The cloud of controversy hanging around Dolce & Gabbana just keep getting bigger and bigger. Following its racist new ad and alleged comments around the Chinese, e-commerce sites such as Tmall, JD.com, Yanxuan, and Vipshop have pulled the luxury brand's products off its sites. Other global e-commerce platforms such as Secoo and Yoox Net-a-Porter have also delisted all D&G products on its Chinese websites.
This comes shortly after celebrities including Zhang Ziyi, Chen Kun, Li Bingbing and singer Karry Wang Junkai declared to boycott of D&G. The criticism started rolling in when the luxury brand published three 40-second ads featuring a model struggling to eat a pizza with chopsticks. The videos were published on D&G’s Facebook, Weibo, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
It added more fuel to the fire, when co-founder Gabbana got embroiled in the controversy after allegedly making racist comments against the Chinese in a direct message on Instagram. However, in an Instagram post, D&G said that both its account and Gabbana’s has been hacked and that its legal office is “urgently investigating”.
Amidst this furore, D&G had to postpone its Shanghai fashion show, The Great Show, as celebrities Zhang Ziyi, Chen Kun, Li Bingbing and singer Karry Wang Junkai declined to attend the show. In a Weibo post, D&G announced that the fashion show has been postponed and apologised for the inconvenience caused. Meanwhile, the co-founders of the brand Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana also posted a Facebook statement saying that its dream was to bring to Shanghai a tribute event dedicated to China which tells D&G’s history and vision.
Adland's reaction on D&G spot
In a conversation with Marketing, Farrokh Madon, chief creative partner, JWT Worldwide said that the ad, by portraying the Asian model like a vacuous bimbo trying to stupidly ape the West, suggests a very low opinion of Asians.
“I am not Chinese but I find myself offended,” he said. While he added that he did not think the ad was meant to be racist, but rather tried to be funny, “it betrays a racist sensibility and view of the East”. He added:
D&G shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds its bottom line.
“Above all, the best way to make brands change their world view is by affecting their bottom line. Stop buying their products,” he added.
Meanwhile, Datin Sri Lara Hussein, CEO, M&C Saatchi Malaysia said that she personally felt “totally outraged” Dolce & Gabbana’s ad especially given it is an iconic Brand that celebrates women and femininity.
She added the ad dehumanises not only a sacrosanct culture, but also women. “I remember in 2016 D&G launched flat sandals with embellishments and called it the Slave Sandal. Fashion Brands like D&G have such a huge fan base of loyal customers. Why would they create something so offensive? They should really learn to do ads the way they create fashion uplifting motivating and just making you feel so good! Fashion Brands have a social responsibility to steer public consciousness in the right direction,” she added.
Also weighing in on the conversation is NagaDDB's ECD Alvin Teoh, who said the best ads make consumers "feel something". They either reflect a point of view that affirms or opposes one's views, or speaks to the inner child within and bring "long hurried feelings to life". Ads can also invite consumers to rethink their position by offering a fresh view on issues. D&G's ads, however, did not make Teoh feel that way.
Teoh pointed out that consumers get offended by almost anything nowadays and proceed to label something as racist, bigotry or gender inequality. While there might be some truth to it, Teoh said consumers end up "blanket labelling" an issue and "their whole world goes ape sh*t". "That ad was stupid and shallow. But personally I don’t think it was racist. Not intentionally anyway," Teoh added.
He noted that ignorance and the possibility of having superiority complex as the main factors behind D&G's ad. Citing the popular saying in Malaysia - turun padang - Teoh said it is important for brands to get down from their ivory tower, step out of their bubble and meet the people in the streets. He added:
Get to know and love and respect the people who you want to reach out too.
"Don’t see them as customers, see them as persons. Don’t just talk value, but promote values. Don’t look at their wallets, look at their dignity and celebrate it. Marketers need to change this mindset," Teoh said.