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China: Around The Nation

Audi advert likening women to used cars backfires in China

Internet users slam commercial that shows mother-in-law inspecting bride on her wedding day

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2017, 2:05pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2017, 2:05pm

German carmaker Audi sparked outrage in China this week after its latest advertisement appeared to compare women to second-hand cars.

The offending film, which was broadcast online and at the cinema, opens with a mother-in-law figure interrupting a bride and groom as they are saying their vows.

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She then proceeds to yank the bride’s nose, pull her ear, and force her mouth open to look at her teeth – not unlike the way a vet might check the health of a horse, as internet users were quick to point out.

After a thorough probing, the older woman makes an “OK” gesture with her hand to indicate her approval, before her eyes suddenly widen as she focuses on the bride’s breasts. The shot then cuts to a clip of a red Audi car and a voice-over reminding viewers that “an important decision must be made carefully”. It ends with a pointer to the company’s second-hand car sales webpage.

The advertisement was roundly criticised online, with some people describing it as “disgusting” and “sexist trash”, while others said they would no longer buy Audi cars and pushed for the company to apologise.

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“[I] Strongly request that this ad is pulled, and for Audi to issue an apology for this kind of unconscientious creation,” a woman based in Jiangxi wrote on her Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.

An Audi spokesman told the South China Morning Post that the matter was being investigated, and that the company’s marketing in China was the responsibility of its local joint venture partner.

Another internet user from Guangzhou, capital of southern China’s Guangdong province, questioned how the advertisement had managed to get past the company’s own censors.

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“From the inception of this idea to its broadcasting, was there a single woman who worked on this commercial?”

Another person wrote: “I was actually going to buy an Audi, but I will definitely won’t now.”

The German carmaker is not the first company to come under fire in China for its poor representation of women.

Last year, Hangzhou Dianzi University used photos of some of its most “beautiful” female students in a marketing campaign designed to attract more male applicants.

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Similarly, in 2012, US manufacturer Snickers released an advertisement in which a tired woman on a hike transforms into an energetic man after eating one of its chocolate bars.