Advice to advertisers: never make fun of Chinese women
Insensitive ads can result in a costly backlash from China's increasingly assertive female consumer class
It is hard to please everyone with a single advertisement, but neither is it worthwhile to make fun of Chinese women’s age or marital status. Marketers who make that mistake have to pay dearly.
This marketing rule applies not just because some women may not appreciate humor, but also because they now enjoy power in the marketplace.
Spare a thought for Ikea China, which apologized for a controversial television commercial that caused online outrage from single women.
The Swedish furniture retailer ran what it thought was a lighthearted ad that featured a fierce woman shouting at her daughter, “Don’t call me Mom any more if you cannot bring a boyfriend home.”
The TV ad titled “Celebrate Every Day in an Easy Way” struck a not-so-heartening chord among the increasing number of bachelorettes in China, a country where many parents expect their daughters to get married before they are 30.
Although the 29-second ad depicted a happy ending, with the mom placing Ikea furniture in her living home to welcome the boyfriend, not all unmarried women can find Mr Right.
After a flood of negative comments on Weibo and other social forums, Ikea took down the ad and apologized, through Weibo, for giving the wrong perception to consumers.
Ikea also emphasized that gender equality was a fundamental part of the company’s culture and values.
Ikea is not the only European brand to have offended increasingly discerning Chinese female consumers.
Audi, in an even worse example, ran an ad comparing the marriage of a young bride to buying a second-hand car.
The German carmaker’s commercial, which aired in mainland China in July, aimed to emphasize the quality of its officially certified used cars. It depicted the mother of a groom examining the bride’s teeth and ears, and even staring at the young woman’s breasts, much to the latter’s displeasure, to make sure she hadn’t had plastic surgery or “fake parts”, before giving a go-ahead for the wedding.
The ad carried a voiceover: “An important decision must be made carefully, and Audi’s official certification can ensure your peace of mind.”
Not surprisingly, the commercial sparked an outcry among Chinese women, forcing the German firm to pull the ad and issue an apology, though many angry women have vowed a boycott of its cars.