A new ad campaign by luxury cosmetics brand SK-II addresses a social issue in China that doesn’t usually receive much attention in the country’s commercial scene: the plight of sheng nu, or “leftover women.”
If one wasn’t aware of how twenty-something single women are traditionally viewed by their parents’ generation in China, the start of the four-minute-long video ad strikingly makes it clear. It begins by juxtaposing a montage of photographs of young girls with audio phrases from their parents, such as, “I won’t die in peace unless you are married,” “Don’t be so free willed,” and “You’re too picky.”
Chinese women are put under an incredible amount of social pressure to get married, so much so that businesses pop up around Chinese New Year that give single women (and men) the opportunity to rent a boyfriend or girlfriend to fool and appease their family over the holidays. The term sheng nu is a derogatory one used for those who haven’t found a husband by their mid to late twenties.
For the women featured in the film, this term brings on feelings of guilt. “Not getting married is a sign of disrespect,” says one woman before tearfully apologizing to the camera for disappointing her family.
Then, in an emotional turn of events, the women head to the Marriage Market in Shanghai, where parents normally go to browse the “resumes” of potential suitors for their daughters. This time, however, the women would be the ones delivering a message to their parents.
The parents find beautiful photos of the women at the market, each paired with statements of confidence like, “I don’t want to get married just for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way.”
This touching film, produced by Swedish ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors, is the latest installment of SK-II’s global #changedestiny campaign, which encourages women to “change their DNA” to take control of their future. SK-II’s website has additional short films that show women having courage to change their DNA, including one starring Chinese actress Tang Wei and another featuring Chief Strategy Officer for Ebay Greater China Vvivi Hu.
In the case of the sheng nu campaign, the confident subjects behind #changedestiny speaks volumes to affluent Chinese women. A 2014 report by Grant Thornton International showed that about 63 percent of Chinese businesses have female CFOs, and women are going to great lengths to have their own eggs frozen so that they can put things like having children—and marriage—second to their successful careers.
So far, the “Marriage Market Takeover” Youtube video has more than 250,000 hits after two days of being released, and its WeChat post is quickly catching up with more than 100,000 pageviews and a growing number of comments of encouragement from supportive fans.
Brand Director: Kylene Campos
Art Direction: Sophia Lindholm and Karina Ullensvang
Director: Floyd Russ
Digital Producer: Peter Gaudiano
Film Editor: Cut + Run
Production: Tool of North America
Producer: Alexander Blidner