In today’s hypersensitive world, cultural stereotypes have proven to be a minefield few in the advertising world can traverse.
The Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana may have thought it’d be funny to show a Chinese model having a difficult time eating spaghetti and pizza with chopsticks, but people in China failed to see the humor and the company is paying a dear price for it.
With its thriving economy, China is an enticing market for Western companies but a series of ads by Dolce & Gabbana backfired when the target audience took offense to the content, which was considered by many to be condescending and racist.
Facing a backlash that includes calls for a boycott and the cancellation of a planned show in Shanghai, fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana issued a heartfelt apology via video on Friday.
Dolce&Gabbana apologizes. pic.twitter.com/eVLoHylnq6
— Dolce & Gabbana (@dolcegabbana) November 23, 2018
“We have always been in love with China. We love your culture and we certainly have much to learn. That is why we are sorry if we made mistakes in the way we expressed ourselves,” Dolce says in the video.
“We will not forget this lesson and this will never happen again,” Gabbana said in the video. “And we must try harder to understand and respect Chinese culture. Finally, we ask from the bottom of our hearts for your forgiveness.”
Adding to the problem, offensive messages then appeared on social media, allegedly from Gabbana, Page Six reported.
Chinese people were called “Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia” and another message said, “I will say that the country of [poop emoji] is China.”
The brand’s official Instagram account claimed their account “has been hacked. So has the account of Stefano Gabbana.”
But the damage has been done.
Bloomberg reported on Friday “almost all major Chinese e-commerce sites including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Tmall and JD.com Inc. have suspended the sale of D&G products in China.”
The boycott also spread to foreign sites, as Richemont’s Yoox Net-A-Porter removed D&G items from its Chinese and Hong Kong portals, Bloomberg noted.
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