Some savvy Chinese businessmen have launched China’s newest marketing craze with the help of poor, exploited African children.
Companies and individuals can now go onto Taobao to purchase short video clips showing groups of young African children holding up blackboards with customized messages written on them in Chinese characters and then repeating these messages aloud in Chinese with the help of the person behind the camera.
Generally, the signs contain either promotional ads for a company’s products or services or personal messages for loved ones, including birthday wishes and even marriage proposals.
A quick search on Taobao reveals a number of these vendors offering customized messages shouted aloud by cute African children.
The videos, which are filmed by Chinese businessmen in Africa, sell for around 220 yuan ($33) for a 20-second clip. The kids, mostly from Zambia, reportedly only get a few yuan and some snacks for their role.
According to a report from the Global Times, this controversial business is currently booming online. The Chinese tabloid talked to one such Taobao vendor who claimed there is now a three-day wait list for new video orders. If customers want to get their order pushed to the front, then they have to pay a little extra for the “express service,” he said.
As you might expect, this marketing gimmick has created a good deal of controversy on Chinese social media. While some argue that the scheme simply provides impoverished African children with a way of making some money, others have labeled it as nothing but shameless exploitation. In some of the videos, the children curse in Chinese and in others they advertise for racy live streams.
It’s not yet clear how Taobao will deal with this latest phenomenon. ECNS report that one staff member said that videos might be deleted if they contain “illegal messages” — meaning, unfounded or vulgar claims.
Apparently, this sort of business is not only limited to African children. Sixth Tone spoke to the owner of one Taobao store, which provides similar services but with the help of young adults from Brazil and Italy, who criticized his less scrupulous competitors.
“Every time a client asks me if I can film African children, I say I can’t because it’s illegal,” he said. “I despise people who use the poor as moneymaking tools. I give 50 to 70 percent of the money from our videos to the foreigners.”
Meanwhile, the Global Times mentions another Taobao vendor, intriguingly named “Creative ape overseas studio,” which charges up to 1,000 yuan per video for clips featuring white people, while stressing that they are “not being racist,” because they pay the foreigners a fair price.
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