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A Cartier ad in China that depicts heterosexual and LGBTQ+ couples promoting rings has come under scrutiny for self-censorship by the brand after a caption under the ad labels the pair as having a ‘father-son’ love.

Cartier had posted a video on Chinese social media platform Weibo to promote its ‘Trinity ring’, which video's caption states as representing the ‘bond of love’ for the upcoming Qixi Festival, a Valentine's day-equivalent day in China.

Why is the ad under scrutiny?

  • The video showed groups of people laughing and embracing each other, including a man and a woman holding hands, two women lying on the ground together, and two young men riding bicycles while wearing matching rings. The English tagline asks: “How far would you go for love?”

 

  • The video did not specify the relationships between the people depicted, as showing gay and lesbian couples alongside a heterosexual couple.

 

  • However, a caption published by Cartier's online store on Alibaba's Tmall e-commerce platform under a photo of the same two men read “father and son, bound by love, enjoying life's journey”.

 

  • This prompted confusion and ridicule from online users, especially as the pair appeared to be a similar age and was inconsistent with the romantic photograph.

 

  • Online content about LGBTQ+ people is subjected censorship in China. In recent years, censors have muted discussions on social media, banned homosexuality in films and even prevented the sale of rainbow-themed items online.

Is this the first brand screw up in China?

  • Japanese retailer Muji issued an apology after using the term ‘French Concession’  to publicise a sponsored event in one of its Shanghai stores, with a Weibo post reading: ‘Urban walker — Turn right at red lights in the French Concession’.

    Some Chinese consumers online have been angered by the company's language in referring to a historic neighbourhood in Shanghai as the ‘French Concession’; saying it was culturally insensitive and disrespected Chinese history.

  • Burberry released a set of photographs aiming to promote its wares ahead of the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year. The ad featured Chinese models, as well as Vicky Zhao and Zhou Dongyu, two Chinese actresses that have recently been named as ambassadors, according to Jing Daily.

    Reports point to a range of criticisms from consumers, including that the ads look like a scene from a horror movie. Others think it shows a plot to kill the family matriarch for her money, while others believe a stern, depressed theme signifies a slowdown of the Chinese economy.

  • Dolce & Gabbana was slammed for its new ‘DG Loves China’ campaign in China, with critics calling the luxury brand out for trivialising the country’s centuries-old culture and depicting Chinese women in a racist way.

    The campaign video, which was posted on social media platform Weibo by the brand to promote its upcoming runway show in Shanghai, depicts an Asian model in a red sequin D&G dress having trouble eating Italian food like pizza while using chopsticks, while a male narrator asks the model “is it too huge for you?”