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Weibo’s Online Slang: 10 Chinese ‘Tribes’ & ‘Clans’ to Know

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Online slang has been an important part of Chinese online culture ever since the first message boards were launched, and is ubiquitous and ever-changing on popular social media platforms such as Weibo or Wechat.

A major part of this online slang culture is the categorization of people into ‘tribes’ or ‘clans’ (族); classifying those (urban) young Chinese people who share certain traits.

Although many of these terms are often ironic and generalized, to a large extent, they also represent a bigger trend in China’s transforming society and digital culture.

 

1. 低头族 (Dītóuzú): “The Bowed Head Clan”

This word is comparable to the English term of ‘phubber’; which is a combination of “phone” and “snubber”, meaning people who lower their heads to look at their smartphones. There is also a word called “Thumb Tribe” (拇指族), which also refers to people whose thumbs are constantly moving on their smartphone screen.

Dītóuzú literally means ‘lower-head-clan’; they use their phone for almost everything, at every moment. They always bow their heads to look at their phone. For the dītóuzú, it seems that the smartphone fulfills their every need, including entertainment, surfing internet, updating their social media and communicating with people, ordering food, shopping, etc.

But when the smartphone addiction becomes serious, they get mental and physical problems. It makes their life hard. On Weibo, this word was especially used in 2017 when a Chinese mother was watching her phone in the swimming pool while her 4-year-old son was drowning in the pool just meters away from her.

 

2. 月光族 (Yuèguāngzú): “The Moonlight Clan”

The Yuèguāngzú is the “moonlight clan.” It is meant to categorize the groups of people who live from paycheck to paycheck. Most of them are young Chinese people, who spend all of their salary before their next payday – although they don’t have any savings in their bank account.

For some of them, their salary just covers their basic living expenses, such as rent, food, transportation and some social occasions.

But there are also those who might have a much higher income, but still live day by day, without any serious plans for their life or future. They like to spend money whenever they want, in any way they want. They also exhaust their earnings before their next salary day.

 

3. 酷抠族 (Kùkōuzú): “The Cool Carl”

Image via https://www.dir28.com/2224.html.

As nicely explained in Shenzhen Daily or by China Daily, Kùkōuzú refers to those people who live a simple life, and while faced with inflation and high housing prices, try to spend as little as possible.

“Kù” (酷) is the Chinese transliteration of the English word “cool,” “kōu” (抠) is short for kōumén (抠门) which means “stingy.” Normally those who lead a “stingy life” are not considered “cool.” In today’s China, however, where inflation and high housing prices make life difficult for the middle class, many people think that people who live a simple live can also be “cool.”

 

4. 啃老族 (Kěnlǎozú): “The Leech Tribe”

Image via 浙江在线健康网

The kěnlǎozú is a group of people who are currently not engaged in employment, education or training. Their daily life totally depends on their parents or other older generations. They are often fresh graduates.

Some graduates find it so difficult to find a job, and get so frustrated that they give up looking for a job and stay at home with their parents. Their parents then have to cover all of their expenses and feed them, treating them as if they’re still a child.

 

5. 恨嫁族 (Hènjiàzú): “The Hate-to-get-married Tribe”

Image via https://www.gq.com.tw/

If we literally translate Hènjiàzú, it would mean “hate getting married tribe.” But is this truly what’s meant with this term in present-day China?

The term Hènjià (恨嫁) is originally from Guangdong local language. It refers to young women who have huge expectations for their future marriage. They often hope to get married as soon as they reach the legal age of marriage. But it usually turns out that the reality is very different from their dreams.

Now, this term has come to indicate those girls who dream about a marriage that will change their life for the better. Instead of making a career for themselves, they are aiming to look for a husband with a high income. For them, getting married with a money-making man is a first priority.

This kind of women was criticized by education businessman Yu Minhong recently, who stated that women’s standards for men are leading to a “degeneration of the country.”

 

6. 闪婚族 (Shǎnhūnzú): “The Flash Marriage Group”

Image via http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2010-02-05/112017051843s.shtml.

The Shǎnhūnzú refers to people who have only known each other a short time and get married straight away, as quick as a lightning bolt (闪电). According to Baidu, it is a sign of the “fast food love” era.

Although a Flash Marriage can happen because of extreme infatuation, there are also other reasons for a quick marriage; some people are simply in a hurry to get rid of the pressure from their parents to get married.

 

7. 愤怒青年 (Fènnù Qīngnián): “The Angry Youth”

“Angry Youth” or “The Delinquent” is a 1973 Hong Kong movie.

Fènqīng (愤青) is an abbreviation for Fènnù Qīngnián (愤怒青年), which literally translates as the “angry young.”

It mainly refers to Chinese youth who display a high level of Chinese nationalism. This term first appeared in Hong Kong in the 1970s, referring to those young people who were not satisfied with Chinese society, and sought reform.

It has now evolved into a term used predominantly in Chinese Internet slang. Nowadays, it refers to a group of young people who have strong or sharp opinion on society and politics. Most of them are not satisfied with what is happening now and want to make changes. They like to use internet to publish their ideas and initiate online battles with people who have different opinions. They seem to care for their country and society very much, and will give their opinions on various public affairs. Their opinions will sometimes influence the public debate.

 

8. 标题党 (Biāotídǎng): “The Clickbait Club”

Biāotídǎng (标题党) translates as the “clickbait club.” It refers to sensationalist online writers who want to have more readers or followers, and therefore use exaggerated or hot words for their titles to attract more readership.

Because online readers are curious about what is going on after seeing the “attractive” title, they continue to read the text or click the link. In most cases, there is no consistency between the content and the title.

Over the past year, various Chinese state media have warned against the use of clickbait titles, labeling it as “vulgar content.”

 

9. 健盘侠 (Jiànpánxiá): “The Keyboard Warriors”

Jiànpánxiá (健盘侠) means ‘keyboard warrior’: a group of people that is very active and often aggressive within the online comment sections. They especially like to comment below the hot Weibo topics.

They are ‘big fighters’ in the cyber world when it comes to their words and opinions, but they would never actually dare to do the things they say.

In their real life, ‘keyboard warriors’ are very ordinary people and are actually afraid of many things. But when they are back online, they are like the warriors in the Gongfu world. They use words as their weapons and are ‘social justice warriors.’ They often ‘troll’ other Weiboers or social media users.

By doing so, they get a lot of online attention which satisfies their ego, as they are unsuccesful in getting the attention they need in their offline life.

 

10. 嘻哈族 (Xīhāzú): “The Hip Hop Clan”

Image via Sohu.com

The Xīhāzú refers to a subculture or group of young Chinese who are fan of hip hop and African-American culture influence lifestyle. “Xīhā” (嘻哈) is the Chinese translation for ‘hiphop.’

The term has been around for years. But especially over the past year, hip hop has seen a comeback in China with popular shows as the Rap of China becoming major hits.

By Crystal Fan, with contributions from Manya Koetse

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

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Jose

    December 2, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    What an interesting article! Well, in fact as interesting as every other article published here.

    Very useful, both to know details about what’s going on in China’s society and in its internet, and to learn some (modern) Chinese.

    Thanks a lot!!

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China Insight

“Oh, How Free America Is” – George Floyd Case Goes Trending on Chinese Social Media

“Are these the ‘human rights’ that you are advocating?”

Manya Koetse

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The George Floyd case and protests are trending on Weibo. In a time of China-US escalating tensions, many Chinese web users are using these developments in global news media to point out American hypocrisy regarding freedom and human rights.

The entire world is talking about the events surrounding the George Floyd case after the shocking bystander video of a white police officer using his knee to pin down an African-American man during an attempted arrest – leading to his death – has been making international headlines.

The case of George Floyd (transcribed as 乔治•弗洛伊德 Qiáozhì Fúluòyīdé in Chinese) and its aftermath have also become a big news topic on Chinese social media this week and is still top trending on Weibo today.

 

George Floyd Incident

 

As now widely known, the George Floyd incident took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, when police responded to a shopkeeper’s call about someone potentially using a counterfeit bill. Floyd was sitting in his car when officers arrived at the scene and was asked to step out of his vehicle.

Even though Floyd was compliant and unarmed, the bystander video shows how he was held face-down on the ground, the officer pressing his knee into the side of his neck, while Floyd was begging for air, literally stating: “I can’t breathe.”

While the officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for over seven minutes, the 46-year-old could be seen losing consciousness and going limp.

The video of the fatal arrest went viral on social media overnight, leading to people protesting in Minneapolis and elsewhere across the US, demanding justice over the fatal arrest.

The four white officers involved in George Floyd’s death have since been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Tensions in Minnesota have now reached a boiling point and protests have escalated to riots and lootings, leading to the governor Tim Walz of Minnesota ordering the deployment of the National Guard to restore order in the city. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declared a state of emergency.

On Friday morning local time, CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez – a reporter of color – was arrested and handcuffed on live television together with his cameraman and producer while reporting on the situation in Minneapolis. Although the CNN crew was released shortly after, this incident also further intensified the debate on discrimination and racism in America.

 

Weibo Discussions

 

On Weibo, news of the George Floyd incident and the Minneapolis protests is trending with various related hashtags.

One of the top hashtags at the time of writing regarding the protests is “CNN Crew Arrested by Police” (#CNN报道团队被警方逮捕#) -50 million views-, “Minneapolis Enters State of Emergency” (#美国明尼阿波利斯市进入紧急状态#) with 150 million views and “U.S. Riots” (#美国暴乱#) with 240 million views.

Other related hashtags are:

#美国多地抗议警察跪压黑人致死# “American Protests over Cop Pushing Down and Killing Black Man” (3+ million views)

#美警察压颈致黑人死亡引发抗议# “Protests Erupt over Case of Black Man Dying after American Police Applies Pressure on Neck” (6+ million views)

#明尼苏达骚乱成聚众哄抢# “Minnesota Riots Turn to Looting” (266,000+ views)

#美国示威者暴力冲击3家警局# “American Protesters Violently Attack Three Police Stations” (120 million views)

#美国明尼苏达州骚乱# “U.S. Minnesota Riots” (29+ million views)

The news regarding Floyd and the American protests and riots are attracting thousands of reactions on Chinese social media today. Some threads, such as those regarding the arrest of the CNN reporter, are also being heavily censored.

Many of the Weibo responses to the news of George Floyd and its aftermath are incorporating these developments into a bigger framework of strained US-China relations, pointing out the supposed American hypocrisy for criticizing China regarding freedom and human rights, especially in light of the COVID19-crisis and Hong Kong protests.

“Oh how free America is,” one popular comment on Weibo said (“多么自由的米国”), with others saying things such as: “Are these the human rights you are advocating?”

News of CNN reporter Jimenez being arrested by the American state patrol was also shared on Weibo by the Communist Youth League, leading to many reactions criticizing America’s “freedom of press.”

“So this is so-called equality? Freedom? Democracy?”

Another user writes: “So this is the freedom I’m yearning for? Is this called freedom?”

Some Weibo users are sharing compilations showing American officers using excessive force and violence while beating and shooting down people and animals during their work.

Although criticism of the US is dominating Chinese online discussions of the latest developments in America, social media users also show their support for the protesters.

“I fully support the movement of Black Americans fighting for the rule of law, equality, and freedom,” one popular comment- receiving over 14,000 likes – said (@平衡的小窝).

Many commenters are writing to express their disgust at the death of George Floyd, calling the police officers “ruthless” and “sadistic.”

There are also some commenters with a different stance on the matter. One blogger with over 123,000 followers writes:

“The riots erupting in the US will surely have a negative impact on society. But looking at it from another perspective, it still makes me envious because they have the guts to speak up, the courage to resist. If such a thing would happen in China, would you stand up?”

This article will be updated later following the latest developments.

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Books & Literature

From “Voice of the People” to “Traitor of China”: The Rise and Fall of Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary

How a Weibo journal got caught up in pandemic politics: the Wuhan Diary controversy explained.

Manya Koetse

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Fang Fang’s critical online account of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan was widely celebrated before it was strongly condemned. This is a look into one of the biggest controversies in China’s online media spheres this spring, and a breakdown of how this acclaimed Chinese novelist went from an ally in times of lockdown, to a traitor during pandemic politics.

 
This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, original publication in German by Goethe Institut China (forthcoming), see Goethe.de: WE…WEI…WHAT? Manya Koetse erklärt das chinesische Internet.
 

As China is gradually getting back to business after the COVID-19 crisis, the coronavirus crisis is still dominating social media discussions. But the way the virus comes up in online debates has changed over the past few weeks, as the global health crisis has become increasingly politicized. Rather than a show of global solidarity, the pandemic has spawned a lot of finger-pointing in online media and on social networking sites across the world.

Who is to blame for the spread of the virus? Who is doing more, which leader is doing better, where is the crisis mismanaged? What is fake news, what is truth? Who writes or says what for which reason?

Somewhere within these corona media wars and political games, there’s the controversy regarding Wuhan Diary, which recently became a heated topic of debate on Weibo and beyond. 

 

FANG FANG AND WUHAN DIARY

“Fang was saying the things so many people wanted to say, and was asking the questions so many wanted answers to”

 

Wuhan Diary (武汉日记[1]) is written by the 65-year-old acclaimed Chinese author Wang Fang, better known as Fang Fang (方方).[2] It is an online account of the 2020 Hubei lockdown, originally published on WeChat and Weibo.

Throughout the lockdown period in January, February, and March, Fang Fang wrote about life in quarantine in province capital Wuhan, the heart of the epicenter, documenting everything from the weather to the latest news and the personal stories and tragedies behind the emerging crisis.

Fang’s 60-post diary was published on her Weibo account (@方方), which had some 3,8 million followers at the time, from late January shortly after the lockdown began, until late March when the end of the lockdown was announced.

Shortly after starting her online account, Fang’s daily journal gained wide traction. Amid the panic and uncertainty of the early days of the lockdown, social media flooded with rumors, fake news, and misinformation. Chinese web users were looking for alternative reliable sources to find out what was really happening in Wuhan.

Fang’s online journal provided people with information regarding the new coronavirus, but it also captured the emotions and struggles of the people in Wuhan. She soon became a go-to first-hand account of what was going on in the city; she was the voice of a quarantined city in distress. At a time when people were craving unfiltered information and distrusting official media, her words became an anchor for many in a sea of confusing news flows.

The fact that Fang is a respected author contributed to the popularity of her online writings. With her compassionate representations of everyday life in Wuhan, she has since long been an important author for the regional literature. Her writings have drawn attention ever since the 1980s, when she won an award for the best National Novella (Landscape 风景, 1987). She has remained a relevant author throughout the years, even receiving the prestigious Lu Xun Literary Prize in 2010.

In documenting life in Wuhan during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Fang touched upon many sensitive issues. Besides writing about problems such as overcrowded hospitals and mask shortages, she also directly questioned how authorities were handling the crisis and warned other writers for propaganda manipulation.

With the death of ‘whistleblower’ doctor Li Wenliang on the night of February 6, Chinese social media saw an outpouring of anger at Chinese authorities and state media. The public’s anger showed itself at other moments too, both online and offline.

While many of Fang’s publications on social media were censored and her Weibo account was temporarily blocked, the online Wuhan Diary only gained more attention, with the daily entries (or screenshots) spreading across WeChat like wildfire. “Dear internet censors, you should let Wuhan people speak,”[3] Fang wrote in February.

By demanding more transparency and accountability from Chinese (local) leadership, Fang was saying the things so many people wanted to say and was asking the questions so many wanted answers to.

 

CHANGING US-VERSUS-THEM DYNAMICS

“Whose side is she on, anyway?”

 

It did not take long for Fang’s online journal to gain international attention. In mid-February, news articles covering the ‘forbidden diary’ from Wuhan also appeared in foreign media.

Although Fang’s online writings received some backlash before – her critics mainly disliked how much of her diary entries were not fact-based but “merely hearsay” -, it wasn’t until April when public opinion really shifted against Wuhan Diary after it became known that an international edition of her diary was on presale through Amazon.

First, there was the announcement of the English version with the title “Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from the Original Epicenter” (later changed to “Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City”, translation by Michael Berry) published by Harper Collins; then, a German edition translated by Michael Kahn-Ackermann and issued by Hoffman Camp Press.

The criticism that Fang Fang has since been facing on Chinese social media is unprecedented. Rather than a Wuhan ally, many of her online readers now think of her as a “traitor” to China[4], saying she is airing China’s dirty laundry to make a profit, and that she only writes about negativity and darkness to play to the tune of those countries slamming China. The author has seen an online stream of death threats and violent comments.

Fang Fang arguably would not have received as much backlash if China had not come to face such international scrutiny in light of the global spread of COVID-19. At the time of the early coronavirus outbreak and Fang’s first diary entry, the corona crisis was still a national one, and to some extent even a regional one. Many saw Fang, a Wuhan native and acclaimed author, as a spokesperson for the people in times of fear, uncertainty, and collective suffering.

But as China increasingly came under international pressure over how it handled the epidemic in its early phases, anti-foreign and nationalistic sentiments grew by the day. With China being blamed for causing the pandemic – American President Trump even suggesting it did so deliberately – waves of angry nationalism flooded Chinese social media, and Wuhan Diary was caught in the changing us-versus-them dynamics of China’s COVID-19 crisis.

In the eyes of many Chinese web users, a translated version of Fang’s critical account of the Wuhan outbreak would only provide opponents of China with more ammunition. The upcoming translation’s description on Amazon by itself was a source of outrage for many, allegedly putting too much emphasis on China’s mishandling of the early outbreak. The fact that the original title of the book emphasized that COVID-19 started in Wuhan[5] was also something many netizens found offensive.  ‘Whose side is she on anyway?’, they wondered.

“Western countries are attacking the motherland, and Fang Fang is knowingly giving them the bullets in advance,” one Weibo commenter from Beijing wrote.

 

AN ONGOING ISSUE

Your Wuhan Diary will only worsen Western misconceptions about China!”

 

The Wuhan Diary controversy seems to be an ongoing one. By early May, it was reported that at least two Chinese academics were reprimanded for speaking out in support of Fang Fang. Online discussions continue. By now, the Weibo hashtag “Fang Fang Diary” (#方方日记#) has received over 670 million views, with other scattered hashtags also drawing in thousands of responses.

On Fang Fang’s Weibo page, now followed by more than 4,6 million web users, the author has responded to the recent controversy and allegations in multiple lengthy posts, claiming that most of her attackers, who blame her for only writing negative things, did not even read her diary. She argues that her written account is one of a trapped Wuhan resident in the middle of a catastrophe and that it should not be taken out of its this context.

Fang Fang is not the first Chinese writer to face online backlash for how ‘China’ is represented to the outside world. Besides the fact that Chinese literature is virtually inseparable from politics, there is an enormous number of Chinese web users ready to be outraged about China being misconstrued, ridiculed, humiliated, or otherwise suffering foreign insult.

This kind of angry nationalism often surfaces on the Chinese internet, and it has done so since the early days of social media in China. According to Ying Jiang, the author of Cyber-Nationalism in China, the roots of this “angry nationalism” expressed by today’s Chinese netizens can be traced back to China’s modern history, and more specifically to the “Century of Humiliation” (mid-1800s until after WWII) during which China faced many hardships brought about by foreign powers.

This history has been an important component of Chinese education campaigns for decades, and along with the economic prospering of China, the country has seen the rise of a more patriotic populace that is nationalistic in a way that is also increasingly anti-foreign.

Especially during noteworthy times such as the coronavirus outbreak – an opportunity for China to establish more international leadership -, negative media representations of the country, its government, and how it handled the COVID-19 crisis are sensitive and prone to controversy. A telling example is that three journalists of The Wall Street Journal were expelled from China in February over the paper’s refusal to apologize for a published opinion article titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”

The online anger over Fang’s translated work will not die out any time soon. On Weibo, discussions continue. “Fang Fang, your Wuhan Diary, that’s merely hearsay and overly subjective, will only worsen Western misconceptions about China, and will only make more Western people discriminate against Chinese! You’ll go down in history as a disgrace!”, one Weibo user writes in early May.

Although many will not agree on how Wuhan Diary will be remembered, all the commotion and criticism has only increased the public’s awareness about the book’s existence; it will surely go down in the history of the COVID-19 impact in China, and the online media wars that came with it.

The English translation of Wuhan Diary is expected to be released via Amazon on May 19 (link), the English audiobook on May 28 (link) the German translation is expected June 9. On the China Digital Times website, Josh Rudolph has also translated parts of Fang’s work.

 

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

 

[1] Also known in Chinese as: 武汉封城日记.

[2] Fang Fang is the pen name of Wang Fang.

[3] Zhao, Kiki. 2020. “Opinion: The Coronavirus Story is Too Big for China to Spin.” The New York Times, Feb 14 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/14/opinion/china-coronavirus-social-media.html [5.2.2020].

[4] Mainly using Chinese terms汉奸 and 卖国贼, both meaning “traitor” or more specifically “traitor to China.”

[5] Also see the original German title of the translation: “Wuhan Diary – Das Verbotenen Tagebuch aus der Stadt, in der die Corona-Krise began” [The Forbidden Diary from the City where the Coronacrisis Began].

Sources and further reading

Adlakha, Hemant. 2020.”Fang Fang: The ‘Conscience of Wuhan’ Amid Coronavirus Quarantine.” The Diplomat , March 23 https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/fang-fang-the-conscience-of-wuhan-amid-coronavirus-quarantine/[5.3.2010].

Fumian, Marco. 2020. “To Serve the People or the Party: Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary and Chinese Writers at the Time of Coronavirus.” MCLC Resource Center Publication (April 2020) https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/marco-fumian/?fbclid=IwAR32HvM6WO0JHIhFFIY85bd-qyOzGEfXrZpp6S0SxbiTQrGCjwe_n-jL63Y [5.1.2020].

Leung, Laifong. 2016. Contemporary Chinese Fiction Writers: Biography, Bibliography, and Critical Assessment. New York & London: Routledge.

Rudolph, Jodh. 2020. “Translation: Backlash To Wuhan Diary “Reveals A Serious Problem Society Must Correct.” China Digital Times, April 21 https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2020/04/translation-backlash-to-wuhan-diary-reveals-a-serious-problem-society-must-correct/ [5.2.2020].

Wu, Yuwen. 2020. “Chinese propagandists don’t want you to read this diary on the coronavirus lockdown in Wuhan.” The Independent, March 2 https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/coronavirus-wuhan-lockdown-fangfang-diary-china-dr-li-a9368961.html [3.2.2020].

Ying Jiang. 2012. Cyber-Nationalism in China: Challenging Western Media Portrayals of Internet Censorship in China. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.

Zhao, Kiki. 2020. “Opinion: The Coronavirus Story is Too Big for China to Spin.” The New York Times, Feb 14 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/14/opinion/china-coronavirus-social-media.html [5.2.2020].

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.

This text was written for Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

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