Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics, who created the washing powder ad that went viral, says "sorry” for harm caused by foreign media's "over-amplification" of ad.
“We express regret that the ad should have caused a controversy. But we will not shun responsibility for controversial content.
We express our apology for the harm caused to the African people because of the spread of the ad and the over-amplification by the media. We sincerely hope the public and the media will not over-read it."
The company also said that they "had never thought about the issue of racism” when they created the ad. The company has pulled all the copies they have control over of the ad online, but it can be found in countless news outlets anyway, such as Al Jazeera, BBC News, Financial Times, CNBC, and The Drum.
While these outlets react at how the ad can be seen as racist, we at Adland will simply Badland it. This ad is a remake of an Italian washing powder ad created back in 2007. Right down to the music choice - and possibly the pun. This isn't the first time a company in a far off and has simply copied an idea they've seen elsewhere, and made it worse. We have countless example like the copy machine copies here, and often discuss the difference between inevitable Creative Outcomes and demo-love. A straight up rip-off seems to be what happened here, as if the marketing director saw the Itailian advert, and decided to ask the agency to just do exactly that.
That wasn't the only terrible pun created for the Italian washing powder company, they also ran this ad which ends on an even groan-worthier one. Here the roles are changed as the man tosses his wife into the washer when she demands that he do the laundry, but he doesn't get quite what he expected.
So while the world currently decries the racism in the Qiaobi 俏比 ad, nobody seemed to mind much at all back in 2007 when the reverse happened in the Italian ad. Different cultural frame of reference, you see. And the issue of plagiarism other peoples work is lost once again. It's fascinating to me that when ads reach a global audience, they tend to fall on the United States/western world of ad sensibilities - apparently we are all Americans on the internet? Other examples of this phenomena was when The Heinz "kiss" and UK Snickers ad was banned for homophobia, by complaints from the USA, and my personal fave when KFC Australia had to pull a cricket related ad because US people thought feeding the opposing (west Indian) team fried chicken was racist.
What's offensive in some company, is not in others. For example, in Sweden after dinner the hostess will offer "påtår", that is a second cup of after dinner coffee. This is almost always accepted, in fact it's seen as a little rude to leave after the first cup and will have the hostess wondering what went wrong. Meanwhile, if you offer a second cup to your dinner guests and they are from the southern United States, they will take this as a discreet hint to leave. Awkward.
Advertising agencies have, for global brands, been creating campaigns that in theory should work all over the world for years - though Coca Cola will seemingly never understand why we won't buy it for christmas in Sweden. The "universal idea" and global advertising will never have the opportunity to target our very different cultural sensibilities - and the internet is quite the helper alerting the not-target-market about an ad they should take offense to. Meanwhile, in supermarkets in China, someone who actually is the target market might just pick up some Qiaobi 俏比. And that, my friends, is the only thing the ad set out to achieve - the Chinese brand doesn't care what people in the UK think about their ad.