False advertising? Hey, I’m just an actor!

April 7, 2007

From Netease:
On February 10th, the police uncovered Beijing’s biggest pyramid scheme case, exposing the fraud behind the”Yilin is your first choice for a forestation partner”scheme. Ge You acting as the spokesperson in the Yilin ad naturally received the publics questioning, and is now facing a reputation crisis.

Ge You, the Chinese star of movies such as The Banquet, is not the only one facing a PR crisis after doing advertisements for sham companies and unreliable products. In this Southern Metropolis Weekend article, several Chinese celebrities are interviewed and asked how they feel about doing advertisements and being a spokesperson for commercial products in light of recent events.

A famous TV star in China endorsing medicine

In translation: Original Chinese article can be found here.

Spokespeople: Should stars be responsible? Sorry, I’m just an actor!

Southern Metropolis Weekend

The Unrepentants:

What do you feel about the Ge You 葛优 incident?

Ye Jing: How could Ge You of known? He wasn’t able to control what happened. I know him pretty well and he was certainly swindled here. He is an extremely sincere guy who is really careful about things to the point of being overcautious. I think by doing this he has really made everyone feel dizzy almost. Right now there are so many spokespeople who are far worse then him! At the least he didn’t do an advertisement for breast enlargement! Moreover, before he did the advertisement could he have gone to the company and asked: “Is your company a pyramid scheme?”

Jay‘s Colgate Ad.

Those who shirk one’s responsibility:

Last year, actor Shi Ke 史可 was labeled as “shameless” for endorsing a whitening and freckle removing cream. In the advertisement, Shi Ke appears with an ugly face covered in spots then professes that after using the cream, in one sweep everything was wiped away.

Southern Metropolis Weekly (SMW): How do feel about stars acting as spokespeople?

Shi Ke: I don’t have an opinion, I’ve never done it, so it really doesn’t concern me.

SMW: Have you been a spokesperson for sham products before?

Shi Ke: I haven’t

SMW: What about the ad you did for that freckle removing cream last year?

Shi Ke: I don’t think there is a problem with that ad. The results of the cream differ from person to person, some people use it and it works, for others it just doesn’t have any effect, it has to do with your body. Besides there isn’t medicine out there that can cure everything, not everyone can say this stuff works.

NMW: Have you used this product before?

Shi Ke: Yea, I’ve used it, I think the results are OK, afterwards the manufacturer hoped that I would continue doing ads for them, but at that time I was in a shoot and didn’t have any time so I just refused the offer.

NMW: But allot of people suspect that it was false advertisement

Shi Ke: If there are doubts you should contact the manufacturer or find out more about the product. Or you could get in touch with a doctor and figure out what the problem is.

NMW: What if there is a problem with the product?

ShiKe: then you should just find the manufacturer

NMW: If it was false advertisement, do you think the responsibility is yours?

ShiKe: No, I don’t think its my responsibility, nor do I have an interest. I am good hearted. But the problem is it can’t work for everyone, too many people think if a consumer wasn’t treated well then its a bad product, I don’t think that’s right.

NMW: Do you think celebrities should assume some of the responsibility?

ShiKe: If the state completely standardized all the regulations then OK, whoever is responsible is just responsible. You still have to rely on the related laws.

NMW: Alot pf people think that the advertisement you did is “disgusting” and said you are “shameless”

Shi Ke: Disgusting?, whatever I don’t really know, everyone has their own opinions. What can I say?! And up until now I haven’t watched the ad myself.

NMW: You don’t watch TV?

Shi Ke. I don’t watch TV, nor do I buy things in television ads, I’m not familiar with it.

What does Chen Peisi 陈佩斯 teach us not to be a spokesperson for?

Cigarettes, Alcohol, medicine and health products

You obviously can’t do ads for these. I simply won’t do any cigarette or alcohol ads. And for medicine, not matter what kind it is, its hard guarantee how effective they are. The actual ability of health care products can’t be guaranteed so I don’t do those either. Those four I mentioned I have tried my best to avoid doing them because I don’t really know much about the product or it could bring about harm to the consumer.

Learn a lesson from the stars

Lao Lang 老狼:
I don’t think you should blame celebrities, its possible they initially had no idea it would have this kind of outcome, I think celebrities don’t have a way out of this, we have bad luck too. Butallot of people only consume after seeing the celebrity speak in behalf of the product, so I think they still should share a part of the responsibility, after all they are advertising it so celebrities should inspect the product a bit, at the minimum know how it works. At the moment no one has asked me to be a spokesperson, but if they do I’ll first have to think about it. I’d be able to be a spokesperson for tourism services, it relies on a chart so its unlikely that people will get cheated.

Liu Bei 刘蓓:
I’ve heard of this. I think the responsibility shouldn’t be put on celebrities only after a problem arises. Other people feel that when celebrities act as a spokesperson then the problem lies with them, but they can also be the victim. For example when acting on the behalf for medicinal products, celebrities aren’t the drug testing department, if the manufacturer got a drug test permit then the they are only able to think that the product ought to be legitimate. Supposing if themanufacturer didn’t get any permits, then no one would do the advertisement, at this point even if the star has their doubts, they don’t have any way of investigating. So I can only say celebrities shouldn’t blindly do advertisements, for the problems that arise afterwards are difficult to anticipate. If you say we should bear responsibility, I think celebrities are completely unable to bear anything, — if problems arise, what am I to do? So I think we have to put responsibility first, that is before you shoot an advertisement you should be cautious and vigilant. But you can’t just pass off an offer because of some little doubts,and if you’ve fallen into the trap of a false advertisement before, you can’t just give up doing them.

YI Nengjing伊能静:
With regards to the advertisement problems, I would demand the company to do their best to have me be a spokesperson for some big famous brand. But for allot of things the whole process is sort of an evolution, for example you could be using a skin care product only to find out afterwards that it is harmful, or this medicine treats the illness, but afterwards you find out it has side-effects. Mostcelebrities are spokespeople for stuff you can eat or wear, but sometimes these products have a medicinal and scientific process of refining them. And moreover celebrities by no means represent the manufacturer, Even if we have a problem with them,celebrities have to have the ability to solve the problem and deal with the aftermath themselves. Allot of stuff artists can’t control. Our job is just to act.

If you want to talk responsibility, I think you are going too far. We speak in behalf of the product, its just like if you recommend a restaurant to someone, and they are poisoned and come back blaming you, that’s just not rational.

But I still think you should do your best to understand the product you are representing and how it works. All of the brands that I represent right now are long-standing foreign brands, which don’t have these kind of complicated problems.

Taiwanese superstar group SHE

Jiang Wenli蒋雯丽:
Of course I have to assess the product before I agree upon being a spokesperson. But whether or not we should bear responsibility,that’s a legal problem.

A famous ad by Jiang Wenli

Words, that’s the soul of an ad. In the above mentioned psoriasi advertisement, there’s no lack of famous words. The following are some we picked out as outstanding

Most Famous:
付笛声 Fu Disheng: “XXX Washes cleaner!”

Most touching:
Jie xiaodong 解晓东: “XXX Hospital saved this family”

Most long winded:
刘嘉玲 Liu Jialing: ” In the past I was scared of taking pictures because I couldn’t hide from the flash exposing all of my blemish’s. After using XXX whitening cream my skin was sparking and Crystal-clear all the time , no need for computer editing! After using it for 28 days, my skin is 12 years younger!”

Another SKII by Liu Jialing

Most systematic:
文清 Wen Jing: Wear glasses your entire life or wear XXX for a month?

Most incoherent:
邢质斌Geng Zhibin: Is long term weight-loss useless? Are you always losing weight but having it come right back? Are you repeatedly using weight-loss products and fooled time and again? Well, I’ll give you a XXX waistband, first its 100% effective, second its long-lasting and third the quality has been ensured by XXX insurance company.

Most confident:
史可 Shi Ke: “I just use one kind of freckle remover, that’s just XXX!”

傅艺伟 Best visualization:
Fu Yiwei: I used XXX smokeless non-stick pot, there isn’t any burnt residue and nothing sticks to the pot, look, even fish skin doesn’t fall off!

Legal clarification
Could Ge You be imprisoned?

With regards to celebrities acting in behalf of sham products, Beijing lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan analyzed in detail two problems:

Consumer wants to sue, can they win?
According to regulations in China’s “Advertisement law” the relevant departments are only able to punish the sellers or those who issue the advertisement. Consumers demand that the spokesperson selling the product should be obliged to some responsibility, but in reality there is no legal basis for this. Celebrities wouldn’t be dragged into the problem, at best their credibility could be called into question.

Will Ge You be imprisoned?

We’ll have to wait for the final outcome in the case. If he was just a spokesperson and didn’t join in the companies running of sales and marketing with the other key company members, then he doesn’t bear anyresponsibility for the crime. But if he did then he shall be penalized.

Guo degang 郭德纲 and Fu Yiwei’s 傅艺伟 false advertisement problems are the same, as long as they didn’t commit a crime they they don’t have to assume any responsibility. It’s a giant hole in the law.

And just for fun, one of my favorite TV ads in China

One Response to “False advertising? Hey, I’m just an actor!”

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