Mercedes took internet fury in China right in front of model’s eyes

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Mercedes-Benz removed a video ad from a Chinese social media website, state media said, after the clip was swept up in a heated nationwide debate over companies’ portrayals of Asian-looking features foreigners.

The video was posted on Mercedes-Benz’s official Weibo account on Saturday and then removed due to public backlash, the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper said. “The female model’s makeup looked like slanted eyes and once again sparked heated discussion from netizens, with many accusing the makeup of reflecting Western stereotypes about Asians,” the newspaper said on Tuesday.

The report included a screenshot from the video showing a woman who is apparently Chinese, although Bloomberg News did not see the full version of the ad. Emails and phone calls from Martin Sauber and Juan Zhou, Chinese press representatives for Daimler AG, were not immediately returned.

The episode makes Mercedes-Benz the latest target of consumer nationalism in China that has in the past dealt a blow to Dolce & Gabbana, Hennes & Mauritz and others. Last week, Chinese social media platforms erupted over allegations that Walmart Inc. had stopped selling items from Xinjiang in its Sam’s Club grocery stores in the Asian nation. Christian Dior SE stopped using the photo of a model in November that state media said “dirty Asian women.”

Chinese netizens have recently been debating how model eyes are shown in advertising. Chinese firm Three Squirrels Inc. recently apologized for ads featuring model Cai Niang Niang wearing makeup that accentuated the tilt of her eyes, the South China Morning Post reported.

The model hit back on the Twitter-like Weibo service, saying, “With small eyes, am I not Chinese? I totally agree with patriotism. However, creating big problems with normal things has become a morbid obsession. “

—Bloomberg News

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