JD Group has issued a public apology since a video clip posted on TikTok promoting the company’s lending services went viral.

A brief summary of the plot:

On a plane, a mid-aged migrant worker asked the air stewardess to open the window as his mother, sitting next to him, was feeling sick. The other passengers laughed – “have you taken an airplane before?”

The air stewardess offered an alternative, which is to upgrade to business class. That would cost CNY 1290. The migrant worker took out his mobile phone, and the mobile wallet balance was only CNY 53.12. 

As he was, embarrassingly, turning down the upgrade, a voice from a suited man in the cabin said “I will pay for it”. He then took the phone of the migrant worker, and taught him how to get CNY150k credit from JD Finance app.

He did not forget to tell the person that it is legit lending from a reputable company and charging very low interest rates. 

While the video is definitely very cheesy – there is something deeper. The company, JD, probably does not even know about the content of this video produced, before it went viral (in a negative way).

The reason being is that big companies in China commonly outsource the production and publication of such videos to third parties advertising companies, on a commission-based model. Clicks and conversions of each video is tracked, based on which the vendor is paid.

Some advertising companies further outsource the production to another set of entities. As hundreds if not thousands of videos were created, it is difficult for JD to check and review every piece of content.

And the production/advertising companies typically generate a lot of videos according to the following plot framework:

  1. The protagonist is in a difficult situation;
  2. He/she realises that they do not have enough money to solve the problem;
  3. Someone nearby tells you a solution – borrowing from JD finance in this case;
  4. A call to action, maybe including a promo code.

Sadly, no creativity at all. Everything is geared towards conversion.

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