China economy

Ikea says it will replace ‘sexist’ China TV advert after social media backlash

Would Ikea ‘show such an advert in their home country, Sweden?’ – mainland internet users, especially single women, take to Weibo to decry television commercial

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 1:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 10:50pm

Swedish furniture giant Ikea said it will replace a television advertisement broadcast in mainland China, after backlash from internet users who described the clip as “sexist”.

Ikea said it was aware of the comments online and that it would change the advert.

The around 30 second-long advert shows a Chinese mother telling her daughter “don’t call me your mom if you cannot bring back a boyfriend ”, after which the girl is shown bringing a man who claims to be her boyfriend to the family’s living room. Her parents are pleased and proceed to transform their dining table into a fancy banquet table with the help of various Ikea items, under a caption that says “celebrate everyday easily”.

Chinese internet users, especially single women, have taken to Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, to voice their anger against the advert, some describing it as “sexist and twisted”.

“I just want to ask Ikea would they dare to show such an advert in their home country, Sweden?” a Weibo user wrote.

“Whether having a romantic partner or not is one’s own business and does not need any interference from others, let alone an advertisement,” wrote Ba Ge Zhuan Yong, a Weibo user with more than 6 million followers. The comment has so far received more than 4,000 likes and around 3,000 shares.

“We received some comments from social media, which reflect [the fact that] our television commercial has given people bad feelings,” said a spokeswoman from Ikea China. “After receiving this feedback, we acted immediately to replace our television commercial with a new version that [will] focus on showing the solution. It will take a few days [until] customers can see the new version due to [the time the ] process needs.” she said.

Ikea is not the first foreign company to get into trouble for an advertisement in China. In July, an advert by German carmaker Audi that likened women to used cars also sparked outrage, with some people saying they would boycott the company.

“Don’t ignore the feelings of the young and tech-savvy Chinese consumers, especially women,” said Tang Xiaotang, the founder of Chinese retail consultancy Nofashion. “Companies need to take a very careful approach when talking about topics related to nationalism and women’s rights in China, as both are areas of high sensitivity.”

“It’s like one made a wrong joke at a party,” said Jacques Penhirin, partner and head of Greater China at the consultancy Oliver Wyman, adding that the company did not mean to be disrespectful to woman but chose a wrong topic.

“Companies have to be careful when trying to manipulate the use of humour in advertisements,” he said.