“This is ridiculously disgusting. I will boycott Juewei from now on.”
“Women are supposed to be objectified and consumed by men. Just look at those supermodels. I see nothing wrong with this tradition.”
— From Weibo (in Chinese)
There is no shortage of sexist marketing campaigns in China, and this year has already seen some strong candidates for “sexist ad of the year.” In July, German automobile manufacturer Audi released a commercial that compares women with used cars. Three months after Audi’s misstep, Swedish furniture giant IKEA was slammed for a television ad that implies women are of no value without a boyfriend. But so far, none of these sexist ads can compare with the long-running ad campaign by Juewei Duck Neck 绝味鸭脖, a retail snack chain that has relentlessly tested the boundaries of acceptability in China:
On November 1, Juewei first attracted media attention (in Chinese) with a promotion on its online store. The poster was meant to drive consumers’ anticipation for some promotions on the upcoming Singles Day (双十一 shuāng shíyī; “double eleven,” or 11/11), but the ad backfired due to its explicit obscenity.
As you can see from the image above, a woman (though the person’s face is hidden behind the laptop, the bra hanging at the head of the bed suggests the person’s gender) is lying on a bed with her legs chained and open. Besides her is a marketing punchline that reads, “Do you want it? It’s fresh, tender, and juicy.” A couple of Juewei packages are also on the bed.
Only two hours after the picture was posted, Juewei decided to pull the ad due to a flurry of criticism (in Chinese) accusing it of being sexist and tasteless. Juewei also delivered an apology on its Weibo account. “Juewei is a company that always has deep respect for women,” it declared. “We’ll pay more attention to every task and every detail from this time onward.”
You’d assume Juewei had learned its lesson, but the snack brand couldn’t turn off its tendency to talk dirty in marketing. Two days after the open apology, Juewei published another inappropriate post on its WeChat account. “My time of the month arrived sooner than it was supposed to. It’s full of taste and heavier than ever before,” the post’s subtitle reads, in a clear reference to menstruation.
In the post, a picture of Michelangelo’s David is placed at the top, with intentional pixelation of the statue’s private parts that only draws more attention to the area. Below, Juewei fabricated some suggestive comments by anonymous consumers, and most of them just don’t make any sense. “On one night, my husband and I ate lots of duck necks and stayed awake all night. Ten months later, we had our first baby,” one fake commenter writes. “Many people say my lips are sexy. That’s because I always kiss my boyfriend with Juewei duck necks in my mouth,” another one says.
According to (in Chinese) guancha.com, this is not the first time that Juewei has used this type of content to attract attention. In June, Juewei wrote a marketing post on WeChat that was titled “Starting today, it’s legal to pay ducks for their service.” (In Chinese, duck 鸭 yā is a slang term for male prostitutes.)
In the months that ensued, Juewei wrote some others posts that, apparently, adopted the same style — a clickbait title, some risque references, and sexually suggestive images. For August, there was one titled “Orgasm.” And for September, there was one titled “They are officially available to serve you guys starting today,” with a top photo that shows three women dressed in red and wearing bride-like costumes, with masked faces. These posts performed well — most of the ones mentioned above garnered more than 100,000 views.
Disgusted and enraged by Juewei’s sexism and overuse of sexually suggestive content in many of its ad campaigns, China Women’s News published a commentary (in Chinese) on November 15, urging Juewei to apologize for insulting women and pledge not to make such mistakes again. “Not all publicity is good publicity,” warns the author. “Any attempts to insult, objectify, or consume women will be met with strong opposition and resistance from women.”