German carmaker Audi has apologized for a Chinese TV ad in which it compares choosing a woman to marry with buying a used luxury car.
Produced by advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, the commercial shows a couple whose wedding is interrupted by the bride’s mother-in-law, who rushes the altar to scrutinize the young woman, pinching her nose and tugging on an ear before granting approval.
The advert, which has since been pulled from TV networks, was made to promote Audi’s certified pre-owned car program in China, and is garnering a lot of negative press for a company that has otherwise taken a progressive stance on the issue of gender stereotyping.
But Audi’s apology is ostensibly not just for the commercial’s sexist overtones: On Chinese social media site Weibo, commenters have complained the ad promotes a stereotype that marriages in that country are “dominated by the mother-in-law, controlled by the male and with a passive female.”
News agency Reuters said negative press like this can have a major effect on a brand’s popularity in China, thanks to the hundreds of millions of people who use the WeChat and Weibo social media platforms in that country. The story is bad news for Audi, which has been trying to bolster sales that have been slow so far in 2017.