Anger as racy International Nurses Day promotion misfires in China

JD.com used International Nurses Day to launch a promotion of sexy nurse outfits. The company has since removed the promotion in response to criticism.

Story highlights

  • Chinese company celebrates International Nurses Day by promoting sexy nurse lingerie
  • Internet users were outraged by the marketing gimmick
  • JD has since removed the page and apologized

Beijing (CNN)It's meant to be a day to honor the hard work of an often unsung profession -- nursing.

But one of China's biggest online retailers chose to celebrate International Nurses Day, which falls on May 12, in a unconventional fashion -- with a promotion of racy nurse outfits and lingerie, vibrators and condoms. It unleashed a storm of criticism, especially on social media.
    "The day for sweet, caring nurses," the promotion reads.
    Many Chinese Internet users thought that JD.com's marketing gimmick overstepped the mark, calling it offensive and appalling on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
    A doctor surnamed Wang, with a Weibo user name @baiyishanmao, posted the screen grab of the promotion Monday and it has since been shared more than 12,000 times.

    'You insult every single nurse'

    "We don't care if you sell sexy lingerie, but you insult every single nurse by overtly linking them to such profane stuff on International Nurses Day," Wang told CNN. He declined to give his full name.
    "I as a doctor felt obligated to speak up. I showed the screen grabs to my nurse colleagues, and they were all resentful. We demand an apology from JD."
    Wang also posted their demand for an apology on Weibo. Thousands of others were outraged too, saying JD.com, also known as Jingdong Mall, was "shameless."
    In a statement obtained by CNN, JD.com said it had since removed the promotion and apologized for its "offensive nature."
    "We briefly ran a promotion which was in poor taste, contrary to our corporate values and completely unacceptable."
    "We are reviewing our internal controls to ensure that this type of incident does not occur in the future."
    The Chinese Nurse Association didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Many thought the promotion was in poor taste.
    International Nurses Day is celebrated on the birthday of British nurse Florence Nightingale, who is regarded as the founder of modern nursing for her work during the Crimean War.
    Wang said the screen grab had been circulating among the medical community, and his colleagues had earlier called JD.com's customer services, requesting the company to take it page down.
    "The customer service attendants said it was a good marketing plan," Wang said.
    It's common in China for businesses to use commemorative days as marketing opportunities and it's not the first time this has backfired.
    In March, two of China's biggest Internet companies caused offense on International Women's Day, with homepage "doodles" that were ridiculed as sexist.