China’s Baidu just released the most sexist self-driving car ad
Chinese search giant Baidu has a self-driving car project in development that aims to put its autonomous driving platform into vehicles as early as next year. The company’s latest attempt at a viral promotion is far from anything you’d expect to see from one of the world’s most advanced autonomous projects, however — or really any major brand in 2017.
Baidu’s US Twitter account posted a short video today about how self-driving cars will make the world a better place. But the spot quickly devolves into a tone deaf play on gender stereotypes, a cringeworthy mashup of 21st century tech and 1950s sensibilities.
The skit opens with two women leaving work talking about makeup, and it quickly goes downhill from there.
There are certainly cultural differences when it comes to gender roles in the US and China, and the commercial was definitely shot with the Chinese market in mind. We don’t want to score cheap points lambasting the marketing effort out of context — but Baidu shared it via its US distribution channels, so there’s some room here for critique.
This isn’t the first time Baidu has pushed boundaries with its autonomous development project. The company reportedly showed off the platform’s safety features by having engineers jump out in front of a moving car, and Baidu CEO Robin Li took an illegal, live-streamed joyride to the company’s Create AI developers conference in July.
Companies with self-driving car projects face an uphill battle to educate consumers about the potential benefits of the new technology, so these types of campaigns are important as the platforms mature. Going forward, Baidu might want to take a note from Intel and find a pitchman like LeBron James so it can leave the dated, awkward gender dynamics in the past with manually operated vehicles.