Last week, JD Finance released a commercial on Douyin that stirred up controversy. The advertisement starts with a low-income worker being mocked for not knowing windows on airplanes cannot be opened. When a flight attendant suggests he upgrades his flight for a large fee, a seemingly wealthier man steps in and introduces JD’s online cash lending service, JD Jintiao, so the worker can take out giant loans. Not only did the ad provoke public criticism for discriminating against low-income workers, but Weibo netizens also raised concerns that JD was purposely targeting — and intentionally swaying — users from lower-tier cities into reckless borrowing.
On December 15, JD Finance issued an apology letter acknowledging their ads had “promoted problematic values” and has since then taken down the video. However, this is not the first time an online financial platform has caused heated debate with its advertising issues.
In September, 360 IOU also received backlash for an insensitive ad featuring a flight attendant demanding a man in tattered clothes borrow money from its platform before agreeing to marry him. Although these ads typically target users from lower-tier cities who are less vocal, Chinese netizens have an acute ability to notice commercials that do not uphold morally upright values.
As many businesses continue to experiment with creative and daring content, they must adhere to ever-changing attitudes regarding social issues, particularly on the internet. Moreover, due to Chinese regulations, misleading content risks being punishable by law, and brands have to modify their content accordingly. After all, every action can be magnified and closely examined when released online.