China has further tightened the leash on celebrity endorsements by prohibiting them from associating with certain products and services in an attempt to end “illegal and falsified” validations.
Celebrities are now banned from commercially endorsing medical items, dietary supplements, extracurricular tutoring services, and tobacco products, among others, according to the guideline published by the State Administration of Market Regulation along with six other government departments Monday. The statement added that artists should be “fully” aware of the advertisers’ business backgrounds and “sufficiently” use the products before recommending them to the public.
“The chaos in the sector, which includes celebrities giving illegal and falsified endorsements and companies choosing unrighteous artists as spokespeople for their products, has severely infringed on consumers’ interests, disrupted the market order, and tainted the social atmosphere,” the guideline said.
The advertising sector has become the latest target for regulators to rein in on wealthy and influential individuals, following crackdowns on tax evasion and the “unhealthy” fan culture in efforts to reform social values. Monday’s guideline also included a set of rules urging celebrities to “adhere to core socialist values” and “avoid promoting wrongful mindsets and abnormal aesthetics” such as extravagance and materialism.
Ji Yufeng, a partner at Shanghai-based Huiye Law Firm, told Sixth Tone that the new regulation aimed to provide additional support to the existing national advertising law, as regulators further scrutinize the sector.
“It will prompt artists to be more aware of not only giving endorsements, but also the behavior in their private life in the face of increasing regulatory risks,” he said.
The guideline is seen as a direct response from regulators to stop celebrities from arbitrarily endorsing products amid a rise in public complaints about them using their influence to seek profit. In May, market regulators slapped popular actress Jing Tian with fines of over 7.2 million yuan ($989,000) for exaggerating the health benefits of a beverage, while actor Hu Jun was accused of fraud after recommending a peer-to-peer online wealth management platform.
“Many celebrities, especially those not at the top of the pyramid in the industry, are more likely to give in when faced with temptation,” Ji told Sixth Tone, adding that the artists and their operating teams have often fallen short of recognizing the problems associated with brand cooperation due to limited knowledge of the legal liabilities.
Since 2020, China has ratcheted up its control of the entertainment sector, introducing a raft of measures and rectification campaigns to tackle celebrities’ misconduct. Famous pop star Kris Wu was arrested over rape allegations, while a group of A-list television and film artists, including Fan Bingbing, Zheng Shuang, and Deng Lun, were slapped with massive fines for tax evasion or being involved in financial impropriety.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Left: A promotional photo of Hu Jun as the brand ambassador for a P2P platform; right: A promotional photo of Jing Tian advertising a weight management product that authorities said made false claims about its effectiveness. From Weibo)