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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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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China Marketing & Advertising

“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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