What could possibly be offensive about an advertisement for something as mundane as laundry detergent? Plenty, it turns out—at least when it comes to this commercial for a Chinese cleaner that has earned it the label of "most racist ad of 2016" from BuzzFeed, which adds viewing it "will likely leave you feeling like you need a shower." The promo for the Qiaobi product shows a Chinese woman throwing clothes into her washing machine, when she's suddenly interrupted by a black man who's got a little bit of white paint on his face and apparently something a little more amorous on his mind. The woman smiles, saunters over, then shoves a capsule of detergent into his mouth and shoves him headfirst into the washing machine. When he finally emerges, he's … a Chinese man, with the tag "Change begins with Qiaobi" and the man's original skin color basically "scrubbed off," as Quartz puts it.
The Wall Street Journal notes the ad, which incited outrage outside of China, initially didn't attract much attention there—perhaps because of continuing racism in China, where Quartz notes black people are often referred to by the local term for "black ghost." The Los Angeles Times even links some of China's racist advertising history back to the West, where blacks were "metaphors for filthiness" in old American and British soap ads. But after the global hubbub over the Qiaobi ad, Quartz notes, people in China started attacking it, too, commenting on the Weibo social network that it was "horrible," "disgusting," and "racist." A rep for Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics Co., the company said to produce the detergent, told the Journal he didn't really know about the ad. The promo can't even claim points for creativity: Shanghaiist says it's a "blatant ripoff"—down to the song playing in the background—of a similarly racist Italian ad from nearly a decade ago. (A recent Gap ad was accused of using a black girl as an armrest.)