A Cartier advert was applauded for celebrating two men in love. Until it claimed they’re actually father and son

Two men riding bikes in a Cartier advert

Cartier has sparked confusion and outrage by claiming two men featured in a Chinese advert are father and son, rather than a gay couple.

The advert was released ahead of China’s Qixi Festival on August 25, often described as the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day.

The French jewellery brand promoted its Trinity ring as the perfect way to celebrate various different kinds of love, and the video ad features romantic couples, groups of friends, two women lying on the ground and two men riding bikes, all wearing the iconic three-coloured ring.

The video, which was posted on Cartier’s Chinese social media platforms, does not include any narration or dialogue, but ends with the message: “How far would you go for love?”

Many viewers interpreted the advert as representing queer couples, and according to CPPLuxury, the top comment on Cartier’s Weibo post was: “I feel like this supports LGBT.”

But when the print version was released, the image of the two men on bikes was captioned: “Father and son are also friends — happily sharing life’s journey.”

According to CNN, one Weibo user wrote: “Viewers simply can’t believe the [older] man is the ‘father’ based on the casting and performance.”

Others insisted the couple had a “romantic vibe”, and one person commented: “Trying so hard to conceal something has made something ordinary so weird.”

In a statement on Thursday, August 13, Cartier said the advert was intended to tell stories of “romantic, friendship, or family love”.

The company insisted: “As such, one of the stories features the unique bond between a father and his son, enjoying a joyful and playful bike ride together, symbolising the journey of life when there will be moments of parting ways.”

However, LGBT+ activists felt that the jewellery brand was giving in to anti-LGBT+ censorship in the country.

Stigma and discrimination are still rife in China, and a 2016 United Nations survey found that just 15 per cent of LGBT+ people had come out to their immediate family.

Government censorship of queer content has long been a problem in China, and a significant number of films LGBT+ themes – such as Brokeback MountainCall Me By Your Name and Deadpool – are banned entirely.

Queer activists told CNN they felt “upset and resigned” over the Cartier advert, and Yanzi Peng, director of China Rainbow Media Awards, said: “Some may believe [Cartier] is just trying to make some ‘pink dollars,’ but I’m inclined to be more positive in thinking that they are supporting gay rights in a way… by raising our visibility through this kind of ads.

“Of course supporting gay rights will also bring these companies economic benefits — it is a win-win scenario.”

“Businesses should be more courageous and take another step forward.”