Durex Livestreamed a Three-Hour Ad in China Featuring 50 Couples in Bed

Effort Got Massive Viewership, Plus Plenty of Complaints

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Durex is one of the most edgy and cheeky brands marketing in China. It focuses entirely on social and digital media, with funny viral posts that have made it a hit with youth. Recently, the brand promised something especially attention-getting: a three-hour livestream featuring 50 couples in bed.

Ads promoting the event gave hints that people shouldn't get their hopes up: "This video doesn't include most of the things you're imagining," said one. But some were hoping it would be titillating nonetheless, and because this was Durex, amusing too. (In one typical example of Durex humor, during storms in Beijing a few years back, the brand used its Weibo microblog to show how slipping condoms over running shoes could keep them dry.)

Ad Age's reporter tuned in only briefly to the performance art/marketing stunt; 50 couples were sitting in white beds, wearing white bathrobes and slippers, playing with condom boxes. Screenshots shared on social media showed the couples doing calisthenics, eating bananas and chatting. The "climax" was a puff of white smoke erupting from a giant Durex box. Maybe it was a metaphor for something sexual. To some it seemed to signal that this was all a lot of hot air.

Online, griping abounded. Some people doubted whether the program was really livestreamed, sharing screenshots showing a "replay" logo in the corner of the screen. One commenter on Weibo called it "the most boring live show in history and the most unsuccessful marketing case in Durex history." Another disappointed viewer vowed to use only other condom brands, Okamoto and Jissbon, in the future. (The company's marketing department didn't return an email seeking comment.)

On the other hand, people were definitely talking about the brand. And according to Chinese media reports, 5 million people tuned in across multiple video platforms.

The Reckitt Benckiser brand has done similar things before, with several three-hour broadcasts on platforms where people can tag videos with jokes and comments. The videos have an absurdist touch, and nothing much happens, leaving a mostly blank canvas for users' jokes and commentary. In one, a couple stood in front of a condom vending machine for three hours – without ever winding up in bed.

The story also appeared on Adage.com.

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Apr 29, 2016
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