Chinese dairy firm Mengniu apologises for marketing stunt gone wrong on iQIYI show

Chinese dairy conglomerate Mengniu has apologised after its marketing campaign for iQIYI's Youth With You 3 went awry. According to English-language newspapers China Daily and the Global Times, consumers were encouraged to purchase Mengniu's bottled milk and scan the QR code inside the bottle caps to vote for their favourite contestant on iQIYI's variety show Youth With You 3. Mengniu is a sponsor of the show.

By purchasing more milk bottles, fans will increase contestants' chances of garnering more votes and winning. While this might have bode well for contestants on Youth With You 3, this resulted in fans buying more milk than they could consume. Hence, fans resorted to disposing of the milk and only keeping the caps to scan the code, China Daily and the Global Times reported. Both Mengniu and iQIYI were criticised by Chinese media outlets for wasting milk, which also resulted in the latter cancelling the live stream of its Youth With You 3 finale originally scheduled on 8 May. IQIYI said in a tweet that all fan voting channels are also closed as it reviews and adjusts the rules of the variety show.

Mengniu, in a Weibo apology, said the dairy company fully supports and is actively cooperating with iQIYI on the measures taken to rectify the issue. Mengniu added that it is extremely distressed about the issue of milk wastage and strongly opposes all forms of food wastage. "We deeply apologise for the negative social impact caused by this and will deeply reflect as well as actively rectify and carry our social responsibilities to avoid such incidences from occurring again."

Meanwhile, iQIYI also copped flak for implementing such competition rules. In a Weibo apology dated 6 May, the company said it acknowledges the criticism it received from consumers and members of the media and "feels extremely guilty" about the issue. "We deeply apologise. At the same time, we also firmly oppose all forms of food wastage," he said.

It explained that during the process of the programme's production and broadcast, it overlooked its values orientation and social responsibility, as well as the fact that programmes should have reasonable rules. IQIYI added it also ignored the fact that such programme defects could result in serious negative effects and it takes full responsibility for this.

Separately, Beijing's radio, film and TV bureau also previously ordered iQIYI to suspend the recording of Youth With You 3 on 4 May in line with regulations on the management of online audio-visual programmes. According to Xinhua News Agency, the bureau said it has interviewed the relevant person in charge at iQIYI and requested the platform to implement the relevant regulations of the radio and TV administrative department. It also urged iQIYI to improve the programme's management and thoroughly check for and rectify existing problems.

Last November, iQIYI brought onboard Singapore Tourism Board as its exclusive destination partner for Youth With You 3. IQIYI's VP of international business Kuek Yu-Chuang said back then that its multi-year partnership with STB is one of the ways iQIYI has been expanding its global footprint and it is on the lookout for more partners.

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