Recently, a commercial from Swedish furniture and nap giant IKEA has been making waves on Chinese social media.
In the 30-second advert, a young woman is having dinner with her parents. “Mom…” the daughter begins before being interrupted by her mother: “Don’t call me mom if you can’t bring home a boyfriend.”
Then, suddenly, a handsome man shows up at the door and the daughter introduces him as her boyfriend. The parents immediately change their attitude toward their daughter, even going so far as to re-decorate the apartment and dining room table with nice IKEA products to welcome their future son-in-law who will save their daughter from the dreaded fate of being a “leftover woman” (剩女).
The commercial ends with a caption telling viewers to “Celebrate every day easily, give your home (or family) more possibilities.”
You can watch the ad below:
Commenters on Chinese social media have been quick to slam the ad as “sexist.” “Every time my mom sees this ad, she complains to me about why I haven’t found a boyfriend. This ad ruins my relationship with my family,” one Weibo user wrote. “What’s most ironic is that IKEA comes from Sweden, a country that values gender equality. I dare them to show this ad to their headquarters in Sweden,” commented another netizen. “It’s 2017, not the Qing dynasty.”
In the wake of this backlash, IKEA released a statement on Tuesday, saying that it was aware of all the negative feedback and that it had already taken action to address the concerns by pulling the commercial.
However, underneath the statement on the company’s Weibo account, Chinese netizens began calling IKEA’s apology “not genuine,” causing the company to respond: “We are sorry that our advertisement has led you to this misunderstanding.”
Unsurprisingly, this didn’t help to smooth over matters. “What misunderstanding? This ad is clearly sexist. We did not misunderstand anything about this ad,” wrote one Weibo user in response.
Some net users argued that IKEA clearly has no clue who its main customers are. “The elderly people who would like this are are only going to IKEA for the free air conditioning and to take a comfortable nap on the beds. You’re offending the young women with decent jobs and money to spend who actually buy stuff from IKEA,” wrote one. “With each cent you spend, you are voting for a world you want to live in. Next time before you buy anything from IKEA, think again about whether you want to live in a world like the one shown in the commercial,” added another.
This is far from the first time that a major international company has released a surprisingly sexist advertisement to appeal to Chinese shoppers. Back in July, Audi managed to anger at least half of China with a controversial commercial showing a woman being treated like livestock before being likened to a used car. Audi was forced to quickly apologize and pull the ad.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Japanese beauty giant SK-II won over many Chinese women last year with a four-minute-long documentary-style ad sharing the stories of China’s so-called “leftover women,” empowering them to shape their own destiny.
By Alex Tang
[Images via IKEA]
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