Advertising and Marketing
Posted by Joel Martinsen on Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 2:31 PM
Feng Xiaogang hawks real estate on TV
Celebrity spokespersons across the country must have breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when Feng Xiaogang beat back a lawsuit concerning a commercial he'd appeared in.
In 2006, the well-known and much-admired director endorsed the Moon River housing development, calling it "the successful person's choice." In a TV spot, he told viewers, "I can reliably tell you that everything you see is real."
Taken in by the ad, and by the fact that Feng himself owned a home in the development, a man identified as Mr. Zhang spent 1.6 million yuan on a two-level apartment. But when he moved in, he found that the bathroom leaked, the floor buckled, the air conditioner was improperly installed, and the whole place reeked. Repeated repairs failed to solve the problems.
Zhang argued that Feng was responsible for the quality of the product he endorsed: "I bought this apartment because I trusted Feng Xiaogang. But he hadn't done the necessary checking up on what he was endorsing, so he engaged in false advertising." He sued the director for an apology and 80,000 yuan in compensation for mental anguish.
Feng's lawyer said that Zhang's problems were with how his particular unit was fixed up, and that the overall development was in line with what Feng had claimed in the advertisement.
Yesterday's Mirror reported that a court has rejected Zhang's claims by referring to China's Advertising Law, which assigns responsibility for false advertising to "advertisers, and advertising agents and publishers." An actor who does nothing illegal in a commercial, and is not "objectively wrong," is not responsible for the ad itself.
"Objectively wrong" provides the wiggle room that keeps these cases coming. The Mirror article included a brief summary of a few recent celebrity endorsement lawsuits:
The biggest case is yet to come: in the wake of the melamine milk scandal, Sanlu celebrity spokespersons Ni Ping and Deng Jie were sued for more than 90,000 yuan by a Chongqing resident over their role in endorsing tainted infant formula.
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