McDonald’s has bowed to pressure, pulling from the airwaves in Shanghai and several other Chinese cities a televison advertisement the Chinese state media called “insulting.” The ad featured a Chinese man kneeling before an electronics salesman, begging for a discount because his coupon had expired. No begging is necessary at McDonald’s, the ad said, because coupons there are good for a year. (Danwei.org has the ad’s translated script.)
Both the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse cite a survey by a newspaper in Xi’an that alleges 80 percent of residents polled found the commerical insulting, saying it depicted the Chinese people as being so poor they would beg for a discount. “Getting down on one’s knees is always considered a humiliation and an indignity for most Chinese,” Jiang Zhibin, dean of the advertising department at Shanghai International Studies University, was quoted as saying.
A McDonald’s representative said the ad was an attempt at humor and expressed “regret over any (bad) associations or misunderstandings.” McDonald’s added, however, that the ad had been “vetted” by the government. Still, another version of the story in the state-run media said “Xi’an authorities announced they would charge McDonald’s with violating the mainland’s advertising regulations.”
“It obviously broke China’s advertisement law,” said Xia Yunping, an official in the administration of industry and commerce in Xi’an, the capital of central China’s Shannxi province, without identifying which one.
Late last year, China banned a Nike ad that depicted NBA star Lebron James defeating a kung fu master, two Chinese women and two dragons in an animated kung fu battle, saying it insulted China’s “national dignity.” Nike later apologized.