Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fierce Backlash from a Sexist Audi Commercial in China

By Asia Pop Culture

Audi AG had to issue an official apology for a controversial commercial in China. The Germany-based auto company is part of the Volkswagen Group, the world's largest automaker. Why is a used car commercial causing fierce backlash on social media in China?  Watch the video below (with English subtitle) and you be the judge.

In the 34-second ad for Audi's second-hard car venture in China, a groom and bride are about to exchange vows in the middle of a wedding ceremony. Then the groom's mother suddenly marches down the aisle in front of all guests and the minister to give the her future daughter-in-law a full "inspection".

The elderly mom checks the bride's eyes, nose, ears, mouth and teeth as if she is inspecting a horse or cow.  The mom then gives the couple thumbs up after everything seems satisfactory to her.  As she walks back down the aisle, and just after the young couple breathe a sign of relief, she turns around staring at the bride's chest area.  In a "defensive" move, the bride immediately covers up the chest with her bare hands.

The commercial ends with a caption and male voice narration "An important decision must be made carefully. Online 4S shop, Audi inspected so you may relax." featuring a cruising Audi car and Audi's used car web page.

Many on Chinese social media reacted with comments like "trashy," "discriminatory" and "sexist" or "plain dumb" and wondering how an international company like Audi could have released such an ad video across China.

The ad was created by the used car division of Audi's China joint venture exclusively for the Chinese market. Audi AG of course apologized profusely saying "The responsible department of the joint venture has arranged a thorough investigation of the internal control and coordination processes so that an incident like this can be excluded in the future,"  and that "The ad’s perception that has been created for many people does not correspond to the values of our company in any way."

Some commentators suggest the ad may reflect cultural norms in China.  However, based on my understanding and experience, the mom-in-law's behavior does not even come close to the "norms" in the old Chinese society (before Mao's Cultural Revolution), except maybe in very rural areas where the majority of people are not as educated.  Perhaps this ad reflects more the upbringing and family/education background of the Audi "team members" in China responsible for approving the broadcast of the ad to the mass audience in China?    

Audi now has confirmed that the commercial has now been completely withdrawn.  It may have been "withdrawn", but we all know about the internet, once it is out there on the web, it is there forever.

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