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Leonardo DiCaprio’s Latest Role: Selling Used Cars on This Chinese Website

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Leo’s career trajectory has always been in a constant state of flux. From supporting roles to superstardom with Titanic, then an infamous series of near-misses at the Oscars, and an eventual victory with The Revenant, Leo’s proven himself so many times. But his latest role finds him outside his comfort zone, fighting for acceptance from an industry and fans alike. Leonardo DiCaprio is the new spokesperson for the Chinese used car website, Youxin.

The collaboration is, admittedly, unexpected. But if Youxin’s press release is to be believed, the partnership is the most natural thing in the world. Wang Xing, the company CMO, explains in an article titled Partnering with Oscar-winner Leonardo, Youxin Holds on Tightly to the Foremost Position of Used Car E-Commerce:

“The reason we chose Leonardo is for his ability to continually break through his limitations and reach for his dreams — it matches the corporate vision of Youxin. These are the qualities that go beyond age, race, and nationality, to achieve the extraordinary. Youxin partners with Leonardo to pay homage to everyone who has a dream, and continues to strive for it.”

An ad from the Leonardo DiCaprio campaign

Hm. Alright, Wang Xing. That’s sounding kind of vague. Could you elaborate?

“Everything Youxin does is like the two feet of a swan, paddling the water consistently underneath it – we hope the consumers will be like swans, taking part in an elegant and enjoyable lifestyle with their cars, on the water.”

Nailed it. Let’s go to some viewer reactions.

Brian, an advertising associate in Shanghai, questions Leo’s decision to work with Youxin.

“I saw the ad in an elevator and thought, this is the most ridiculous thing ever. It gives the impression he’s bowing down to money. As a Hollywood star, this isn’t what you should represent. You can do Armani, Omega…but don’t do Youxin. Are you really that broke? It felt like he sold out.”

Could this have repercussions for Leo’s image in China?

“I think it could. People are going to say, wow, Leonardo DiCaprio is just doing whatever now. He’s supposed to be a glamorous Hollywood star, where you never know what he’s up to. But now he’s representing this Chinese used car company…it’s like, oh, you’re just one of us. Nothing special about you after all.”

Tiantian, at a different advertising firm, thinks more in numbers.

“The first time I saw this ad, it was in an elevator. I thought, whew, this must cost a huge amount of money. And it made me a bit confused. Why would this secondhand car exchange brand hire Leonardo DiCaprio? Maybe they want their brand image to be like Leo, but before their brand image was more like Wang Baoqiang [a Chinese actor with family appeal]. They’re two very different images.”

So it seems Chinese audiences are puzzled by Leo’s sudden enthusiasm for used cars, just as you likely were at the top of this post. And I’m afraid it’s my unfortunate duty to inform you that when I first came across this ad, it was, that’s right, in an elevator.

The smoldering visage of a well-coiffed DiCaprio lingers like a specter in elevators across China, and only time will tell what it means for the actor or the ambitious website. We’ll be staying tuned to Youxin’s next-quarter revenue reports, here at RADII.

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a Shanghai-based writer, producer, and multimedia artist, and the Associate Editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip-hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school so he could train at the Shaolin Temple, but now just uses it to interview rappers.

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