A Woman Comes With an Expiration Date in This Chinese Brand’s Latest Provocative Ad

SK-II fights tradition once again

Headshot of T.L. Stanley

What if you reach the ripe old age of 30, busy pursuing a career and racking up accomplishments, and find yourself an unmarried or unattached woman? In Asia, you might as well be branded a loser, literally, says a new ad from Chinese skin care brand SK-II.

The marketer, having launched the #changedestiny campaign in 2015, continues to challenge cultural pressure on women to conform to traditional roles of (young) wife and mother.

Its latest video, viewed a whopping 46 million times globally, 36 million of those from China alone, uses a physical stamp, akin to a tattoo, to make its point about internal and external forces at work.


Three women in three different places (Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai) try to ignore, cover and conceal the “expiration dates” inked onto their forearms. But the numbers are always there, becoming more prominent as the years go by, in fact, to remind them that they’re running out of time to be desirable or marriable. Recently engaged co-workers and friends’ baby photos and social media feeds just add to the feeling that they’re missing out on something vital, accepted and expected.

“The Expiry Date” is a follow-up to last year’s emotional and moving video, dubbed “Marriage Market Takeover.” It’s based on so-called “marriage markets” in China, where parents advertise their daughters via written résumés and descriptions, aiming to match them up before they reach 25. After that, they’re considered “leftover women,” objects of societal pity or scorn. The twist: Women wrote their own messages about being independent and happy without marriage.

The new video, a trending topic on Asian social media and subject of talk-show coverage, follows its three subjects through various stages of their lives and, finally, conveys their sense of freedom when they change their perspective. The dreaded “expiration dates” disappear from their skin.

“You are more than your age,” says the ad from Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors. “Don’t let others put an expiry date on you.”

As part of the campaign, SK-II has been sharing stories of women who knocked down barriers and pursued their dreams as the brand aims to “inspire and empower women to shape their own destinies.”

@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.