Brands are being forced to choose a side in Hong Kong protests


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

July 15, 2019 | 4 min read

The ongoing protests in Hong Kong by its citizens over a controversial extradition bill and their unhappiness with how China is governing the island have seen an effect on brands and the platforms they use to buy ads.


Protesters outside a Yoshinoya branch in Hong Kong. Photo: SCMP.

Here’s what you need to know.

Television Broadcasts (TVB)

Pocari Sweat, the Japanese sports drink giant pulled its ads from TVB, Hong Kong’s largest television station, accusing TVB of displaying pro-Beijing sentiments in the station’s coverage of the extradition bill protests.

“In view of the current situation, we have made a decision to withdraw the advertisements from TVB broadcast stations last week and we will request to withdraw all advertisements on other TVB platforms,” said a statement by Pocari which was leaked.

Its decision did not go down well in the mainland as Chinese girl group GNZ48 terminated their deal with the drink, users on Weibo and WeChat announced they were boycotting the drinks, and the Chinese media slammed the brand for pushing and supporting Hong Kong’s independence from China.

Hong Kong's former chief executive Chun-ying Leung also asked consumers to boycott Pocari Sweat Hong Kong, accusing it of being unable to “differentiate between right and wrong”

Pocari’s China office was quick to respond that it respects the “one country, two systems” policy and stressed that it worked independently from the Hong Kong’s office.

Yum China, which runs KFC in the mainland, also distanced itself from the fast-food chain run by a different company in Hong Kong, Jardines, which said it had stopped its ads from running on TVB.

Meanwhile, brands like Cigna Hong Kong, an insurance company, said it will not renew its contract with TVB to run ads, while Wonder Life, a condom manufacturer, called on TVB to change its reporting style or it will not run ads on their platforms.

The Communications Authority, Hong Kong’s industry watchdog, said it had received about 12,000 complaints about TVB’s news reports on the controversial bill since June and was looking into them.


The Japanese fast-food chain engaged in trendjacking with an ad that made fun of police for tearing down anti-extradition bill messages on a “Lennon Wall”, where protesters stick notes and drawings in support of a cause.

The fast-food chain asked people to stop calling a traditional Japanese food Chikuwa, which is served at its outlets and pronounced as Si Zi Gau. The word means “lion dog” in Mandarin and sounds like “a dog that tore paper” in Cantonese.

However, the post was taken down after the chain’s owner, who is pro-Beijing and based in the mainland, said he was not informed of the post beforehand. The decision to take down the post saw many Hong Kongers calling for a boycott of the chain.

According to The South China Morning Post, Social Strategy Hong Kong, the agency that created the ad, said no one in Yoshinoya or the agency had been fired.

The South China Morning Post

The publisher, which is owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has covered the protests extensively, reporting only the facts and giving both sides of the stories. It previously told The Drum that it protects advertisers, regardless of their affiliations, with brand safety measures.


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