BEIJING: The French luxury brand Cartier is facing ridicule in China due to an ad with a Valentine’s theme that seems to show a gay couple described in a caption depicting “father-son” love.
Cartier posted a video on Chinese social media platform Weibo this week to promote his “Trinity” ring, which the brand described in the video’s caption depicting the “band of love” – ahead of the Qixi Festival in late August, one of China’s traditional valentines day equivalents.
The video showed groups of people laughing and embracing each other, including a man and a woman holding hands, two women lying on the ground together and two young men cycling while wearing matching rings.
The English tagline asks, “How far would you go for love?”
Many viewers interpreted the video, which did not specify the relationship between the people depicted, as showing gay and lesbian couples together with a heterosexual couple.
The top comment on Cartier’s Weibo post was a user who said “I feel this supports LGBT”, to which hundreds of other users responded with messages of support and praise as well as emojis for the pride flag.
But a caption published by Cartier’s online store on Alibaba’s Tmall platform during a photo of the same two men caused confusion and ridicule, especially since the couple appeared to be of a similar age.
The caption, which read “father and son, bound by love, enjoying the journey of life”, was “inconsistent” with the romantic photograph, users complained on the popular online forum Douban.
Online content in China, especially content showing LGBT people, is subject to heavy and often arbitrarily applied censorship.
In recent years, censorship has dampened discussions on social media, banned homosexuality in movies and even prevented the sale of rainbow-themed articles online.
But Cartier’s obvious caution has resurfaced.
“Ahahahahaha,” wrote one Douban user, “gay love has turned into incest.”
“If they are father and son, why do they buy matching rings?” asked another.
“So unnecessary!” commented on an LGBT-focused Weibo account.
Cartier, who did not immediately comment on the issue, is the latest in a long line of foreign brands whose marketing campaigns in China have failed.
Luxury fashion brands Versace, Coach and Givenchy apologize last year for making perceived fronts to China’s national sovereignty with T-shirts listing Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries, while Italy’s Dolce & Gabbana faced a 2018 boycott over racistly offensive social media posts.
Earlier this week, the French brand Balenciaga’s retro campaign for Chinese Valentine’s Day was criticized with the 1990 Times Global themes as “behind the times” and “just a perfect effort”.