Chinese E-Marketplace Conglomerate Alibaba Tickle Social Media with Low-Key LGBTQ Ad

Friday January 10, 2020

Chinese e-commerce company Tmall, which is owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba, set social media ablaze with an ad that presents LGBTQ acceptance as something the young understand and have no problems with, media sources report.

CNN reports on the ad, which depicts a young Chinese man coming home with a male companion he identifies as "Kelvin." The family patriarch looks askance at his son's friend, while the young man's sisters react with delight and begin to whisper among themselves. At dinner, the father hands Kelvin a bowl. Kelvin then responds with, "Thanks, Dad," surprising the older man, as well as himself.

The video made a splash on social media after LGBTQ-friendly group Love Matters - which promotes fact-based information about human sexuality - posted it, CNN reported.

Love Matters accompanied the posting with text saying that it is "important" to LGBTQs "to be visible, to be seen by the public, and to be recognized."

The video has gone viral, and even the comments about it are mostly affirming, CNN reports.

Alibaba played its cards close to the vest, telling CNN: "Chinese New Year is a time for family reunion and inclusion, and the ad is a creative expression to celebrate such an occasion."

CNN took note of how this is not the first time an Alibaba company has wooed LGBTQ customers. Five years ago, Taobao - also owned by the giant corporation - "sponsored an online contest with the gay dating app Blued to send couples from China to California to get married," CNN recalled.

That campaign was accompanied by the slogan, "As long as you have true love, Taobao will help you realize the dream."

Tmall also posted a rainbow-themed version of its company logo in 2015, CNN noted.

The ad is notable for reaching such a wide audience despite Chinese censorship of material that depicts the LGBTQ community or same-sex relationships. Media sources said that this was a reason for the ad's low-key approach.

The spot's sense of humor is evidently also calibrated to create a non-confrontational tone. Reuters describes the ad's sequence of events and takes note of the ad's final twist:

The narrator then promotes a site-wide discount on dried seeds and nuts, riffing a Chinese-language expression for watching drama unfold.

Media sources noted that being gay is not criminalized in China, despite strong and persistent social disapproval. Younger Chinese people seem to be more accepting than their older counterparts, however.

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