IKEA causes social media frenzy in Hong Kong using Chinese slang in provocative ad for new dessert

IKEA causes social media frenzy in Hong Kong using Chinese slang in provocative ad for new dessert

Swedish furniture giant uses term for groping to promote their bean curd ice cream


IKEA ran an ad with a controversial message posted last Saturday.
Photo: Shutterstock

Ikea Hong Kong released an advertisement on their official Facebook last Saturday for an ice-cream dessert which has garnered online criticism from netizens. The ad is for a bean curd flavoured ice cream cone that has Chinese accompanying text, which can be loosely translated into English as: “You can eat my bean curd whenever you like”. “Eat someone’s bean curd” is Chinese slang for groping someone.

Ikea is a Swedish-founded group that sells furniture and other home accessories.

The ad, posted on May 4, has more than 2,000 comments and close to 600 re-shares, which is much higher than other posts which average around 20 comments and 50 shares.

Dr Dominic Yeo, Assistant Professor at the department of communication studies at Baptist University, said it’s “not uncommon” for food advertisements to include content like this as clickbait.

“They are meant to be playful and draw attention to the product,” he said, “But obviously, as this case shows, it can be also quite controversial.”

你哋食還食,記得溫柔啲~想見我一面嘅,就喺5月30號前去IKEA美食廊啦! Handle with care – it’s our silkiest sundae cone ever! Available at IKEA Bistro before May 30.

IKEA 宜家家居發佈於 2019年5月3日星期五


“I normally don’t pay attention to Ikea’s advertisements, but I immediately ‘liked’ this one after seeing it on other platforms,” writes one Facebook user.

But a number of Facebook users were quick to criticise the move, with some calling it a “bad decision” on Ikea’s part.

Dr Yeo said the public backlash is not surprising, given the recent #MeToo movement, a drive against sexual harassment that originated in the US but has since made an impact around the globe.

“The advertisement text ‘as long as you wish, you could have it anytime’ set against a pink background, which signals femininity, and the play on the Chinese name of “bean curd”, reinforce what scholars refer to as “toxic masculinity” or harmful ideas about manhood,” said Dr Yeo.

Others on Facebook took the extra step to create memes in a similar vein.

In a written reply to Young Post, an Ikea spokesperson said “Ikea is a firm believer of ‘a better world starts at home’ and strives to create a better everyday life for the many people. We embrace fair and equality. We have been working hard to communicate in a playful yet positive manner, so our customers may have better understanding on our offers.

“The latest tofu flavour sundae promotional post ‘speaks’ for itself to emphasis the silky taste. We humbly listen to the opinions from society, and will continue to uphold our commitment to provide products that create better living for the many.”

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