A Chinese subsidiary of IKEA, the Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA China, apologized on Tuesday for a controversial TV advertisement which is allegedly prejudicial toward single people and caused an outrage online.
The 29-second ad, with the tagline, "celebrate every day in an easy way," appeared on China's twitter-like platform Sina Weibo, and has a fierce woman telling her daughter over dinner, "Don't call me 'mom' anymore if you cannot bring a boyfriend home."
But the atmosphere is soon all aglow when the doorbell rings and a young man is standing there with flowers and the daughter coyly introducing him as her boyfriend. Then all of a sudden, IKEA furniture is popping up all over the living room and the frozen dinner soon turns into a warm party to welcome the boyfriend.
An outcry followed on China's social media, where netizens were calling it "utterly inappropriate" and "pointing a finger at the single life" and demanding that it be taken off.
The controversial ad hashtag got more than 21 million hits on Sina Weibo as of press time, while the IKEA China spokeswoman, Xu Lide, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the issue had been reported to IKEA's global office as a lesson.
The company said it was "aware of the case through feedback from Chinese customers" and "sincerely apologized for giving the wrong perception," in a statement on Weibo on Tuesday.
Xu said that the commercial was a one-off and not a translation of another IKEA ad and promised that the company has contacted all platforms, telling them to remove it.
Xu added that IKEA encourages many different lifestyles and emphasizes that "gender equality is a fundamental part of IKEA's culture and values."
Nonetheless, the statement seemed to steer wide of the point that many of the netizens were trying to make, with the talk about gender equality merely shifting the focus to avoid any conflict.
Their point was that IKEA is promoting the notion of single people getting into marriage, wrote "Jingyunbeibei," under the company's apology, which had gathered 1,000 likes as of press time.