Social media users in China are up in arms after an ad for hair removal salon Strip went viral. The ad, which used an orangutan alongside bikini-clad women, angered citizens who accused the company of shaming women who do not remove their body hair, according to comments on Weibo seen by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE.
Checks by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE saw that a post related to Strip’s advertisement by Chinese media on Weibo garnered over 200 comments with some question if Asian women are really that hairy. Others remarked that the ad is offensive to women.
Strip, which is originally from Singapore, saw their posters circulating on Chinese social media where it received four million views on Douyin alone, according to reports on South China Morning Post (SCMP). According to the reports on the publication, an employee from Strip’s Shanghai salon also mentioned that the company’s head office supplied the ad posters and that an orangutan was used due to the difficulty in finding a woman with ample body hair for the advertisement.
When MARKETING-INTERACTIVE reached out to Strip, the company asserted that the conversation with this unnamed employee was fabricated.
"The alleged conversation in the article with an unnamed staff member saying that we could not find a human as hairy as an ape and hence used the image of an ape is most abnormal. This conversation may have been fabricated and most unlikely to be true and we are in the midst of an internal investigation with our Shanghai team," said a spokesperson for Strip.
Don't miss: Why did Burberry's LGBTQ focused Valentine's Day ad cause such a ruckus?
Strip continued by saying that the mascot was inspired by the beloved tourism icon of Singapore and has been present since the birth of the brand 20 years ago.
"Strip was created with the aim for women to be completely body confident. The brand firmly believes in female empowerment and liberation while promoting love of oneself with full respect of everyone’s choices in their grooming choices and regimes. We aim to provide a quality space for body grooming that is practiced safely and hygienically," it said.
It added that the brand believes in "good humour and setting high standards" in all of its campaigns. It also has full respect for both and women and men and will never engage in shame campaigns to push or influence people to accept beauty services that benefit them.
Strip has confirmed that to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations, it will be removing the use of the orangutan’s image from its current and upcoming campaign visuals in China. Strip Singapore continues to have the ad as its profile picture despite the uproar, according to checks by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE.
Was the ad just lost in translation?
While the ad certainly didn’t sit well with consumers in China, interestingly it has been running across the Singapore market for several years without raising much of an eyebrow. In light of this, we speak to creative directors such as Joan Lim, from Wild Advertising on her take on the ad and if it was one that got lost amidst cultural nuances.
"I always appreciate humor, even self-deprecating ones, in advertising. But it's important to ensure the joke is on the brand and not the audience,” said Lim. She added that women today want to be empowered by brands, and they expect to be respected and treated as equals, so it might not be favourable for brands to put them in a position otherwise.
“These ads have been around for a long time. They served their purpose of giving Strip a unique personality. The backlash probably happened as the intent got lost in translation."
Burberry abruptly wipes clean social media accounts
Burberry cops flak for over-sexualised and ‘woke’ Valentine’s Day ad
Italian fashion brand Benetton next under fire for sexualising children in new ad