Audi’s joint venture company in China has been forced to apologize for allegedly using a poem in an ad without the original author’s permission.
The joint venture company, FAW-Volkswagen, said the ad was produced by UK advertising agency M&C Saatchi. In response to the controversy, Audi has instructed that the video be removed and that the company deal with the breach as soon as possible, China’s Global Times reported.
The ad, directed by Peng Yangjun, features Andy Lau, a famous actor from Hong Kong, and was initially well-received. It introduces the actor to the traditional Chinese solar word jiaoman (grain bud), which falls at this time of year.
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Although it was published on the same day, an influential figure named “Beida Mange” who is said to have more than 4 million followers in Douyin, which is the Chinese version of TikTok, criticized the brand for copying his work.
In fact, People’s Daily, a publication of the Communist Party, shared a video comparing FAW-Volkswagen’s ad with Beida Manger’s work, both clips seem to have the same text.
“We sincerely apologize to the original author, and promise to do our best to compensate the original author,” M&C Sachi wrote in a statement. “We sincerely promise that we will respect and protect the rights and interests of the original authors in creating the advertisement and will strictly prevent this situation.”
The original ad has since been removed but it has sparked a discussion about copyright on another Chinese social media site, Weibo, with some users complaining that Mang didn’t first come up with the idea and that he copied it from others. Users
Meanwhile, ChinaNews reported that a recent BMW commercial titled “Liangkang X New BMW 8 Series” filmed by Peng Yangjun, the same director of Audi advertising, was mysteriously pulled from multiple platforms without explanation.
Outside of legal issues, the People’s Daily wrote that Audi’s JV could do “huge damage” to its corporate image, while urging regulators to investigate the case. While most Western carmakers have their own fair share of design copyright complaints against local manufacturers (mainly), China is critical to the German brand, which sold more than 700,000 cars in the country last year.