Marriage Market Takeover for Leftover Women

International skincare brand SK-ll is running “Marriage Market Takeover”, a documentary putting a spotlight on the real-life issue of Chinese women being pressured to get married before they turn 25. In it, a number of brave Chinese women have daringly chosen to speak their mind about one of the most controversial subjects in recent Chinese history, the ”Sheng Nu” label. According to The New York Times, the term was made popular by the All-China Women’s Federation in 2007 and translates to ”leftover woman”. As has been reported by the BBC, The New York Times and China Daily, the term has been used to denounce women who, regardless of the reason, want to wait with marriage – women who simply want to marry for love. At the heart of the campaign is a takeover of the marriage market in Shanghai.

SK-11 Marriage Market family

As the film shows, marrying for love can be easier said than done. In many Chinese cities so-called marriage markets are a common sight. Here, parents go to post, compare and match personal ads, listing the height, weight, salary, values and personality of their sons and daughters. In some cases, women are unaware that their parents have listed them at a marriage market. The markets are a symbol of the different views on marriage between two generations which lead to the pressure put on women by their families. In the film, many interviewees describe that they are torn between trying to meet their parents’ expectations to build a family, while at the same time wanting to choose their own path in life.

The Marriage Market Takeover is part of SK-11 brand campaign #changedestiny, launched in 2015 to inspire and empower women to shape their own destiny. As a part of this campaign SK-II has been sharing stories of women who overcame challenges and barriers that were preventing them from achieving their dreams and goals. The success stories of these women have become a source of inspiration to women around the world.

The film shows the marriage market in Shanghai’s People’s Park being taken over. A huge and beautiful installation was made with SK-II’s own ”marriage ads” that were in fact not ads but messages from hundreds of independent women, stating that they want to be in control of their own destiny. By doing so, a platform was created from where the women could voice their thoughts. On this platform, the women are shown to be happy, independent and confident – the opposite of the desperate image of Sheng Nus often being portrayed. The women tell the world how they see themselves and ask for better understanding.

SK-11 Marriage Market display
SK-11 Marriage Market display
SK-11 Marriage Market posters

Sharing some of their most personal feelings requires the women to be strong, as they have experienced an increase in pressure from both society, family and friends ever since the phrase Sheng Nu came into use. For many, being unmarried is a great source of anxiety because of the social stigma. This is especially true for women of the growing middle class, whose focus on education, career and independence makes them more inclined to wait and marry for love instead of necessity. A lot of the women SK-II has interviewed have shared stories of how happy and fulfilled they are, but they have failed to convince their parents and friends to see them in the same way they see themselves.

Despite living under pressure, these women have advanced and been able to achieve so much in so little time. They are capable, smart, talented and independent, and they are more than their marriage status. Undeterred, they’ve now decided to participate in this film, challenging what it means to be a Sheng Nu in the process. For these women, being successful and independent is something to be proud of and they refuse to conform to age-old traditions.

In addition to taking a stand for their right to marry in their own time, the women are asking for support to help change the perception of the word. They want to reconstruct the mutual respect between generations, increase society’s understanding of women’s right to choose their paths in life freely and take control of their destinies.

SK-11 Marriage Market poster
SK-11 Marriage Market poster
SK-11 Marriage Market poster
SK-11 Marriage Market poster


The SK-11 Marriage Market campaign was developed at Forsman & Bodenfors, Stockholm, by art directors Sophia Lindholm, Karina Ullensvang, copywriter Tove Eriksen Hillblom, designer Christian Sundén, planner My Troedsson, agency producers (film/digital) Alexander Blidner (film) and Peter Gaudiano (digital), PR strategist Amat Levin, account supervisor Susanna Fagring, account manager Linda Tiderman working with Global SK-II brand director Kylene Campos.

Filming was shot by director Floyd Russ via Tool of North America with director of photography Jacob Moller, producer Mary Church and executive producer Robert Helphand.

Editor was Robert Ryang at Cut + Run. Sound was produced at Cut + Run. Music is by Victor Magro at Future Perfect.

Media and PR were handled at AOL/Be On.