Audi withdraws new ad video, apologizing for copying from Douyin blogger
Published: May 22, 2022 12:30 PM Updated: May 22, 2022 12:21 PM
Photo: Screenshot from Sina Weibo
Photo: Screenshot from Sina Weibo

FAW-Volkswagen Audi's newly released advertisement video on Chinese social media has been accused of copying from a Douyin influencer. The video advertisement, featuring Chinese Hong Kong's famous actor Andy Lau, has caused a huge public outcry over the brand's plagiarism.

On Saturday evening, a nearly 4-million-follower blogger on Chinese video platform Douyin named "Beida Mange [short as Mange]," accused the brand claiming that the script for its new video is in fact "from an original poem" that he composed on the same day in 2021.

"The poem was made by myself. Please ask the original author when citing them," said Mange, a popular educational content-driven video influencer graduated from Peking University, on his Douyin account. Mange accused the brand of failing to properly communicate with him before using his poem for marketing.

Audi apologized Sunday morning over the plagiarism, adding that the brand has removed the video from the Chinese social media platforms and has demanded the relevant companies to address the infringement.

The advertisement video was produced and shot by London-based ad agency m&c saatchi, who is in charge of Audi's advertising business in China.

Discussion is heating

Though the emergency removal announcement from the brand this morning, the video however has already gained vast attention all over social media where it gained over 5 million likes on Andy Lau's Douyin account.

The outcry of disappointment over this luxury car brand has trending the top list on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, which gained nearly 100 million views as of Sunday noon.

The video was supposed to be an introduction to traditional Chinese solar term Xiaoman (meaning grain buds), which falls on around May 21 every year. It is an indication of seeds from grain are ready for harvest.

"I've seen the video in 2021 [from Mange], and I watched the Audi video today. I was so excited at first as I thought there was a cooperation between the blogger and the brand. But I didn't expect the copying, and it is really disappointing for a car brand like this," said one netizen on Weibo.

What Audi would bear?

"This case belongs to the copyright infringement of others," Zhang Hongbo, director-general of the China Written Works Copyright Society, told the Global Times on Sunday.

According to the stipulations of the entrustment contract, the copyright of advertising films belongs to the advertiser, which is Audi in the case. Thus, the advertiser, Audi should bear the legal responsibility for infringement, including public apology and financial compensation, said Zhang.

He noted that advertisements are produced by advertising companies commissioned by the advertiser. But if advertisers were unaware of what materials are used by advertising companies, then Audi could pursue the responsibility of the advertising company and recovers losses from it according to the entrustment contract.

Audi should coordinate with the blogger on compensation matters, and ask for permission from the blogger to indicate at the end of the advertising video that they obtained his authorization, he added.

Apart for the legal issue, whether the plagiarism scandal will cause damage to product sales in this premium automaker's current most important market in the future remains unknown.

In 2021 fiscal year, Audi earned a revenue of about 1.14 billion euros in China, compared with 1.09 billion euros in 2020. It sold about 700,000 vehicles in the Chinese mainland during the period, making China once again its biggest single market in the world, data released by the company showed.