Marketing or copying in China?

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Marketing or copying in China?

A good advertisement doesn’t mean that there won’t be any backlash or digging into how the ad is made. This is reflected clearly in a recent scandal about a hit advertisement by Andy Lau in China when his advertisement over the Audi car brand got criticized as copying and pasting word by word to a post by another famous vlogger in China.   

The German luxury carmaker Audi advertisement featuring Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau got slammed heavily on China’s social media platforms.

Not just in China but the news has become globally, massively affecting the name of Audi and Andy Lau.

The advertisement consisted of a monologue about Xiaoman, the eighth solar term of the traditional Chinese calendar. Xiaoman literally means “small full”, referring to the buds of grain. 

As many have known, this is a vivid symbol of Asian culture in general and China, in particular. For China, the buds of grain feature at the beginning of summer. 

Lau commented that Xiaoman represents a stage towards fullness. Not a surprise to anyone, the Audi car resembles such fullness and is featured as a must-have vehicle on the road to the pursuit of fullness, happiness, etc. 

When it came out, the ad became the nation’s hit. On May 21, Lau’s social media account got millions of likes, boosting both his reputation and that of Audi. 

However, with such tremendous viewers, the public soon pointed out that the advertisement is a copy word-by-word from a TikTok post by a Chinese vlogger who is also incredibly famous with over 3 million followers. 

Dealing with the consequence

After the words are spread, Audi, as expected from a global company, immediately removed the advertisement from its official channels. 

Soon, an apology was given, stating that the ad was produced by ad agency M&C Saatchi, which also apologized. 

Andy Lau also quickly issued a public message to express his regret and respect for the original work, stating that he is also unaware of the fact that the ad is completely forged. 

A few days later, the vlogger, owner of the original content has spoken out and said that he accepted and forgave Audi and the ad agency and that he would license his copy to Audi free of charge. 

However, although the related parties settle the conflict in harmony, the damage is done and the reputation of Audi, Saatchi, as well as Lau, has been tainted. The proof of this is that keywords such as “Audi Xiaoman Advertising Plagiarism” and “Audi and Andy Lau” were trending topics on Weibo. 

People’s Daily Online, a state-owned news outlet, even criticized the ad as “pixel-level plagiarism” and the whole case as the “scandal of the year”.

Expert opinions

The case ended in harmony but for future reference, a copyright lawsuit might await Audi, Saatchi, and Andy Lau as reputation damage might not be the only consequence. 

Justina Zhang, a senior partner at TransAsia Lawyers, explained: “First, liabilities are driven by both advertising law and copyright law. Under article 63 of the advertising law, the advertiser, publishers, and ad agency bear civil responsibility according to applicable law, if the ad infringes legitimate civil rights and interests of other parties, which includes copyright. Under Copyright Law, civil liability for the infringing party (generally the advertiser) can include orders to cease the infringement, take remedial actions, and/or issue an apology, and the payment of damages. Damages are calculated with reference to: (i) the actual losses suffered by the rights holder, or the illegal proceeds obtained by the infringer; or (ii) the royalties payable for such rights if it is difficult to calculate actual losses or illegal proceeds. If the above methods do not apply, then the court may award compensation ranging from Rmb 500 to Rmb 5 million (US$747,000).”

***Other Articles***

– You could see How To Register Trademark in China here.

– You could visit here to see Procedure of Trademark in China.

– You could visit here to check Required documents of filing trademark in China.

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