Ford car company in China apologises after Marilyn Monroe air vent dress stunt backfires

·3-min read

American car company Ford’s joint venture in China has apologised for an ad copying Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white dress air vent scene, following a backlash from the public and state media.

The scene from the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch is widely regarded as a seminal moment in the history of cinema and is frequently cited as one of the most iconic and influential scenes of all time.

Changan Ford released the advertisement on Weibo on Tuesday, with a short video, saying, “Is it true that according to Japanese manga, boys run so fast that he can make girls’ dresses fly up?

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“Today with a young sister clad in a white dress here, let’s re-stage the classical scene in Japanese manga,” the post said.

At the end of the post which was aimed to promote Ford’s new SUV, the company said “Ruijie Plus (the car’s brand) will glut your eyes”.

Ford, like numerous western companies in the Chinese market, has struggled to adjust to local customs and standards. Photo: Getty
Ford, like numerous western companies in the Chinese market, has struggled to adjust to local customs and standards. Photo: Getty

Both the original post and the video were removed by the company later the same day after many online criticised the advertisement as “vulgar” for showing a woman’s legs.

“It’s so vulgar. It has breached the bottom line. I don’t know what Ford’s marketing staff are thinking about,” wrote one person on Weibo.

“I think they are doing it intentionally to arouse public criticism. Ford knew this kind of video will be lambasted, and its apology should have already been prepared,” the other user said. “They want to make its ad more impressive to you for ordinary ads can’t attract people now.”

The company issued a statement after removing the video.

“We have realised we are wrong,” the company said on Weibo. “We immediately cancelled what we released and apologised sincerely. This mistake will not be made again in future and we will strictly stick to the online content values.”

While some were critical, others said the ad was not controversial as it was just recreating a classic movie scene.

“No one criticised the classical scene of Marilyn Monroe,” another person wrote. “It’s such a creative ad. Why do you think it’s vulgar? How can you tell it does not respect women? Aren’t the beautiful legs part of the beauty of women? People said this ad is not good only because of the ugliness in their own heart.”

“If the ad with women’s legs revealed is regarded as vulgar, I think our country should ban women from wearing bikinis and wearing the skirts not long enough to cover their knees,” another commenter said.

State media Xinhua News Agency weighed into the debate by urging the company not to “pursue vulgarity”.

“Advertisement is an art creation work, but it’s not a good creative idea to gain notoriety with shocking words or behaviours,” said Xinhua.

It’s not the first time that Ford was embroiled in controversy with one of its commercials. In January it released a poster for its electric car containing Chinese characters meaning “2021, China, Year of Horse”. The company called this type of car: “the most famous horse of Ford”.

This was met with anger online as 2021 is the Year of Ox on the Chinese zodiac. The company later deleted the ad online.

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