China protests Mao sperm ad
“Don’t bring the next Mao into the world. Use a condom.”
Following an outcry in China, Doc Morris Pharmacies has officially apologised to the Chinese government over an ad representing Mao as a sperm cell.
Two other ads represent Hitler and Osama Bin Laden as human spermatozoids to promote the use of condoms.
The campaign appeared only in Germany, but was picked up by Chinese bloggers and the Communist Party’s People Daily.
Last year following similar protests, car-maker Citroen apologized to China for a Spanish campaign portraying Mao.
Behind the news
Provocation can be an excellent tactic to gain attention well beyond one’s initial media budget.
However what is seen as provocation in one country (Germany), may simply be perceived as an insult in another (China).
In China, making fun of officials who represent the nation as a whole is not well understood, even if they may have committed terrible crimes.
This case illustrates two big trends in Culture Shock:
– Due to blogging, every local advertisement can have unintended global consequences.
– The Chinese government is asserting itself and demanding that foreigners respect China. For brands looking to succeed in the world’s biggest growth market, use of Chinese symbols and imagery should by systematically checked.