SubscribeLog in
Connect with us

China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

Viral Merchants Bank Commercial Hits Close to Home for Chinese Students Abroad

A viral commercial titled ‘The World is No Bigger than a Tomato Omelette’ is making Chinese students tear up.

Avatar

Published

on

A Merchants Bank viral campaign titled ‘The World is No Bigger than a Tomato Omelette’ is triggering many reactions on Chinese social media. While the commercial moves many people to tears, others find it sends out the wrong message.

Over the past two days, a commercial by China Merchants Bank (招商银行) titled ‘The world is no bigger than a fried tomato omelette’ (“世界再大,大不过一盘番茄炒蛋”) has gone viral on Chinese social media. While the ad campaign is a tearjerker for many, some find it a source of annoyance.

The 4-minute commercial revolves around Chinese exchange student Yang who is in his first week in America and has to cook a Chinese dish for a potluck party.

 

“Your world means the world to us.”

 

Worried that he does not know how make the classic Chinese xīhóngshì chǎo jīdàn dish (西红柿炒鸡蛋 generally: ‘scrambled eggs with tomatoes’), Yang calls up his mother in China for help.

When he finds his mother’s explanation on how to prepare the dish not clear enough, the young man gets frustrated. Just as he is about to panic, his phone beeps that there is an incoming WeChat message; it is his mother on a video showing her son how to make fried tomato and eggs from her kitchen.

Thanks to his mother’s help, Yuan shows up at the party with a tasty dish. One of the party’s attendants asks Yuan about China and how much the time difference with America is.

The moment Yang replies “12 hours,” he realizes that he asked his mother for help in the middle of the night – and that she got up for him without her ever complaining about it.

Touched that his parents would wake up in the dark of the night to make a video tutorial for him, he messages his mother to say “thank you.”

The commercial ends with an image of Yang’s parents in their kitchen in China, texting: “We want to stand by your side, but we want even more for you to have the world. Your world means the world to us” (“你的世界大于全世界”).

The commercial promotes the Merchants Bank’s special Visa credit card for exchange students.

VIEW THE VIDEO HERE:

The commercial, that went trending on Weibo and Wechat today, touched many people to tears. Moved by these parents’ unconditional love for their child, people shared their own stories of studying abroad and receiving help from their parents.

 

“An idiot who doesn’t sympathize with his parents and does not even care about the time difference.”

 

Many other people, though, say the commercial sends out the wrong message, and that Chinese parents today are raising children who are not independent enough.

A Weibo user nicknamed Wuyue (@五岳散人) writes:

“That sucker ad by the Merchants Bank is really powerful alright. He doesn’t know how to stir-fry tomatoes and eggs, and despite the fact that it is broad daylight there, he doesn’t even know it’s nighttime in China and calls his mummy for help. He then, particularly proud, tells his friends ‘I am from China.’ What does that mean? It means his mother raised a boy who cannot even cook for himself. An idiot who doesn’t sympathize with his parents and does not even care about the time difference.”

Other people agree, saying: “You can’t disturb your sleeping parents to make tomato omelette,” or: “Don’t we have Baidu [search engine] for this?”

Some commenters say they find the commercial “infuriating,” stating that people who do not know how to make tomato and eggs should not even qualify to study abroad.

The credit card promoted in the ad campaign by China Merchants Bank.

There are also commenters who simply wonder what the commercial has to do with the credit card it promotes.

 

“True portrayal of relations between Chinese exchange students and their parents.”

 

An author at news platform 36kr.com disagrees with the critics, writing: “As someone who has been an exchange student before, this commercial made me cry when I saw it late at night.”

“Yesterday night, this commercial started going viral on WeChat and my friends who are studying abroad sent it to me with teary emoticons.”

The 36kr author says that some of her friends were crying their eyes out over the ad:

“This ad is a true portrayal of the relations between exchange students and their parents. The tomato and eggs dish is just an example, but behind it you’ll find the far-reaching love of parents towards their children that goes beyond any time-difference.”

Many on Weibo agree with this stance, writing: “Over the past few days, every single chat group for exchange students has been posting this video. I finally watched it. Tears were streaming down my face.”

About the connection to the credit card product, the author of 36kr.com writes: “The most important purpose [of this ad] is to enhance the brand image of the China Merchants Bank. Tying the brand together with this scene, we have emotional resonance and thus it creates more trust in the brand, associating the Merchants Bank with ‘warmth,’ ‘care,’ and ‘love.'”

 

“China Merchants Bank is taking a route that is more common in Thailand, where ‘sadvertising’ is a well-known phenomenon.”

 

By choosing to promote their latest credit card in this way, the China Merchants Bank is taking a route that is more common in Thailand, where ‘sadvertising’ is a well-known phenomenon.

Throughout the years, several Thai tearjerking movie-like commercials have become very popular on the internet. These Thai commercials, internationally acclaimed, mainly focus on narrative and plot and are similar to short movies.

They are called ‘sadvertising’ because their touching narratives, strong actors, qualitative film work and emotive music make it difficult not to tear up while watching.

‘The World is No Bigger than a Tomato Omelette’ was not produced by a Thai director, however. Its director is Xi Ran (席然), a young creative filmmaker whose work includes movies such as I Love You to Love Me (爱在一起).

According to this article on marketing platform Meihua.info, Xi Ran has had previous successes in making commercials.

 

“The commercial shows the great lengths to which Chinese parents will go to support their children in their education and endeavours – no matter where in the world they are.”

 

Despite all criticism, the commercial could be called a great success as it has become the talk of the day in many chat groups – mainly relating to those students who are studying abroad.

According to Quartz, Chinese students are studying abroad in record numbers. In 2015 alone, more than half a million Chinese headed overseas to study.

But the commercial does not just resonate with those outside of China. Many students who go to university within China also have to travel long hours to see their parents, and often do not have the means or time to see their family.

Children from China’s younger generations, mostly the post-90s generation, are often the pride of their family for being the first person to go to university or to study abroad.

They generally are used to receive a lot of attention and (financial) help from their family. This also shows in the ‘tents of love’ phenomenon, where parents will accompany their children when they first go to college and sleep in tents outside the campus.

The viral ‘tomato and eggs’ commercial also shows, in its own way, the great lengths to which Chinese parents will go to make sure they can support their children in their education and endeavours – no matter where in the world they are.

“I saw it. I cried,” many commenters simply wrote.

“This commercial annoyed me,” one person says: “Not because of the story, but because it made me realize I actually also do not know how to make tomato omelette.”

Also wondering about the right way to make this comfort dish now? Here’s a link for you – so you don’t have to call up your parents in the middle of the night.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

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

Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

A Brew of Controversy: Lu Xun and LELECHA’s ‘Smoky’ Oolong Tea

Chinese tea brand LELECHA faced backlash for using the iconic literary figure Lu Xun to promote their “Smoky Oolong” milk tea, sparking controversy over the exploitation of his legacy.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

It seemed like such a good idea. For this year’s World Book Day, Chinese tea brand LELECHA (乐乐茶) put a spotlight on Lu Xun (鲁迅, 1881-1936), one of the most celebrated Chinese authors the 20th century and turned him into the the ‘brand ambassador’ of their special new “Smoky Oolong” (烟腔乌龙) milk tea.

LELECHA is a Chinese chain specializing in new-style tea beverages, including bubble tea and fruit tea. It debuted in Shanghai in 2016, and since then, it has expanded rapidly, opening dozens of new stores not only in Shanghai but also in other major cities across China.

Starting on April 23, not only did the LELECHA ‘Smoky Oolong” paper cups feature Lu Xun’s portrait, but also other promotional materials by LELECHA, such as menus and paper bags, accompanied by the slogan: “Old Smoky Oolong, New Youth” (“老烟腔,新青年”). The marketing campaign was a joint collaboration between LELECHA and publishing house Yilin Press.

Lu Xun featured on LELECHA products, image via Netease.

The slogan “Old Smoky Oolong, New Youth” is a play on the Chinese magazine ‘New Youth’ or ‘La Jeunesse’ (新青年), the influential literary magazine in which Lu’s famous short story, “Diary of a Madman,” was published in 1918.

The design of the tea featuring Lu Xun’s image, its colors, and painting style also pay homage to the era in which Lu Xun rose to prominence.

Lu Xun (pen name of Zhou Shuren) was a leading figure within China’s May Fourth Movement. The May Fourth Movement (1915-24) is also referred to as the Chinese Enlightenment or the Chinese Renaissance. It was the cultural revolution brought about by the political demonstrations on the fourth of May 1919 when citizens and students in Beijing paraded the streets to protest decisions made at the post-World War I Versailles Conference and called for the destruction of traditional culture[1].

In this historical context, Lu Xun emerged as a significant cultural figure, renowned for his critical and enlightened perspectives on Chinese society.

To this day, Lu Xun remains a highly respected figure. In the post-Mao era, some critics felt that Lu Xun was actually revered a bit too much, and called for efforts to ‘demystify’ him. In 1979, for example, writer Mao Dun called for a halt to the movement to turn Lu Xun into “a god-like figure”[2].

Perhaps LELECHA’s marketing team figured they could not go wrong by creating a milk tea product around China’s beloved Lu Xun. But for various reasons, the marketing campaign backfired, landing LELECHA in hot water. The topic went trending on Chinese social media, where many criticized the tea company.

 
Commodification of ‘Marxist’ Lu Xun
 

The first issue with LELECHA’s Lu Xun campaign is a legal one. It seems the tea chain used Lu Xun’s portrait without permission. Zhou Lingfei, Lu Xun’s great-grandson and president of the Lu Xun Cultural Foundation, quickly demanded an end to the unauthorized use of Lu Xun’s image on tea cups and other merchandise. He even hired a law firm to take legal action against the campaign.

Others noted that the image of Lu Xun that was used by LELECHA resembled a famous painting of Lu Xun by Yang Zhiguang (杨之光), potentially also infringing on Yang’s copyright.

But there are more reasons why people online are upset about the Lu Xun x LELECHA marketing campaign. One is how the use of the word “smoky” is seen as disrespectful towards Lu Xun. Lu Xun was known for his heavy smoking, which ultimately contributed to his early death.

It’s also ironic that Lu Xun, widely seen as a Marxist, is being used as a ‘brand ambassador’ for a commercial tea brand. This exploits Lu Xun’s image for profit, turning his legacy into a commodity with the ‘smoky oolong’ tea and related merchandise.

“Such blatant commercialization of Lu Xun, is there no bottom limit anymore?”, one Weibo user wrote. Another person commented: “If Lu Xun were still alive and knew he had become a tool for capitalists to make money, he’d probably scold you in an article. ”

On April 29, LELECHA finally issued an apology to Lu Xun’s relatives and the Lu Xun Cultural Foundation for neglecting the legal aspects of their marketing campaign. They claimed it was meant to promote reading among China’s youth. All Lu Xun materials have now been removed from LELECHA’s stores.

Statement by LELECHA.

On Chinese social media, where the hot tea became a hot potato, opinions on the issue are divided. While many netizens think it is unacceptable to infringe on Lu Xun’s portrait rights like that, there are others who appreciate the merchandise.

The LELECHA controversy is similar to another issue that went trending in late 2023, when the well-known Chinese tea chain HeyTea (喜茶) collaborated with the Jingdezhen Ceramics Museum to release a special ‘Buddha’s Happiness’ (佛喜) latte tea series adorned with Buddha images on the cups, along with other merchandise such as stickers and magnets. The series featured three customized “Buddha’s Happiness” cups modeled on the “Speechless Bodhisattva” (无语菩萨), which soon became popular among netizens.

The HeyTea Buddha latte series, including merchandise, was pulled from shelves just three days after its launch.

However, the ‘Buddha’s Happiness’ success came to an abrupt halt when the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Shenzhen intervened, citing regulations that prohibit commercial promotion of religion. HeyTea wasted no time challenging the objections made by the Bureau and promptly removed the tea series and all related merchandise from its stores, just three days after its initial launch.

Following the Happy Buddha and Lu Xun milk tea controversies, Chinese tea brands are bound to be more careful in the future when it comes to their collaborative marketing campaigns and whether or not they’re crossing any boundaries.

Some people couldn’t care less if they don’t launch another campaign at all. One Weibo user wrote: “Every day there’s a new collaboration here, another one there, but I’d just prefer a simple cup of tea.”

By Manya Koetse

[1]Schoppa, Keith. 2000. The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History. New York: Columbia UP, 159.

[2]Zhong, Xueping. 2010. “Who Is Afraid Of Lu Xun? The Politics Of ‘Debates About Lu Xun’ (鲁迅论争lu Xun Lun Zheng) And The Question Of His Legacy In Post-Revolution China.” In Culture and Social Transformations in Reform Era China, 257–284, 262.

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

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.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

Zara Dress Goes Viral in China for Resemblance to Haidilao Apron

Who’s gonna buy this Zara dress in China? “I’m afraid that someone will say I stole the apron from Haidilao.”

Manya Koetse

Published

on

A short dress sold by Zara has gone viral in China for looking like the aprons used by the popular Chinese hotpot chain Haidilao.

“I really thought it was a Zara x Haidialo collab,” some customers commented. Others also agree that the first thing they thought about when seeing the Zara dress was the Haidilao apron.

The “original” vs the Zara dress.

The dress has become a popular topic on Xiaohongshu and other social media, where some images show the dress with the Haidilao logo photoshopped on it to emphasize the similarity.

One post on Xiaohongshu discussing the dress, with the caption “Curious about the inspiration behind Zara’s design,” garnered over 28,000 replies.

Haidilao, with its numerous restaurants across China, is renowned for its hospitality and exceptional customer service. Anyone who has ever dined at their restaurants is familiar with the Haidilao apron provided to diners for protecting their clothes from food or oil stains while enjoying hotpot.

These aprons are meant for use during the meal and should be returned to the staff afterward, rather than taken home.

The Haidilao apron.

However, many people who have dined at Haidilao may have encountered the following scenario: after indulging in drinks and hotpot, they realize they are still wearing a Haidilao apron upon leaving the restaurant. Consequently, many hotpot enthusiasts may have an ‘accidental’ Haidilao apron tucked away at home somewhere.

This only adds to the humor of the latest Zara dress looking like the apron. The similarity between the Zara dress and the Haidilao apron is actually so striking, that some people are afraid to be accused of being a thief if they would wear it.

One Weibo commenter wrote: “The most confusing item of this season from Zara has come out. It’s like a Zara x Haidilao collaboration apron… This… I can’t wear it: I’m afraid that someone will say I stole the apron from Haidilao.”

Funnily enough, the Haidilao apron similarity seems to have set off a trend of girls trying on the Zara dress and posting photos of themselves wearing it.

It’s doubtful that they’re actually purchasing the dress. Although some commenters say the dress is not bad, most people associate it too closely with the Haidilao brand: it just makes them hungry for hotpot.

By Manya Koetse

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

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.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

What’s on Weibo is run by Manya Koetse (@manyapan), offering independent analysis of social trends in China for over a decade. Subscribe to show your support and gain access to all content, including the Weibo Watch newsletter, providing deeper insights into the China trends that matter.

Manya Koetse's Profile Picture

Get in touch

Would you like to become a contributor, or do you have any tips or suggestions? Get in touch here!

Popular Reads