China’s celebrities may need to begin actually trying the products they endorse if a new amendment to the mainland’s advertising laws is successfully passed.
A revised draft of China’s advertising law was submitted to the National People's Congress Standing Committee on Monday, state media reported.
The draft includes new guidelines for adverts in the mainland, and the biggest stipulation, designed to “stop false advertising,” says that celebrities must first try products before promoting them, or risk fines.
China’s outspoken online community instantly began speculating on the amusing connotations behind these new guidelines, particularly for male celebrities who had appeared in commercials for female-orientated products.
“I’ve seen male celebrities endorse things like bras, lingerie and female body wash!” one commentator on Chinese social media network Weibo wrote. “I even remember seeing one guy endorse sanitary pads!”
The “one guy” in question is Taiwanese actor Jiro Wang, who has appeared in advertisements for Freemore sanitary napkins in the past.
Tang Guoqiang, a famous actor known for his roles in historical dramas (as well as his tendency to appear in a wide variety of adverts) was another popular target.
“He appeared in a commercial for a bulldozer operator’s license at the Lanxiang Vocational School. Does that mean that from now on, he has to be able to drive a bulldozer himself?” a commentator asked.
“He also endorsed fertility clinics,” another said. “Does that mean he’s supposed to practice what he preaches?”
Other social media users said that stricter regulations for false advertising were welcomed, but questioned if the government would bother to monitor celebrities.
“The extent of how much they actually have to ‘try’ the products they sell is unclear,” one microblogger wrote. “If they’re selling food, for example, how much do they have to eat? What if it’s as little as those free samples that you can find in the supermarket?”
The mainland has long struggled with exaggerated advertising, and in 2007, the Beijing Consumers’ Association penned an open letter to celebrities, asking them to err on the side of caution with their endorsements.
Zhang Ming, secretary-general of the Association, cited complaints from consumers who had solely purchased products only because they “worshipped their idols”.
Celebrities as high profile as Jackie Chan have been caught endorsing products with overblown claims, such as a chemical-free shampoo that turned out to have ingredients that could potentially lead to cancer. Others, like well-known mainland comedian Guo Degang, unknowingly endorsed tea that had been illegally produced.