A controversial commercial for a Chinese marriage website aired during the Spring Festival was bombarded by the Weibo users as soon as the seven-day holiday was over to the point that an online campaign was staged to boycott the website altogether.
The 29-second vignette to promote the offline outlets of the Chinese marriage website baihe.com which provides matchmaking services features the story of a young woman and her sick grandmother whose only wish is for the girl to get married. In order to satisfy the old woman’s dying wish, the girl went to the said shop where she was paired up with a man and got married. The ad ended with the line “Because of love, I wait no more.”
Screenshots from the video. Photo: weibo.com
Though the commercial was shot tastefully emphasizing the family love, the grandmother’s repeated question “have you got married yet?” enraged many Chinese who considered it as coercion on the girl to marry under the pretense of “love”. Most of them are young and single and are facing the same pressure from their families to get married, even more so during the Chinese New Year.
Many Weibo users expressed similar view that the ad tried to ‘kidnap’ the viewers with the outdated Chinese ethics which are hurtful not only to those who are single, but also to those who are married. Many complained that they had a big argument with their family members because of this commercial. “I had to tolerate another lecture because of this damned ad,” one said.
Weibo user @行走的力量孙康 asked his grandfather whether he would put him in the same position and he told him in no ambiguous term that he “would not see him get married just for him”. “It is inhumane to force the young generation to marry with threats of illness and death. But sadly that is a common occurrence in China,” said another post. One user posed the question, “To the older generation, it is the children’s responsibility to listen to their demand. But what about our happiness for the rest of our lives?”
The hashtag “Ten thousand people boycotting Baihe.com” gathered over 120,000 discussions and 41,000 supporters who vowed in the online poll to “fight the outdated marriage concept and moral kidnap”.
The copywriter of the commercial, Mr. Gao, responded to the unexpected angry reactions in an interview on February 10, two days after the Weibo boycott reached its peak. “We were just following the same style as our previous commercials which played the family card. We did not know it would cause so much distress to the young people during the holiday,” he said.
Mr. Gao also revealed that the commercial was based on the real story of a member of the website. “The intention of the ad was actually to convey a positive attitude toward marriage, and to teach the young people to find the balance between love and family.” The “misinterpretation” of the netizens made the creative team felt they were being “wronged”, Gao said.
There is an estimation of 200 million single people in China, many of whom are highly educated white collar workers in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. As the Chinese traditional family value dictates that getting married and having children is the No.1 filial duty one has to fulfill, these people face huge pressure from their family and from the society to get married, which makes for a great market for marriage websites which first appeared in China in 2002. In recent years, facing competition from social networks and dating apps on mobiles, many websites began to expand their services offline. Statistics show that there are over 5,000 such matchmaking agencies in China whose annual revenue amounts to 5 billion yuan.
A recent report published by one of the marriage websites showed that among the young single Chinese, the post-80s faced the most pressure to get married from their parents. The Spring Festival when young people working in different cities all go back home for the holiday is the time of the year many suffer the most from the pressure, which is one of the reasons behind the strong reaction toward baihe.com’s controversial commercial.