Ad Nut
Mar 8, 2019

Two tales of continuity from China this International Women's Day

Is age the only number that defines a woman? No. Is continuity the key factor that proves a brand's legitimacy in female empowerment? Yes.

Co-opting the ideals of feminism to promote a brand is in vogue on a day none other than today, because it's International Women's Day.

“How old are you?” is a dreaded question that most women in China are reticent to answer, and this question has become a rallying cry for redefining age in Olay's China campaigns.

Centred on a belief that the number that defines a woman is not her age, but her experiences or achievements, Olay and Grey Group tasked the brand's Chinese celebrity ambassadors to invite 18 key opinion leaders to share their own inspiring stories. The number is smaller than last year's 100-KOL initiative, but Olay deserves credit for continuity for its rather bold campaigning. 

This year, Victoria Song found Alu, who is 'nine' years old this year, because she spent nine years learning hip-hop, starting from the streets of Chengdu to finally appearing on the world stage.

Ma Sichun found '16-year-old' Jiang Fangzhou, who wrote an epic diary consisting of 160,000 words. (In Chinese, the number 160,000 is written as “16” hundred thousand).

Gao Yuanyuan found '24-year-old' Ren Lili, who created 24 books of recipes.

To kick off the second leg of its campaign this year, Olay began by changing the ages of its celebrity-endorsers on Baidu Encyclopedia (China’s equivalent of Wikipedia), and replaced them with a number that represents her "fearless story". Sneaky, but smart. People may see those as editing mistakes, only to discover that those are part of the Olay campaign to encourage women not to be defined by age. Kudos to Kim Hyoeun, Olay's marketing vice president, for signing off on the work.

Clap, clap, clap for Olay.

However, Ad Nut had to throw all four paws into the air in consternation after learning that another skincare brand opted out of continuing a promising Women's Day effort this year. Domestic brand Chando targeted Chinese women with a not only ingenious but also authentic approach last year. But this year's followup was vetoed.

Last year's work battled prejudice in the workplace by showing 'a job interview that no man can pass', shot in a role-exchange format.

"Do you have a habit of taking leave during your monthly period?" or "Our company is in a critical stage, and we must first guarantee that you don't have plans for children within three years if we were to recruit you" are ridiculous questions that are, sadly, familiar to Chinese women, who have always been regarded as the weakest chain in the workplace due to their heavier family or biological obligations. Now, this is not merely pinkwashing (or purplewashing, like the Magnum campaign we covered recently).

A key industry source told Ad Nut anonymously that Chando did not agree to continuing the battle with workplace prejudice this International Women's Day. "He (the boss) already didn’t fancy it that much last year," Ad Nut has learned. "He felt that there were no such gender-inequality issues in his own company. Last year's campaign only happened because female employees insisted on it."

This year, through close-up shots of two women's mouths (meant to sell Chando lipsticks) and their declarations of their uniqueness, Chando addressed the unreasonable accusations thrown around of Chinese ladies regarding their dressing, appearance, age, and occupation, etc.***

To Ad Nut, the shortcomings of tokenism really must be overcome by all categories of brands hoping to co-opt the ideals of feminism in their marketing. Ad Nut crosses its paws!

***Editor's note: This article was updated on 18 March to illustrate how Chando found another angle in 2019 to encourage Chinese women to be confident. 

Campaign's Women Leading Change

We'll be discussing gender equality, unconscious bias and attitudes towards women in media and marketing at our annual Women Leading Change conference in Singapore on 4 June, 2019.

Register your interest and find out more about entering our Women Leading Change Awards (early bird entry deadline: 8 March; hard entry deadline: 8 April) at

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


Campaign China

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