Sometimes, it can be difficult for women to tell whether they're being objectified or not. Other times, it's very, very easy, like when we're compared to actual objects, ones with steering and breaks and windshield wipers. That's what happened in the case of this Audi commercial that aired in China, which compares buying a car to finding a wife. (Audi has since issued an apology for the ad, saying it "doesn't correspond to the values of our company".)
The commercial shows a bride being carefully inspected on her wedding day. Just as she and her husband are about to say "I do," her mother-in-law leaps up from the front row, pulls on her nose, yanks on her ears, and pries open her mouth to inspect her teeth, before being forcibly removed and shooting one last disappointed glance at the bride's chest. The ad then cuts to an Audi zooming through empty city streets, as a voiceover says: "an important decision must be made carefully."
The ad did not go over well among people who felt it was offensive to compare a human person to a piece of machinery. Upset viewers took to Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, to criticize the sexist commercial.
One user called it a "terrible ad!" and another said it was "disgusting."
"From the inception of this idea to its broadcasting, was there a single woman who worked on this commercial?" one Weibo user asked.
Audi pulled the commercial, and released a statement saying it "deeply regretted" the misstep.
"The ad's perception that has been created for many people does not correspond to the values of our company in any way," the statement read. "The responsible department of the joint venture has arranged a thorough investigation ... so that an incident like this can be excluded in the future."
Audi's head of corporate communications in China said the ad was produced by the used car division of FAW-Volkswagen, parent company Volkswagen's joint venture in China. FAW-Volkswagen has not commented on the incident.
In any case, this ad was certainly a departure for Audi, whose Super Bowl ad in 2017 was lauded for its feminist message.
Multiple outlets have pointed out this is not China's first advertising stumble. Last year, a Chinese firm apologized for a racist laundry detergent ad in which a black man covered in paint is thrown into a washing machine and emerges as a light-skinned Chinese man. Hopefully, with more measures being put in place to regulate gender and racial discrimination in advertising, we won't be dealing with this kind of nonsense much longer.