Citroen's Mao Mix Infuriates the Chinese

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

America ad agencies aren't the only auto industry suppliers suffering from foot-in-mouth disease. Reuters reports that a Spanish Citroen ad has triggered quite a furor in China. The poster shows Chairman Mao looking down at a Citroen hatchback. The copy proclaims, "It's true, we are leaders, but at Citroen the revolution never stops. We are once more going to put in motion all the machinery of our technological ability, in order to repeat in 2008 the successes obtained in previous years." The picture of Mao is similar to one in Tianamen Square, with the the People's Republic founder's mouth distorted and squinting eyes. Once the ad hit the internet, the shit hit the fan. Chinese web slingers felt the ad was "not only insulting [to] Chairman Mao, but the whole Chinese nation… where Mao is greatly revered." Citroen immediately pulled the ad and issued an apology. What effect the faux pas will have on Citroen's Chinese sales remains to be seen.

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

More by Frank Williams

Join the conversation
4 of 17 comments
  • Bloodnok Bloodnok on Jan 16, 2008

    i liked the economist's piece on the great chairman ...

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Jan 16, 2008
    1) A few years ago, the Taiwanese Kuomintang party used Hitler in a campaign ad, comparing him to the then-president and member of the other party. You'd never see that sort of politics in the good old US of A, though. ;-)
  • BlisterInTheSun BlisterInTheSun on Jan 17, 2008

    RE: bloodnok Great article - I read Chang & Halliday's book last summer. Great quote from the Economist piece: "Perhaps for the struggling executive, this is the single most important lesson: if you can't do anything right, do a lot. The more you have going on, the longer it will take for its disastrous consequences to become clear." There's a great explanation for MB's strategic planning over at GM.

  • Marknyn Marknyn on Feb 18, 2008

    The difference between Mao and Hitler was one of intent. Most of the deaths attributed to Mao were a result of bad policy decisions and perhaps pig-headedness- there was no intent to cause massive suffering , whereas for Hitler extermination was the name of the game. When Mao took over the average life expectancy was 35. In 1978, two years after he died it was 68 (partly due to a barefoot doctor system initiated by him) - so he probably SAVED many more lives than the deaths he was supposedly responsible for. The positives and negatives of Mao's rule is something for the Chinese people to decide about. Knowing many Chinese people both in China and overseas, it is quite obvious that Mao is still widely revered - especially in the poorer rural areas. And it is definitely something that the current leadership does not encourage, as to many Maoists the China of today has completely abandoned what is to them pure socialism. In fact pro-Mao demonstrators have been jailed quite recently. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of it, a signficant proportion, probably a good majority of Chinese still revere Mao. Citroen made a MARKETING blunder to start off with. That they have apologized has nothing to do with truckling to the Chinese communists - it just makes sense if you want to include Chinese among your customers.