for wartime collaboration with the Nazis.  

Neco Neon (利國光管)

HK Neon Light Industry Image 2 York Lo

Left: Neco HK Chan Sik-to and his wife Tso Wai-yum; Middle: notice of partnership changes at Neco Neon in 1935 (HK Government Report); Right: Neco Neon on Des Voeux Road on the third floor 

Neco Neon traced its roots to Canton Neco Neon Company, which was operated by Y. Atong Hsu (Hsu Yiu-tong or “Y.T. Hsu”). From the government notice in 1935 shown above, it appears that Neco first worked with two HK locals by the name of Fung Yue and Tam Ho-hing which operated “Neco Neon” out of 144 Des Voeux Road Central before dissolving that partnership in September 1935 and set up a branch directly.   

According to a 1938 directory, Neco’s head office was at 155 Tin Kwan Lane in Canton with Hsu as general manager and Dr. C.T. Chu and K.C. Chan as technical advisers. An essay posted online by the daughter of Chan Sik-to (陳式度), a mechanical engineering graduate of Chiao Tung University in Shanghai and former professor at the University (襄勤大學) in Canton, indicated that Chan was involved with starting Neco in HK in the 1930s. Chan’s wife Tso Wai-yum (曹慧鑫) was a relative of HK community leader Tso Seen-wan (whose son Tso Tsun-on was a director of HK Cement, see article) and attended St Stephen’s Girls School in HK. During the War, Chan relocated to Saigon where he established China Ceramics Factory (中國陶瓷廠) in Cholon, which was later shut down due to issues with supply of raw materials and he and his wife became secondary school teachers before retiring to Chicago in 1972. 

The 1941 HK Jurors List showed two individuals Kuo Chin-chuen (郭錦泉, “C.C. Kuo”) and Ho Yue-kwong as salesmen. After the War, Y.T. Hsu and C.C. Kuo ran Neco in Hong Kong, operating out of 15 Wing Kut Street in Sheung Wan while its factory was located at 9 Shanghai Street in Kowloon. Some of Neco’s clients from the 1950s and 1960s include Camelpaint, Savoy Nightclub, the famous Hakka restaurant Chuen Cheung Kui (see rattan article) and churches.

In the 1950s, Y.T. Hsu appeared to have extended his reach to Singapore and served on the board of Fortune Neon, an affiliate of Far East Advertising, a local agency founded by Edward Leong. Others on the board of Far East Neon include Aw Cheng-chye and Lee Chee-san, the son and son in law of Tiger Balm cofounder Aw Boon Par. (Straits Times Directory of Malaysia and Singapore, 1957)

The firm was acquired by Nam Wah Neon in 1972.  

Source: 

https://gwulo.com/jurors-list-1941

http://www.cheeyungusa.org/wp-content/cy-essays/2015/%E6%87%B7%E5%BF%B5%E7%88%B6%E6%AF%8D%E8%A6%AA%20%E9%99%B3%E5%BC%8F%E5%BA%A6%20–%20%E9%99%B3%E8%90%8D.pdf

Lee Wah Neonlight (利華光管)

HK Neon Light Industry Image 3 York Lo

Ad for Lee Wah Neonlight in 1947 promoting new colored tubes imported from the US (KSDN, 1947-2-13) 

Lee Wah Neonlight was one of the leading neonlight firms in HK from the 1930s through the 1950s. 29 Stanley Street. A native of Panyu in Guangdong province, Lee Wah founder Mo-Ngai Ko (髙無危) was originally a newspaperman, first serving as a sales manager for Chinese newspapers and comic books in Hong Kong and later became the head of a news agency and publisher of Ta Kung Pao in Canton. While he was running Ta Kung Pao in Canton, he was arrested for several days for a news story which exposed To Huen-tai, the police chief involved with the incident on Wing Hong Road where anti-Japanese protesters were killed in 1931. The paper was later shut down when it exposed that the social welfare bureau of the Canton city government for running a brothel. As a result, Ko left Canton for HK and entered the business realm. In HK, he opened the paper trading firms of Hop Lee Lung and Hop Hing Lung and operated the Hop Chung Printing Factory and Hop Wing Fung Printing (合榮豐印務, incorporated in 1959 and dissolved in 2005) in addition to Lee Wah. He was elected to the executive committee of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in 1940s and 50s and served as chairman of the HK Electric Association.    

In 1953, Lee Wah was sued for operating a factory in the rooftop of 29 Stanley Street without the proper registration and was represented by P.C. Woo (see article on Yakult) in court. (WKYP, 1953-8-21).  

In 1959, Lee Wah donated a 9 foot tall neon sign worth HK$250 to the Wah Kiu Yat Po charity sale which was purchased by Shum Shung-wan of Kowloon Candy Company at face value. (WKYP, 1959-1-21) 

Not much info is available about the clients of Lee Wah and Ko after the 1960s but in 1980, Lee Wah received approval to put up a neon sign on 345 Chai Wan Road. Lee Wah Neonlight Co Ltd was incorporated in 1995 but dissolved in 1999 while Lee Wah Neonlight & Advertising was incorporated in 1997 and dissolved in 2012.  

Cathay Neonlight (國泰光管)

Cathay Neonlight was founded before the War and remained a major player in the industry into the 1990s. The firm was founded by Hay Kwan, whose family was involved in electrical work in Canton and moved to HK in the 1930s.  

The firm operated out of 252 Jaffe Road and started out making small signs for shops in the Wanchai neighborhood. After the War, it was involved in the construction of the San Miguel and Long John Scotch neon signs in the waterfront, two of the first large scale signs in the HK skyline. Business took off in the 1950s and Kwan was joined at the firm by his son Clement Kwan Kwok-wa (關國華). 

In the 1970s, it was involved in neon signage atop United Overseas Bank in Argyle Street and Upper Carpark Deck of Ocean Terminal in 1975, the Sheraton Hotel at 715 Nathan Road and HK Commercial Bank at 711-713 Nathan Road in 1976, 1-13 Sugar Street in Causeway Bay, and Lakeside Building in Wanchai in 1977.   

The 1980s brought bigger projects, starting with 66 Nathan Road and more signs atop Ocean Terminal. Carlsberg was another client from the 1980s. In 1985, Cathay installed the Konica sign in TST East which costed $400,000. In 1988, the firm was involved with two high profile projects – the Goldstar sign on Great Eagle Center, which cost $1.3 million and took two months and the Foster’s sign on Harcourt House, which cost $2.8 million and took 75 days. One of the biggest signs in HK at the time, the Foster’s sign was 60 metres long and 100 meters high and weighed 55 tons. It involved 7 kilometers of tubing and used as much electricity as 150 air conditioners.

In 1990, Cathay installed the Sharp sign on World Trade Center, which cost $4.5 million and took 100 days. Another key clients from the 1990s was Motorola, whose sign cost $3.5 million and took 75 days to install. As explained by Clement Kwan in the article below, these projects were both time consuming and capital and resources intensive, involving permits from multiple government agencies, lots of materials and civil engineering inputs.  

https://www.scmp.com/article/70742/bright-lights-big-money

Nam Wah Neonlight & Electrical Manufactory (南華光管電器製造廠)

HK Neon Light Industry Image 4 York Lo Left: Nam Wah’s record breaking National/Panasonic neon sign on Nathan Road; Right: Ad for Nam Wah Neon in 1980 (WKYP, 1980-5-21) 

Nam Wah was founded as Nam Wah Neon Co in 1953 by Tam Wah Ching (譚華正). Born in 1926 in his native Kaiping in Guangdong, Tam came to HK at the age of 12 and became an apprentice at a neon company. By the age of 27, he had gained enough experience to strike out on his own and established Nam Wah as a small sign business in the staircase of an old building. Despite his limited education, Tam was keen on learning about the latest technology from markets such as Japan and through hardwork and innovation quickly became a leader in the industry, earning him the title of “King of Neon Lights”. In the 1950s and 1960s, Nam Wah was responsible for signs for many restaurants and shops such as the recently closed Shun Hing Restaurant in Sham Shui Po whose sign was in use for over half a century. Nam Wah Neonlight & Electrical Manufactory Ltd was incorporated in 1968 and in the 1960s, the firm operated out of Man Wai Street and Wai Ching Street in To Kwa Wan before moving to the Yam Hop Hing Industrial Building (see article on preserved fruits) in Kwai Chung in the 1970s. 

In 1973, Nam Wah took on its highest profile project – the 20-story tall National/Panasonic neon sign in the Astor Theatre building in Kowloon which involved 4000 neonlights and took 50 workers six months to install. At the time, it broke the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest neon sign in the world. The sign lasted for two decades until the building was re-developed into the Eaton Hotel.

In 1974, Nam Wah did the sign on top of Kowloon Commercial Centre and 214 Des Voeux Road Central the next year. In 1976, it was involved in signs at 989 King’s Road, Mayson Garden Building (美城花園大廈) on Hing Fat Street (through Neco Neon), Hang Seng Bank, 339 Castle Peak Road, World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay (Neco) and Hang Seng Bank on Village Road. In 1984, it received approval for sign atop the Watson Estate Block C Causeway Bay. Jumbo Seafood Restaurant in Aberdeen, Shun Tak Centre in Sheung Wan, Windsor House in Causeway Bay were other major projects done by Nam Wah.   

HK Neon Light Industry Image 5 York Lo

Design of its own neon signage by Nam Wah in the 1950s

In addition to Nam Wah, Tam Wah-ching also controlled Electro Enterprises & Advertising Co (電通企業廣告), Take All Co Ltd (德可路有限公司) and Kamland Investments Ltd (錦綸投資有限公司). He has been very active in philanthropy, having served as supervisor of the St Luke’s School (聖路加書院), the Mongkok Kaifong Welfare Association (旺角街坊會) and donated generously to many causes such as the Boy Scout movement and the Community Chest. He had served as vice chairman of the HK Chinese Commercial Advertising Association (華資廣告商會) and was supported by his son William Tam (譚浩瀚) until they had a falling out several years ago. 

HK Neon Light Industry Image 6 York Lo

Left: Article about Japanese advertising industry delegation visiting Nam Wah Neon in 1975 (WKYP, 1975-6-21); Right: Nam Wah Neon founder Tam Wah-ching 

https://www.vanishingasia.com/portfolio/hongkong-part1/

http://m.blog.sina.com.hk/article/0/muiso09/18587096

http://www.mingpaocanada.com/Tor/htm/News/20140406/HK-gga1.htm?m=0

https://www.cpr.cuhk.edu.hk/honfellow/Citation/chi/9_tamwahching.pdf

https://www.schsa.org.hk/sc/lym/whatsnew/index_id_2004.html

Ming Wah Neonlights (明華光管)

HK Neon Light Industry Image 7 York Lo

Article about Ming Wah building the largest neon sign in the world for Citizen watches in 1982 (WKYP, 1982-10-31) 

Ming Wah was founded in 1960 by Tong Wai-ming (唐偉明), who learned the trade in Canton in the 1940s. He sent his eldest son Tony to the UK for training to become a qualified neon glass-bender and by the 1970s, Ming Wah was one of the major players in the industry.   

HK Neon Light Industry Image 8 York Lo

Left: Ming Wah founder Tong Wai-ming; Right: Tony Tong bending neon glass  

Based on the Urban Council’s Approval of Erection of Advertisement Signs, major projects completed by Ming Wah in the 1970s and 1980s include the following: 

1974 – Honour House at 381 Nathan Road; 741 Nathan Road

1976 – Lap Heng Commercial Building on Gloucester Road and Magnolia Mansion on Tin Hau Temple Road. 

1977 – 311 Hennessy Road  

1981 – Silver Bright Building at 244-248 Tai Po Road. 

1982 – the “Citizens” watch sign atop Elizabeth House on Gloucester Road – which was allegedly the largest neon sign in the world at the point.  

1984 – Sing Ho Finance Building (信和財務大廈) at 166-168 Gloucester Road

After the death of Tong Wai-ming and his son Tony, the business has been led by his younger son David Tong and today only 10-15% of its business comes from neon while the majority of its business is now in LED lighting.

https://hkmb.hktdc.com/en/1X0ACC6U/life-style/Under-Hong-Kong%E2%80%99s-Neon-Lights

Far East Neon Light (遠東光管)

HK Neon Light Industry Image 9 York Lo

Left: Benjamin Wong (left) of Far East Neon Light signing the contract for the Sony sign next to the Cross Harbour Tunnel with Peter Chiu of Fook Yuen Electrical (see article) in 1973 (KSEN, 1973-10-19); Right: construction of the Canon sign atop HK Arts Centre in Wanchai in the 1980s (Far East Neon Light)   

Founded in 1967, Far East Neonlight and its affiliate Far East Display Lighting (formed in 1990) remains a leading player in the field of neon and LED lighting in HK today after over half a century in operation. The two firms are part of the Far East Advertising Holding (遠東廣告集團), once the largest Chinese-owned ad agency in Hong Kong that traces its roots to Far East Advertising Agency (遠東廣告, incorporated in 1965 and renamed Holding in 1984), founded in 1955 by Wong Wang-kwong (黃宏光, 1905-1990).

A native of Toishan in Guangdong province, little info is available about Wong Wang-kwong’s career before founding Far East, although when his daughter Wong Chiu-ying (黃昭營) married dentist Wong Chun-lam (王春霖) in 1959, he was still listed as the advertising manager for the Chinese newspaper Wah Kiu Yat Po (WKYP, 1959-02-15) and he was also the chairman of HK Chinese Newspaper Advertising Canvassers Association (中文報廣告員聯誼會) in 1960, suggesting that he started his advertising career selling ads for Chinese newspapers. Later he was the founding chairman of the HK Chinese Commercial Advertising Association and outside of work was involved with Po Leung Kuk, the Lions and the Girl Guides. He was also a director of Asiania Restaurant & Nightclub, which was located on the top two floors of the Asia Building in Wanchai and two other restaurants.  (WKYP, 1990-11-4)   

Wong Wang-kwong and his wife Lam Yee-him (林儀謙, d 1989) had 1 son and 7 daughters and their only son Benjamin Wong Chiu-tak (黃昭德) studied business in the US and received his MBA from HKU before joining the family business and eventually taking over.  The marriages of two of his daughters linked the family to two families of industrialists – second daughter Wong Chiu-man (黃昭旻) married Wan Yee-kwok (溫宜國), the third of son Lap Fung Weaving & Dyeing Factory chairman Wan Chung-chuen (溫仲全)–  in 1964 (KSEN, 1964-3-25) while youngest daughter Wong Chiu-mei (黃昭美) married Tsang Chung-yu, chairman of HK Metal Merchants Association, a position held for many years by both his father and his uncle. 

HK Neon Light Industry Image 10 York Lo

Opening of Wang Kwong Advertising in 1973. Left to right: Philip Ching, Wong Wang-kwong, Benjamin Wong, Chan Kam-ching (KSEN, 1973-10-1) 

One of Far East’s early clients was the Japanese retail giant Daimaru, which became the first Japanese department store to open a branch in Hong Kong in 1960 and Far East assisted them with the launch. This relationship lasted for over a quarter century. (WKYP, 1985-12-28) Aside from his son, Wong was assisted at Far East in the early 1970s by managing director Philip Ching (程自立, 1935-) and director Chan Kam-ching (陳鑑清). 

The 1970s represented a period of growth for Far East, especially its neon light business. 

In 1972, Far East Neon built the Diners Club sign across from the Star Ferry Pier in Central, the sign was manufactured at its workshop in Shanghai Street in Kowloon (KSDN, 1972-07-19)

In 1973, Wong Wang Kwong Advertising (宏光廣告) was established to provide more comprehensive advertising production services to clients covering print, radio and TV. The same year, Far East Neon Light won the contract to build the 80 feet wide, 10 feet tall SONY sign for Sony distributor Fook Yuen Electrical next to the HK side entrance of the newly opened Cross Harbour Tunnel and handled the Hong Kong Festival lights for Hang Seng Bank. 

In 1974, Far East won the contract to install a 70×25 ft sign for San Miguel (KSDN, 1974-12-16) and Christmas decorations for Hang Seng Bank (WKYP, 1974-12-30)

In 1975, Far East installed the giant outdoor neon sign on King’s Road near Victoria Park for Overseas Trust Bank. It also designed the exhibition hall and booths for Wo Kee Hong for a showcase of Pioneer stereo products at the City Hall. (WKYP, 1975-10-24) 

In 1976, Far East built the Philips sign on top of a Kwai Chung building (WKYP, 1976-10-09) and Wing Lung Bank sign on top of its head office in Central (WKYP, 1976-7-28) followed by signs for May Sun Lamps (美新燈飾) in Wanchai in 1977. (WKYP, 1977-7-25) 

Far East built the Toyota signs outside the Yam Hop Hing Industrial Building in Kwai Chung for Crown Motors in 1978 (WKYP, 1978-5-23) and its Quarry Bay building in 1980 (WKYP, 1980-5-21). 

HK Neon Light Industry Image 11 York Lo

Left: the launch of Far East Ketchum in 1978. Left to right: Benjamin Wong, Ketchum CEO, Wong Wang-kwong, deputy GM of Far East Ketchum (KSEN, 1978-11-16); Benjamin Wong (left) welcoming Philip Wilson as the new creative director for Far East Advertising Group in 1985 (WKYP, 1985-8-19) 

In 1978, Far East Advertising formed Far East Ketchum (遠東傑湛廣告), a joint venture with Amercian advertising giant Ketchum (US$200 million in revenues, top 25 in the world with over 1000 employees in offices across the globe at the time). The joint venture lasted for 12 years and was dissolved in 1990 (New York Times, 1990-6-15) 

When China opened to the world in 1979, Far East quickly established contacts with counterparts in the mainland and one of its early clients in the mainland was the American electric giant Westinghouse. In 1983, Far East formally established its China department and conducted seminars in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Dalian and Kunming. The next year, it was appointed the master agent for the state-owned advertising giant China United Advertising Corporation (which had 60 subsidiaries and branches in 42 cities) in HK and soon won the China accounts for global brands such as Olivetti, Samsung and New Zealand Dairy. In 1986, Far East’s China department beat out large foreign agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi and Ogilvy & Mather and won the China business for Ovaltine and Bayer. (WKYP, 1986-3-3) 

In 1980, Far East built the neon sign atop the rooftop of China Fleet Club. In 1984, Far East Neon installed the Lee Kum Kee sign atop an office building in Wanchai (WKYP, 1984-10-17). Other clients that year include Bulova, Titus, Daimaru, Cable & Wireless (WKYP, 1984-05-10) 

In 1985, Far East appointed Philip Wilson, the former creative director of British ad agency DWK as creative director for the group. That year, Far East was the sixth largest ad agency in HK and had strategic alliance with five ad agencies in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines to facilitate client’s marketing efforts into the Southeast Asian market. At the time, Wong and Wilson were supported by Jerry Yau Hing-fung and client directors Simon Kwan and Allen Mok at Far East. 

In 1986, Far East decided to merge Wang Kwong and another subsidiary Original (Far East) Advertising ((遠東)廣告, formed in 1983) which had combined revenues of HK$40 million with a client list including Mitsubishi Electric, KLM, Cross pens, Mobil, Celine, Chevalier, Bank of China, Pioneer stereos, Sunray Wallpaper and Japan Tobacco with recent wins such as Airland mattresses, JETCO and Samsung. (WKYP, 1986-1-31) For the year 1986, the Far East Advertising Group recorded revenues of over HK$100 million and was the only Chinese-owned firm left among the top ten advertising agencies by billings. (WKYP, 1987-2-12) 

HK Neon Light Industry Image 12 York Lo

Far East Neon’s Konica inflatable at the Shatin waterpark in 1990 (WKYP, 1990-1-18) 

In 1987, Far East installed the neon signage for the fifth branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken on Cameron Road in Tsim Sha Tsui (WKYP, 1987-3-1)

Aside from neon light, Far East also introduced other novel form of advertising. In 1983, the firm introduced a 20 feet tall inflatable figure at the New World Centre – one of the first customers to use this was Coca-Cola.    (WKYP, 1983-1-21) In 1988, Far East built the largest inflatable water drop in Victoria Park for Watsons Water (WKYP, 1988-07-31) and the Konica photo film roll inflatable in 1990 in the Shatin waterpark shown above. 

In 1989, Far East was responsible for the exterior lighting of The Whampoa, the 360 feet boat-shaped shopping center at Whampoa Garden in Hunghom developed by Hutchison Whampoa. (WKYP, 1989-11-20) The same year, Far East Neon installed the neon signs for the Holiday Inn in Guangzhou (廣州文化假日酒店) (WKYP, 1989-05-25) and China Harbour View Hotel (中華海景酒店) in Wanchai (WKYP, 1989-09-09)

In 1990, Far East Neon Light established a subsidiary – Far East Display Lighting Ltd (遠東展明, formed by renaming Original Far East) to expand into LED advertising and to introduce other new outdoor advertising technology such as cold cathode tube, trivision sign, poster ad and giant inflatable (WKYP, 1990-7-15). The same year, Far East was awarded the contract to design and install two giant neon signs for Epson, one on the Kowloon side on Sung Wong Toi Road near the old Kai Tak airport and atop the Wanchai Ferry Pier (WKYP, 1990-10-7) 

In more recent years, the landmark cases which Far East Neon Light was involved with include Nina Tower in Tsuen Wan, the Ting Kau bridge, the Bank of China Tower and The Center in Central, Langham Place in Mongkok and Billionaire Royale in Kowloon City and continue to count many local and global brands such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Chanel and Nike as clients. 

Sources (other than those cited above) 

http://www.neonsigns.hk/new-posts/installation-canon-neon-sign/?lang=en

www.fareastneon.com

This article was first posted on 18th October 2019.

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  2. China Neonlight Advertising Company, Mongkok, makers of neon lights – vanishing Hong Kong trades
  3. Dodwell & Company Ltd, 天祥洋行
  4. George Benjamin Dodwell, 1851-1925, Prominent Hong Kong merchant and shipowner
  5. Hong Kong Cement Manufacturing (香港水泥)
  6. “The Poetic Industrialist”: Yan Man-leung (甄文亮1898-1983) of Camelpaint and United Weaving Factory (民衆布廠)
  7. The Silver-Haired Midas: Kan Koam-Tsing, the Banker and Gold Dealer who backed South Sea Textile and Camelpaint
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  9. Yakult (益力多): 50 Years in Hong Kong
  10. Makers of Preserved Fruits – Wong Wing Kee, Lee Wah Mui, Hing Ah, Lee Sin Kee, Yam Hop Hing and Koon Wah

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