How did Durex Fail its Cooperative Promotional Campaign with HeyTea the Tea Brand?

Well, it is tough. China is a country that is not that open to sex. Unlike many western countries, China does not necessarily include comprehensive sex education in its schooling system. We tend to avoid using direct terms to refer to sexual activities in public, especially when it comes to advertisements. It leaves Durex in a tough spot: It becomes an extremely challenging task for the condom brand to engage in promotional activities in a country that is just not open to sex.

Yet, the brand certainly found a way: the virtue of euphemisms saved the company and also offered its marketing professionals to showcase their talents in finding creative ways to connect everyday things to sex. Not only does Durex do a fantastic job in self-promotion, but the company also helped many other firms, brands, and start-up companies in advertisements and could often surprise the public. People enjoy the sense of humor, the acts of surprises, and the well-prepared verses that certainly turned into classical marketing case studies.

Durex China’s official Weibo account has 3.1 million followers and that’s the platform the company uses to release its latest advertisements and promotion campaigns. Durex attempts to engage in all kinds of trending topics on Chinese social media. From the latest TV shows to upcoming holidays, Durex is consuming all possible topics that could attract viewers and increase their following. By using inference and implicit language, Durex is leaving open ends for viewers to think about sex, even though the marketing scripts show nothing but normal conversation and discrete tag lines.

Durex weibo account has 3.1 million followers

Durex shows its expertise in the art of pun-making. In a poster with food delivery service Ele.me, Durex came up with the sentence “Feeding every single mouth.” In the poster with TaoPiaoPiao, Durex had the sentence “Every movie that you are in is classic.”

The sentences could have very different meanings in different contexts. Durex became the expert in utilizing the technique. In addition to serving the company in promotional purposes, these posters and advertisements are becoming more like a form of artwork, the art of communicating two ideas at the same time, and the art of expressing one thing without using direct language.

Becoming way more successful than its competitors, Durex is truly showing its dominance in these creative ads. In a country that has such complicated views and opinions on sex, Durex is indeed performing at its very best to attract viewers attention while maintaining a positive corporate image at the same time.

co-promotion post of Durex and HeyTea (Source: Durex)

However, these forms of creativity may not be appreciated by consumers all the time. In a co-promotion event with Chinese milk tea brand HeyTea, Durex came up with the line “Not leaving one single drop”. The picture and the sentences imply that when drinking bubble tea, people find the tea so delicious that they finish it all. And when it comes to sex, I’m sure you can figure that one out on your own.

The date April 19 also sounds like the term ‘For one night: Four one nine, for one night. The timing made the advertisement more sexually engaged than usual. There is certainly a mixed feeling when comparing milk tea to certain bodily fluids, but the idea was expressed very clearly. Using simple language, Durex is making people think about sex to promote their business.

These practices may not always receive positive feedback as some consumers find it odd to relate tea to sex. Facing huge public backlash, HeyTea was forced to retract the promotional campaign and issued an apology to the public for the inappropriate use of language. Indeed, it is hard for people to drink HeyTea while associating the beverage with semen. It is weird, and to some extent, quite negative for both brands.

It is a truly a double edged sword when playing around puns and implicit sexual language. Durex’s past success did not save the company from the failure of this beverage promotion campaign. It will take a while for the company to bounce back from the backlash. And let’s hope that next time, we will not face this kind of embarrassment from one of the most creative promotion teams in the country.

Featured Image Source: Inkstone