China’s ‘Leftover Women’ Back in Debate with New Skincare Campaign Video

Japanese skincare brand SK-II is making waves again on Chinese social media with a second installment of the viral ad campaign that caught worldwide attention for its barrier-breaking commentary on the phenomenon of “leftover women.” Its new campaign, “The Expiry Date” explores the pressures women in China feel as they get older—particularly as they turn 30.

Last April, SK-II’s video ‘Marriage Market Takeover,” created by Swedish advertising agency Forsman & Bodenfors, addressed China’s shengnu or “leftover women,” those who are in their late twenties and feel the pressure from family and society to get married. The ad featured these women confronting their disapproving parents at Shanghai’s famous Marriage Market, with messages like, “I don’t want to get married just for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way.”

The empowering message clearly struck a chord with SK-II’s intended audience as just days after the ad’s release, it racked up more than 20,000 views on its official Sina Weibo account and more than 100,000 views on WeChat, prompting conversation around the world. As of February this year, the video gained more than 46 million views on Youtube and across platforms.

SK-II’s global president Markus Strobel told Bloomberg Businessweek in February that the campaign helped the skincare brand increase sales in China by more than 50 percent in nine months. “This campaign has put us on the map in China and generated extremely positive sentiment among consumers and retailers,” he said. “It’s helping us win with young professional and executive women.”

So it’s not surprising that Forsman & Bodenfors is pushing on with this message as part of its #ChangeDestiny campaign it started with the brand two years ago. The film, which was also officially released for the first time in South Korea and Japan, is an extension of a study that SK-II’s parent company Procter & Gamble conducted online in May 2017 among more than 4,200 women and 3,200 men around the world that showed only 20 percent of women in Asia feel comfortable with getting older. It also revealed that more than 60 percent of women in China “felt uncomfortable and offended by other people’s view on their status especially with regards to topics about their age or marital status.”

The new video, which challenges women in Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo to look beyond the “expiry date” that society, their family, and their friends assign to them—which manifests as a tattoo on each woman’s arm that gets more visible the older she gets—is already off to a powerful start, attracting nearly 30 million views on Weibo and more than 50,000 views on YouTube so far.

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Creative, Marketing & Branding