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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.

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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.

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China Brands & Marketing

The Price is Not Right: Corn Controversy Takes over Chinese Social Media

It’s corn! The “6 yuan corn” debate just keeps going.

Manya Koetse

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Recently there have been fierce discussions on Chinese social media about the price of corn after e-commerce platform Oriental Selection (东方甄选) started selling ears of corn for 6 yuan ($0.80) per piece.

The controversy caught the public’s attention when the famous Kuaishou livestreamer Simba (辛巴, real name Xin Youzhi), who has labeled himself as a ‘farmer’s son,’ criticized Oriental Selection for their corn prices.

Founded in 2021, Oriental Selection is an agricultural products e-commerce platform under New Oriental Online. In its company mission statement, Oriental Selection says its intention is to “help farmers” by providing the channels to sell their high-quality agricultural goods to online consumers.

Simba suggested that Oriental Selection was being deceitful by promising to help farmers while selling their corn for a relatively high price. According to Simba, they were just scamming ordinary people by selling an ear of corn that is worth 0.70 yuan ($0.10) for 6 yuan ($0.80), and also not really helping the farmers while taking 40% of their profits.

‘Sales king’ Xin Youzhi, aka Simba, was the one who started the current corn controversy.

During one of the following livestreams, Oriental Selection’s host Dong Yuhui (董宇辉) – who also happens to be a farmer’s son – responded to the remarks and said there was a valid reason for their corn to be priced “on the high side.” Simba was talking about corn in general, including the kind being fed to animals, while this is high-quality corn that is already worth 2 yuan ($0.30) the moment it is harvested.

Despite the explanation, the issue only triggered more discussions on the right price for corn and about the fuzzy structure of the agricultural e-commerce livestreaming business.

Is it really too expensive to sell corn for 6 yuan via livestreaming?

The corn supplier, the Chinese ‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂), is actually selling their own product for 3.6 yuan ($0.50) – is that an honest price? What amount of that price actually goes to the farmers themselves?

‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂).

One person responding to this issue via her Tiktok channel is the young farmer Liu Meina (刘美娜), who explained that Simba’s suggested “0.70 yuan per corn” was simply unrealistic, saying since it does not take the entire production process into account, including maintenance, packaging, transportation, and delivery.

Another factor mentioned by netizens is the entertainment value added to e-commerce by livestreaming channels. Earlier this year, Oriental Selection’s host Dong Yuhui and his colleagues became an online hit for adding an educational component to their livestreaming sessions.

These hosts were actually previously teachers at New Oriental. Facing a crackdown on China’s after-school tutoring, the company ventured into different business industries and let these former teachers go online to sell anything from peaches to shrimp via livestreaming, teaching some English while doing so (read more here). So this additional value of livestream hosts entertaining and educating their viewers should also be taken into account when debating the price of corn. Some call it “Dong Yuhui Premium” (“董宇辉溢价”).

Dong Yuhui (董宇辉) is one of the livestreamers that have turned New Oriental’s e-commerce into a viral hit.

In light of all the online discussions and controversy, netizens discovered that Oriental Selection is currently no longer selling corn (#东方甄选回应下架玉米#), which also became a trending topic on Weibo on September 29.

But the corn controversy does not end here. On September 28, Chinese netizens discovered that corn by the ‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂) was being sold for no less than 8.5 yuan ($1.2) at the Pangdonglai supermarket chain (胖东来), going well beyond the price of Oriental Selection.

Trying to avoid a marketing crisis, the Pangdonglai chain quickly recalled its corn, stating there had been an issue with the supply price that led to its final store price becoming too high. That topic received over 160 million views on Weibo on Friday (#胖东来召回8.5元玉米#).

Behind all these online discussions are consumer frustrations about an untransparent market where the field of agricultural products has become more crowded and with more people taking a share, including retailers, e-commerce platforms, and livestreaming apps. Moreover, they often say they are “helping farmers” while they are actually just making money themselves.

One Weibo user commented: “Currently, ‘helping farmers’ is completely different from the original intention of ‘helping farmers.’ Right now, it’s not about helping farmers anymore, but about helping the companies who have made agricultural products their business.”

“I bought a corn at a street shop today for 4 yuan ($0.55),” one Weibo blogger wrote: “It was big, sweet, and juicy, the quality was good and it was tasty – and people are still making money off of it. So yes, 6 yuan for a corn is certainly too expensive.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China Brands & Marketing

How Made-in-China ‘Magical’ Winter Essentials Are Keeping Europeans Warm Amid Energy Crisis

Chinese manufacturers of heating equipment are the “invisible champions” of Europe’s energy crisis.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese companies are profiting from Europe’s energy crisis. Made-in-China electric blankets, electric kettles, sleeping bags, and hot water bottles are flying off the shelves and Chinese factories are working around the clock to meet the demand of European consumers.

“Chinese Electric Blankets Are the Magic Weapon Keeping Europeans Warm This Winter” (#中国电热毯成欧洲人今冬御寒神器#) and “Explosive Sales of Chinese Electric Blankets to Europeans” (#欧洲人买爆中国电热毯#) are among the popular hashtags discussed on Chinese social media this week in light of Europe’s ongoing energy crisis.

Chinese companies are seeing booming sales of winter essentials recently. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe is dealing with an energy crisis. Households and businesses across Europe are feeling the pinch: the shortage of natural gas has led to sky-high prices for heating and electricity. The explosions and subsequent gas leaks that occurred on the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines on September 26 have only made prospects bleaker.

Looking for creative ways to stay warm and reduce energy bills, made-in-China products are in high demand among European consumers, and Chinese factories are scaling up their production to meet the growing demand.

According to Toutiao News, some manufacturers in Dongguan are seeing the highest sales numbers in half a decade; sales volumes have tripled compared to the same period last year. This requires the factory workers to work in shifts of three so the production can continue around the clock.

Electric blankets are especially popular as they are relatively affordable and more cost-effective as they require less electricity to run compared to electric heaters. Chinese electric blankets are generally cheaper than local options.

Chinese media describe Chinese electric blankets as the ‘magical weapons to defend against the cold’ (“御寒神器”).

The word shénqì (神器), meaning ‘magical tool’ or ‘magical weapon’, is often used to refer to products or objects that provide a simple or smart solution to a pressing problem, such as these paint buckets that became a viral hit during Spring festival travel season; this ‘magical’ device to prevent grannies from dancing underneath your window; or this gadget to take revenge on a noisy neighbor.

 

“Now there’s even a joke saying the Yiwu electric blanket sellers are the ones who sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines.”

 

Besides electric blankets, other made-in-China ‘magical weapons’ that have become popular amongst European consumers include electric kettles, wearable sleeping bags, thermal underwear, and hot water bottles.

Electronic knee warmer.

As this topic of Chinese winter products “taking over Europe” recently became a hot topic on Chinese social media, some people commented on how the prices for these products were much higher in Europe than in China.

In Europe, a simple rubber hot water bottle is usually sold for around ten euros ($10) while the exact same products are sold for around five to ten yuan ($0.70-$1.5) in China.

In this way, the European energy crisis turns out to be a lucrative one for Chinese businesses. Some bigger companies also manufacturing electric blankets saw their stock prices rise.

One joke circulating on Chinese social media suggests that Chinese electric blanket sellers from manufacturing cities such as Yiwu are the ones who sabotaged the North Stream pipes.

“I never expected China to get part of the profits,” one popular comment said, with the following comment saying: “Thanks to the silly Europeans for making a contribution to our economy!”

“I heard they’re even looking [to buy] our Chinese birthday candles, they’ve gone mad,” one Weibo user wrote, while others jokingly wrote: “We’re the real winners.”

In light of the run on electric blankets, Chinese netizens also came up with some alternative suggestions to stay warm.

“It would be better if they’d wear long underwear pants,” one commenter suggests, while others say that people could just “make love to generate electricity.”

“Use a hot-water bottle and drink lots of hot water,” some write, while others recommend European consumers to buy more hand warmers.

Hand warmer sold on Taobao for 128 yuan ($18).

“I suggest them to buy our Xinjiang cotton quilts, they are sustainable and you can save on energy,” one Weibo user wrote in reference to last year’s Xinjiang cotton boycott.

One Weibo user drew their own conclusion in light of the current developments: “I think we could safely say that the world can do without Russians, but we’ll always need China.”

By Manya Koetse with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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