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Look Who’s Talking: China’s CCTV Consumer Day Show Accused of Misinformation

Is the pot calling the kettle black?

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The 27th edition of China’s consumer day show ‘CCTV 315 Night’ (315晚会) caused controversy on Chinese social media when it exposed the malpractices in various companies, from Muji stores to Nike shoes. Now that it appears the show itself is negligent with its facts and sources, it is again the talk of the day on Chinese social media. Is the pot calling the kettle black?

World Consumer Rights Day took place earlier this week, and became a trending topic on Sina Weibo (#微博315#) with the release of an annual consumer rights report and a special CCTV program dedicated to protecting consumer rights and uncovering malpractices by companies, called ‘3.15 Night’ (#315晚会#).

The CCTV ‘315 Night’ or ‘consumer day show’ is an annual TV show aired on March 15, focused on naming and shaming various brands and companies.

This year marked the show’s 27th anniversary. As the show featured somewhat more controversial items than it did in previous years, it became the most-discussed topic on Chinese social media on Wednesday and Thursday.

The program revealed several product-related issues that had China’s netizens both worried and skeptical, triggering thousands of shares and reactions across Weibo.

Products from the area of Japan’s Fukushima disaster

One of the program’s items focused on products from those regions in Japan affected by the nuclear crisis of 2011. After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the Chinese government introduced various laws to ensure consumer safety and prohibited the import of Japanese products from those areas in Japan affected by nuclear pollution.

But the Chinese TV show now revealed how, six years after the crisis, Japanese food products from the banned areas are allegedly sold in China by several large e-commerce platforms and stores, including Japanese chain store Muji.

According to the show, retailers hid the origin of the product by using different or vague new labels stating “made in Japan” rather than the specific area from which China has banned the imports of food.

New labels on top of the original ones to hide specific areas of production? Scene from the CCTV 315 Show.

The products included snacks, baby formula, rice, health food, and others, by brands such as Calbee.

News about the imported products led to much anger and commotion on Chinese social media. “Chinese people deceiving Chinese people! The Japanese people won’t eat it so you import it, you do anything for money!”, some angry commenters said.

China’s ‘Wiki’: Selling lies for money

Another scandal revealed by the 315 show concerns Hudong.com (互动百科), China’s homegrown wiki encyclopedia. The platform was accused of false advertising; the mere payment of 4800 RMB (±700$) allows the verification of any product on the site without any other requirements.

The show reported how a patient with liver cancer found a “magic” medicine on Hudong.com as a “verified product”, allegedly able to cure cancer within seven days. Through this kind of false advertising, especially vulnerable people are susceptible to getting fooled into purchasing fake medicine.

Afterward, Chinese media called Hudong “a trash website with the most misleading advertisement” (“互动百科成最大虚假广告垃圾站”).

The negative effects for companies after being featured on the annual consumer rights show cannot be underestimated; in 2015, Forbes called the show a “public relations nightmares for its victims.”

Air Cushion Nikes without the air cushion

The consumer day show also criticized the brand Nike, alleging that the U.S. company’s shoes advertisements are misleading consumers.

The Nike Hyperdunk shoes were promoted to contain the patented zoom air cushions, but were found to actually contain no ‘air cushion’ at all – despite their high price of 1499 RMB (US$220) per pair.

According to Shanghai Daily, over 60 disappointed buyers complained to Nike. The company has since offered them a full refund.

Pot calling kettle black?

The CCTV show’s Nike item again became a point of discussion on Chinese social media today when sport news platform Fastpass (快传体育) complained that the information and images used by CCTV were completely taken from their website, violating their copyright.

In a new article on the Fastpass website, the author says: “CCTV cited its main evidence from our report of November 26 2016 on inspecting the Hyperdunk 08. Not only did CCTV not mention Fastpass as the source, they even used our images without our authorization and took out our watermark.”

Many netizens were confused that the 315 show itself apparently had some malpractices, while its main purpose is to expose the malpractices of others.

 

“The show is not about ‘protecting consumer rights’ at all it is about knocking out companies in one punch.”

 

The copyright infringement was not the only point of critique on the show on Chinese social media. Various Chinese media also reported today that the show’s accusations on imported products from Japan’s “banned areas” were ungrounded, as the product package address highlighted during the show is only the place where companies are registered – not where their products are produced.

Furthermore, some netizens wondered why certain controversial products were left out this year: “The Samsung phones have batteries exploding one after the other, why did they not focus on that? Where is their integrity and credibility?”, one commenter wrote.

The fact that ‘Chinese wiki site’ hudong.com was harshly criticized by CCTV while Baidu Baike, its biggest competitor, was not, also annoyed netizens. In 2016, Baidu caused huge controversy for offering advertisement space to fraudulent doctors. These practices came to light when the 21-year-old cancer patient Wei Zexi paid 200,000 RMB (31,000US$) for a treatment promoted through Baidu, which later turned out to be ineffective and highly contested. He died shortly after and received much attention on social media, yet the controversy was not named by the CCTV consumer day show.

One Chinese journalist addressed the TV show on Weibo, writing:

“Some people have asked me what’s up with that 315 Muji report. I did not see the show last night as I was on the train. But even if I had seen it, I would have nothing positive to say about the show. Being a journalist for so many years, I can’t stand this show. It is not about ‘protecting consumer rights’ at all. It is about knocking out companies in one punch. Don’t ask me how I know this.”

 

“Perhaps it is not a smart move to throw stones while living in a glass house.”

 

Other commenters also said the show was “fishy”, with many wondering about the selection of the companies it targets, while others are left out. “If they already knew this,” one person said about the alleged imported goods from radiation-polluted areas, “then why would they wait until the night of the show to tell us about it?”

“The show always targets foreign goods, preferably from USA, Japan, and Korea – it not about the product, it is about ideology,” another person (@上善若水之山高) said.

It is not the first time the show has been critized, particularly for bashing foreign brands and products. In 2015, the South China Morning Post also wrote about 315: “(..) the show also had its own “quality problem” – former CCTV financial news channel director Guo Zhenxi, who oversaw 315 Gala, was detained (..) for allegedly taking bribes.”

Overall, many people on Chinese social media simply do not take the show seriously anymore. “Haha, I’ve been hearing all these reports about CCTV 315 on Japanese products these days,” one Weibo user wrote: “You can bash Japanese products all you want, the only thing is that Japanese products undergo very strict supervision and that it’s virtually impossible to bash them!”

It seems that the CCTV show, after running for 27 years, has lost its credibility among the people. Perhaps it is not a smart move to throw stones while living in a glass house; the more critical netizens of today’s online environment can see right through it.

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Marketing & Advertising

Secret Tests Expose That Beijing’s Five-Star Luxury Hotels Do Not Change Bed Sheets

Secret tests run by a review organization have exposed how Beijing’s top-notch hotels do not change their bed sheets or clean their toilet seats. The report has caused a great commotion on Chinese social media, where it has become the talk of the day.

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Secret tests run by a review organization have exposed how Beijing’s top-notch hotels do not change their bed sheets or clean their toilet seats. The report has caused great commotion on Chinese social media, where it has become the talk of the day.

An online report by an assessment organization has exposed how some of Beijing’s 5-star luxury hotels do not change their bed sheets or clean the toilet seats after guests check out. The tests concern the renowned hotel chains Hilton, the W, Intercontinental, Marriot, and Shangri-La.

The tests were done by a company named ‘Better Choice, Better Life’ (literally ‘Blueberry Testing’ 蓝莓评测), which has over 60,500 followers on their Weibo account.

In a video released online on September 4, the research team says:

“As a review organization, we’ve found some unexpected results in a test which triggers a horrible assumption. We’ve seen messes of different industries in our tests. However, none of them have shocked us like this. The test result may lead to serious debate. But everyone deserves the truth, which is why we decided to release it.”

The video shows how members of the team check into several top hotels and mark their room’s sheets, quilt covers, toilets, and bathtubs with fluorescence stamps that can only be detected through a UV torch. These stamps will be removed when their surface is washed or gently wiped.

After messing up the room a bit, they then check out the next day and let other team members book exactly the same room after them to see if the bed linens and other room items are properly cleaned after guests leave.

The team found that in most cases, the pillow case, bed sheets, and/or quilt covers still had the same stamps on them, meaning that their linens were not only unwashed, but also were not changed at all.

They also found their marks had not been wiped off the toilet covers and toilet seats – which were not even touched after the check-out of the previous guests. They also found that the drinking glasses in the bathroom were left untouched by the hotel cleaners.

The team concluded that Beijing’s Hilton, Sanlitun Intercontinental, and W Hotel did not change their bed sheets after previous guests had departed and new guests had arrived. The JW Marriott Beijing did change the bed sheets and quilt cover, but not the pillow cases. Shangri-La changed all the bed linen except for one pillow case.

None of the hotels were found to have cleaned the bathtubs, nor the toilets, and all of them greatly lacked in their hygiene and service quality.

The standard room prices for the hotels vary between approximately US$200 and US$400 per night; all are over 2000 RMB.

Under hashtags such as “5-Star Hotels Do Not Change Their Bed Sheets” (#五星酒店不换床单#), the report has become a big topic of debate on Chinese social media.

“Knowing they don’t even change the water glasses, are you still willing to stay at these ‘luxurious’ hotels?”, some netizens wondered.

“We should set up an independent network of hotel guests,” one commenter suggested: “And leave hidden marks for each other so the next guest can check whether or not the room is clean.”

Some people write that they are not surprised by the outcome of the tests, saying they often bring their own sheets or pillows to hotels for this reason.

In response to the controversy, the Beijing Tourism Association held an official meeting with the management of the concerning hotels on the morning of September 5.

In an announcement on Weibo, they stated that they asked the hotels for clarification about the controversy, and required them to face up to their company’s problems and to actively solve these issues and improve their quality of service.

The Beijing Tourism Association also stated that they would increase the supervision of these hotels, and would implement a strict inspection of their hygiene standards and service quality.

By Miranda Barnes & Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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“It’s All Staged!” Cosplayer Viral Story Turns Out To Be Marketing Stunt

The story of a dressed-up ‘cosplay’ girl being scolded by an elderly woman on the Beijing subway went viral over the past week. It now turns out the scene was staged for marketing purposes. It’s not the first time a viral video turns out to be a publicity stunt.

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The story of a dressed-up ‘cosplay’ girl being scolded by an elderly woman on the Beijing subway went viral on Chinese social media over the past week. It now turns out the scene was staged for marketing purposes. This is not the first time a viral video turns out to be a publicity stunt.

It is often photos and videos of everyday scenes on public transport or on the streets that go viral on Chinese media. A pregnant woman making a fuss in the subway, a loud fight between two girls, or two men riding bumper cars on a traffic lane.

This week, a video of a young woman being scolded on the Beijing subway for wearing a cosplay outfit went viral on Chinese social media.

The video, allegedly secretly filmed by a bystander, was shared by Tencent News and other Chinese media platforms. It shows an older woman on Beijing’s Line 10 telling the girl off, saying it is people like her who are a bad influence to her grandchildren, that she is neglecting her duties, and wearing clothes that are too revealing.

The story attracted much attention on social media, where many netizens sided with the young woman and praised her for responding coolly although the woman was attacking her.

Now, the story has taken a sharp turn as it turns out that the whole scene was staged with the purpose of generating more attention for the ad behind the older lady, several sources write.

The company promoted in the ad is Womai.com, a
healthy food shopping website in China that delivers to one’s door. In the ad, the website promotes its ‘coolness’; it says it is not just ‘cool’ (or ‘cold’) because it allows shoppers to stay inside with the air conditioning on, but also because it makes ‘cold jokes’ (冷笑话 corny jokes) on its ad posters.

This is not the first time a viral story turns out to be staged. In 2015, photos of a ‘romantic proposal’ made its rounds on social media when a young man asked his pregnant girlfriend to marry him using over 50 packs of diapers in the shape of a giant heart. One bag of diapers carried a diamond ring inside. It was later said the scene was sponsored by Libero Diapers.

In 2016, a video showing a woman making a scene in a hospital after having to pay nearly $700 to see a doctor also went viral on Weibo. It prompted outrage on Chinese social media about malpractices in Chinese hospitals, where patients often get scammed by hospital scalpers.

Later, netizens discussed how the video probably was a marketing stunt for Yihu365, an online platform that offers its services in making hospital appointments.

Viral marketing stunts also often occur outside of China. In a smart campaign, Range Rover parked one of its cars outside of Harrods in the UK in 2016, spray painted with the words “Cheater” and “Hope she was worth it.” As photos of the car were immediately shared by people walking by on social media, the story became bigger and bigger, with even BBC reporting about it.

With dozens of everyday scenes going viral on Chinese social media every day, ‘fake virals’ have become a business opportunity for advertising companies. But because of China’s critical social media users, fake virals hardly ever last long. But by the time it goes viral, its marketing purpose has already been fulfilled.

By Manya Koetse

Thanks to Miranda Zhou Barnes.

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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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