Some online Chinese shoppers say they are boycotting companies that are using African children in video advertising messages, finding them exploitative and, in some cases involving adult themes and content, wildly inappropriate.
The trend features African children holding up message blackboards to tout products, or repeating phrases and commercial slogans on video. It has appeared across Chinese social media in recent weeks, according to People’s Daily and other Chinese media outlets.
The messaging services are marketed on the Alibaba Taobao platform, with prices ranging from just a few yuan to have the children send a birthday greeting to a friend, to 200 yuan or more for product commercials.
In some cases, the popular messages have shown African children from Zambia and other countries who are chanting Chinese swear words, or advertising X-rated livestream videos and sites for “pretty girls,” a Sixth Tone reporter found.
The children have no idea what they’ve really been asked to do or to endorse. Videographers who defend the practice say that since the children don’t know they’re using profanity, it can’t affect them; some shoppers agree, but others say they won’t use the services for ethical reasons.
“Many of the videos are also in violation of China’s advertising law because of unfounded claims, such as calling their product ‘the best’ or using other unlikely superlatives,” writes Kenrick Davis for Sixth Tone. “Taobao customer service told Beijing Youth Daily that they are aware of these issues and are investigating the vendors in question.”
While some Chinese are fans of the fad and say that Africans are benefiting from the income, People’s Daily and other accounts say they aren’t getting much more than a few snacks or tokens for their trouble.