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New SK-II Commercial Shows the Strong Message of China’s “Leftover Women”

A new ad campaign by skin care brand SK-II on China’s ‘leftover women’ has gained huge support on Chinese social media.

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A new ad campaign by skin care brand SK-II titled ‘She Finally Goes to the Marriage Corner’ (她最后去了相亲角) has gained huge popularity on Chinese social media. The short video shows how women, pressured to get married by their families and society, pluck up the courage to speak out and get their message heard.

The Japanese cosmetics company SK-II released its new campaign film on April 6, which attracted over 1.2 million views on Chinese video platform Youku within a day. The film, titled ‘She Finally Goes to the Marriage Corner’, seems to have touched the hearts of many “leftover women” in China.

“I will not die unless you get married!”

In China, marriage often comes with social and familial pressure. This holds particularly true for women. Once over 25, single girls are soon tagged “leftover women” (剩女), and the immense pressure to marry comes into play.

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The pressure reveals itself in various ways. Parents suddenly seize every opportunity to investigate your ‘relationship status’, and vague relatives show their surprise upon hearing still single. Married friends become the ‘perfect examples’ that pop up during dinner talk: “Look at ***, her child can go buy soy sauce now!” Spring Festival, usually the time for family cosiness, turns into a nightmare where you are constantly bombarded with questions and unwanted advice concerning your marital status. You may even find yourself in an awkward situation where you are lured into meeting a total stranger on a blind date.

But it is always the parents who are the most concerned. In the ad campaign, moms and dads express their worries over their single daughters, saying “don’t be so picky!”, “you’re already a leftover woman now”, “please get this solved as soon as possible”, and: “one day your single status will be a heavy burden to our heart”. The most serious of these concerns appears in the beginning of the film, where a man’s voice says resolutely: “Father will not die unless you get married!” (“你一天不结婚,父亲就一天不死”)

Marriage Corner, People’s Square, Shanghai

Why is marriage so important in China? In SK-II’s campaign, it is mainly explained through Chinese culture, where the traditional view holds marriage as an indispensable part of life, and where there’s a conception that only married women are ‘real’ women. Another cultural aspect is the Confucian philosophy of filial piety, a virtue of respect for one’s father. Not getting married is perceived as a defiance of filial piety.


The SK-II ad campaign that has gone viral on Chinese social media.

The pressure to marry becomes real tangible at the ‘marriage corner’ in People’s Square, Shanghai. For several years, parents get together at People’s Square at weekends. They write their children’s information on a piece of paper, including their appearance, job, income, education, and whether they have an apartment or a car. Parents can then look if any of the posted persons fits their ideal of the perfect son- or daughter-in-law. In 2014, an app named “Marriage Corner at People’s Square” was even published for iOS systems, allowing parents to continue their search online.

Although the marriage corner is a popular spot for parents helping their kids look for a partner, young people are generally not particularly enthusiastic about this idea. In the ad campaign, one woman says the marriage posts are like “commercial advertisement to sell a product.”

“I don’t want to marry for marriage’s sake. I will not be happy.”

In the final part of the video, the featured “leftover women” decide to go to the Marriage Corner themselves. Not to surrender to the pressure and settle on a husband, but to make their own “advertisements” with smiling pictures, saying: “I don’t want to marry for marriage’s sake; even single, I have a happy life which I love.”

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‘Confident’, ‘independent’, ‘life-loving’ – that is how these women define themselves. One father responds saying: “If she is happy with being single, we will respect her choice.”

Chinese netizens have collectively expressed their support for the women in the film. One netizen says, “Whether I am married or not is nobody’s business… even if I don’t marry until I’m 80, as long as I am happy, my dad has no say in it.”

Many also write about their wish to be the boss over their own marriage choice. Another netizen says: “Our society has always taught women how to lower their heads; it has never really respected women (..). I wish all girls live a happy, confident and courageous life!”

Calling for change in traditional view on women

The popularity of SK-II’s ad campaign is not surprising. Its chosen topic is a hot topic in China recently, as discussions about traditional views on women regularly flare up on social media.

On March 26, the story of a 27-year girl attempting suicide due to marriage pressure triggered heated discussions on Weibo. Many netizens identified with the girl, and told of their own experiences of being ‘forced to marry’ (逼婚).

Earlier this week, a heated discussion erupted about how society treats women, after the attack of a woman in a Beijing hotel.

Popular Weibo accounts such as Women’s Rights Voice post daily updates on women in China, their portrayal in the media, and gender equality.

pressure

Meanwhile, the SK-II video is still being shared and discussed on Chinese (social) media. Many netizens praise the brand for its smart marketing, others only see the message it brings: “Don’t let other people determine your future for you.”

– By Diandian Guo

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Celebs

Female Comedian Yang Li and the Intel Controversy

A decision that backfired: Intel’s act of supposed ‘inclusion’ caused the exclusion of female comedian Yang Li.

Manya Koetse

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“How to look at the boycott of Yang Li?” (#如何看待抵制杨笠#) became a top trending topic on social media site Weibo on Monday after female comedian Yang Li was dismissed as the spokesperson for American tech company Intel over a controversial ad campaign.

On March 18, Intel released an ad on its Weibo account in which Yang says “Intel has a taste [for laptops] that is higher than my taste for men” (“英特尔的眼光太高了,比我挑对象的眼光都高.”)

The ad drew complaints for allegedly insulting men, with some social media users vowing to boycott the tech brand. On Sunday, Intel deleted the ad in question from its social media page and reportedly also removed Yang from her position as their brand ambassador.

The commotion over the ad had more to do with Chinese comedian Yang Li (杨笠) than with the specific lines that were featured in it.

Yang Li is controversial for her jokes mocking men (“men are adorable, but mysterious. After all, they can look so average and yet be so full of confidence“), with some blaming her for being “sexist” and “promoting hatred against all men.”

Since she appeared on the stand-up comedy TV competition Rock and Roast (脱口秀大会) last year, she was nicknamed the the “punchline queen” and became one of the more influential comedians in present-day China. Yang now has nearly 1,5 million fans on Weibo (@-杨笠-).

Yang Li’s bold jokes and sharp way of talking about gender roles and differences between men and women in Chinese society is one of the main reasons she became so famous. Intel surely knew this when asking Yang to be their brand ambassador.

In light of the controversy, the fact that Intel was so quick to remove Yang also triggered criticism. Some (male) netizens felt that Intel, a company that sells laptops, could not be represented by a woman who makes fun of men, while these men are a supposed target audience for Intel products.

But after Yang was removed, many (female) netizens also felt offended, suggesting that in the 21st century, Intel couldn’t possibly believe that their products were mainly intended for men (“以男性用户为主”)? Wasn’t their female customer base just as important?

According to online reports, Intel responded by saying: “We noted that the content [we] spread relating to Yang Li caused controversy, and this is not what we had anticipated. We place great importance on diversity and inclusion. We fully recognize and value the diverse world we live in, and are committed to working with partners from all walks of life to create an inclusive workplace and social environment.”

However, Intel’s decision backfired, as many wondered why having Yang as their brand ambassador would not go hand in hand with ‘promoting an inclusive social environment.’

“Who are you being ‘inclusive’ too? Common ‘confident’ men?”, one person wrote, with others saying: “Why can so many beauty and cosmetic brands be represented by male idols and celebrities? I loathe these double standards.”

“As a Chinese guy, I really think Yang Li is funny. I didn’t realize Chinese men had such a lack of humor!” another Weibo user writes.

There are also people raising the issue of Yang’s position and how people are confusing her performative work with her actual character. One popular law blogger wrote: “Really, boycotting Yang Li is meaningless. Stand-up comedy is a performance, just as the roles people play in a TV drama.”

Just a month ago, another Chinese comedian also came under fire for his work as a brand ambassador for female underwear brand Ubras.

It is extremely common in China for celebrities to be brand ambassadors; virtually every big celebrity is tied to one or more brands. Signing male celebrities to promote female-targeted products is also a popular trend (Li 2020). Apparently, there is still a long way to go when the tables are turned – especially when it is about female celebrities with a sharp tongue.

By Manya Koetse

Li, Xiaomeng. 2020. “How powerful is the female gaze? The implication of using male celebrities for promoting female cosmetics in China.” Global Media and China, Vol.5 (1), p.55-68.

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

Chinese Comedian Li Dan under Fire for Promoting Lingerie Brand with Sexist Slogan

Underwear so good that it can “help women lie to win in the workplace”? Sexist and offensive, according to many Weibo users.

Manya Koetse

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Popular talk show host and comedian Li Dan (李诞) has sparked controversy on Chinese social media this week for a statement he made while promoting female underwear brand Ubras.

The statement was “让女性轻松躺赢职场”, which loosely translates to “make it easy for women to win in the workplace lying down” or “make women win over the workplace without doing anything,” a slogan with which Li Dan seemed to imply that women could use their body and sex to their advantage at work. According to the underwear brand, the idea allegedly was to convey how comfortable their bras are. (The full sentence being “一个让女性躺赢职场的装备”: “equipment that can help women lie to win in the workplace”).

Li Dan immediately triggered anger among Chinese netizens after the controversial content was posted on his Weibo page on February 24. Not only did many people feel that it was inappropriate for a male celebrity to promote female underwear, they also took offense at the statement. What do lingerie and workplace success have to do with each other at all, many people wondered. Others also thought the wording was ambiguous on purpose, and was still meant in a sexist way.

Various state media outlets covered the incident, including the English-language Global Times.

By now, the Ubras underwear brand has issued an apology on Weibo for the “inappropriate wording” in their promotion campaign, and all related content has been removed.

The brand still suggested that the slogan was not meant in a sexist way, writing: “Ubras is a women’s team-oriented brand. We’ve always stressed ‘comfort and wearability as the essence of [our] lingerie, and we’re committed to providing women with close-fitting clothing solutions that are unrestrained and more comfortable so that more women can deal with fatigue in their life and work with a more relaxed state of mind and body.”

Li Dan also wrote an apology on Weibo on February 25, saying his statement was inappropriate. Li Dan has over 9 million followers on his Weibo account.

The objectification of women by brands and media has been getting more attention on Chinese social media lately. Earlier this month, the Spring Festival Gala was criticized for including jokes and sketches that were deemed insensitive to women. Last month, an ad by Purcotton also sparked controversy for showing a woman wiping away her makeup to scare off a male stalker, with many finding the ad sexist and hurtful to women.

 
By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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