GM pulls 'chop suey' retro TV ad
Even though they're tough to hear, the soundtrack's lyrics prompt allegations of racism.
The ad in question was for the Chevrolet Trax, a subcompact crossover branded in the U.S. as the Buick Encore, that has been running for weeks in European and Canadian markets. A report from the South China Morning Post dug into the ad's soundtrack, which featured a remixed version of a 1938 jazz swing recording, with lyrics referring to Chinese women "saying ching, ching, chop suey, swing some more."
"Referring to China as 'the land of Fu Manchu,' where people say, 'Ching-ching, chop suey,' might have been considered acceptable, even amusing, when the lyrics were originally penned in the U.S. in the 1930s," the newspaper wrote. "But the distinction between modern norms and those of the swing era seemed to have been lost on General Motors' advertising executives."
GM has since pulled the ad online and edited the lyrics, a remix from Austrian DJ Parov Stelar, from the TV versions. Neither the ad nor the Chevrolet Trax are marketed in China.
The ad itself is clever and appears to borrow from the Oscar-winning Woody Allen film "Midnight in Paris," in which a romantic screenwriter played by Owen Wilson hops into a car with Ernest Hemingway and rushes back in time. With the Trax ad, the opposite happens, as a young man from Hemingway's time carpools and goes out clubbing with modern 20-somethings. The lyrics themselves, if not for the hefty explanation from Hong Kong, are barely discernible to the ear.
Still, GM -- the biggest foreign automaker in China -- can't stand to lose ground in the world's largest car market. In October, Chinese buyers began boycotting Toyota, Honda and other Japanese brands as Japan escalated a long-battled political dispute with China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Sales have yet to recover.
Other controversial car ads have been getting the boot. A week earlier, Hyundai pulled a U.K. TV ad that made light of suicide after showing a man trying to kill himself in his garage with the car running, only to fail because the vehicle was a hydrogen-powered Hyundai that emits only water vapor. In March, print concepts from Ford's Indian ad agency appeared to condone kidnapping the Kardashian sisters and highlighting raunchy thoughts of group sex.
Focus group, anyone?
[Source: South China Morning Post via Detroit News]
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