Mercedes faces social media backlash in China over ‘racist’ advertisement
A section of the Chinese social media recently targeted Mercedes-Benz over an advertisement that purportedly emphasized on the slating eyes of the model. A Bloomberg report states that the advertisement was posted on the Mercedes-Benz account on Weibo but was later removed as a heated discussion on portrayal of Asian-looking features by western companies.
Many social media users on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, pointed to how the said advertisement was trying to highlight the headlight of the Mercedes car by attempting to make a comparison with the model's slanting eyes. "The makeup of the female model looked like slanted eyes and once again aroused a heated discussion from netizens with many blaming that the makeup reflects Western stereotypes about Asian people," a report in the state-run Global Times stated.
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But while the advertisement has since been taken off, many have also commented on how it is a case of making a mountain of a molehill.
This is not the first time that a brand has had to face online ire for accusations of advertisement with so-called racist undertones. Brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Hennes & Mauritz and others too have been a target of what is referred to by some as consumer nationalism in China. Gucci too was targeted for one of its campaigns in which the model was believed to have unorthodox makeup.
Mercedes too had had to deal with a fair bit of criticism in 2018 for an advertisement that had a quote from the Dalai Lama. And while this was more a political controversy than an issue with racist undertones, the German brand had to issue an apology at the time.
China is a key market for brands across segments and the potential for high sales volumes means that companies are mostly unwilling to challenge outrage among people at large.