Ford China apologises after backlash for ad inspired by Marilyn Monroe's air vent dress scene

Ford China has copped flak for an ad featuring a girl struggling to hold down her skirt while a car zipped past her to show off its speed. According to South China Morning Post, the ad was deemed “vulgar” by netizens for showing a woman’s legs and the company has since removed it from Weibo. The spot was released last Tuesday by Changan Ford, a joint venture between Ford Motor and Changan Automobile Group, and copied Marilyn Monroe’s iconic flying white dress air vent scene from the 1955 film titled “The Seven Year Itch”, SCMP said.

According to screenshots circulating on Weibo, the post accompanying the video read: “Is it true that according to Japanese manga, boys run so fast that he can make girls’ dresses fly up?” The Weibo post added: “Let us recreate the classic scene here with a lady clad in a white dress. The post also used hashtags to promote Ford’s new SUV and one of them said “Ruijie Plus brings a feast for your eyes”. According to SCMP, Ruijie Plus is the name of the new SUV.

Changan Ford issued an apology on Weibo the same day, stating that the post has been deleted and it must not be an example for others. The brand added that it will “strictly abide by the correct concept of Internet content”.

The hashtag “Changan Ford’s ad tests car speed by lifting girl’s skirt” had 2,689 discussion threads on Weibo. One netizen said the company fancies oneself smart by pushing out such an ad, and that having private thoughts about a girl’s skirt lifting up when a car drives past is shameful, but publicising such acts is even more shameful. Another wondered if the team at Changan Ford has lost its mind, adding sarcastically that the team could perhaps “crack open their skulls” to let everyone have a look at the dirty thoughts in their heads. Another netizen also said that while the ad wanted to capture men’s interest, it forgot that women control the purse strings at home. The netizen added that the ad is disrespectful to women.

That said, some netizens also defended the ad. According to SCMP, one netizen said that if ads showing women’s legs are considered vulgar, then China should ban women from wearing bikinis and skirts that are not long enough to cover their knees. Another commented that it was a creative ad by Changan Ford, questioning how the ad actually disrespects women since beautiful legs are part of a woman’s beauty.

Earlier this year, Ford China made a faux pas by stating the wrong Chinese zodiac year in a promotional post about its new electric vehicle Mustang Mach-E. While 2021 might be the Year of the Ox, Ford China posted an image on Weibo in January with the words "China. Year of the Horse". The caption added: "China, here we come!" and announced that the electric vehicle will be manufactured in China. According to the Global Times, Mustang cars are known to Chinese consumers as "ye ma" (wild horse).

The company later apologised, stating that previous posts about the Mustang Mach-E were inaccurate and caused misunderstanding and confusion. “We humbly accept criticisms and suggestions, and sincerely thank you for your concern and corrections,” the brand added on Weibo. It also posted an updated image with the words "Hi everyone, we have arrived." and "Manufactured in China".