P&G apologizes for stink about women’s feet

Procter & Gamble was caught wrong-footed when a posting questioned the olfactory qualities of Chinese women’s feet.

By WU Rong


Procter & Gamble have got off on the wrong foot with a posting that attempted to convince Chinese women that their feet smelled worse than men’s. On March 13, a post on the company’s WeChat account announced that “women’s foot odor is five times smellier than men’s.” And challenged the incredulous to “smell it if you don’t believe it.”

The ad was an attempt to establish a market for the latest idea in indispensable personal hygiene products. The post, containing other similar claims, annoyed almost everyone on China’s social media platforms. Netizens quite reasonably questioned the source of the data and accused the company of stigmatizing women. For years, advertising of hygiene and cosmetic products has been based on convincing women that they have a defect, and that product X gets them back on the endless road to unachievable perfection. But perhaps the mood has started to swing.

A paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2019 found no significant difference in bacteria on the feet of males and females. The fast-changing social media landscape presents shaky ground these days for ads that ride on hype and hashtags. While consumers are becoming more socially conscious, some brands are still objectifying, or even vilifying, women in marketing campaigns targeting the female audience.

P&G has now deleted the article from its WeChat account and apologized to any women who had been offended. “P&G always advocates for equality, inclusions, and respect. These are at the core of our values. We have deleted the content and have reviewed the operation of this social account. We will reflect deeply and make sure this never happens again”.