Japan Firm Scraps Ad After Racial Controversy
An ad aired by the mobile unit of eAccess Ltd showed the firm's mascot, a monkey, addressing a political rally in Japanese and surrounded by supporters brandishing placards with the word "Change".
Some bloggers said the eMobile ad was racist because it seemed to refer to Obama and his campaign slogan advocating change. Earlier this week Britain's Telegraph newspaper ran a story saying the ad "apparently portraying Barack Obama as a monkey has provoked a new row about racial depictions of the Democratic candidate".
Monkeys, while revered in parts of Asia, are viewed in the United States as a racial slur if used to depict African Americans.
eMobile said on Friday that the firm never meant to malign Obama but was withdrawing the ad after the outbreak of criticism in cyberspace.
"We have decided to stop the commercial," eMobile spokesman Takashi Igarashi told Reuters in an e-mail. "We should avoid every possibility of misunderstanding and unintentional reaction."
eMobile CEO Sachio Semmoto said the advertisement, which he said was produced by WPP Group Plc's JWT unit, had meant to underscore his firm's commitment to change.
"For two years I've been saying that Obama has the capacity to change America, the kind of capacity that Japan needs," said Semmoto, who has a reputation as a maverick and whose company has carved out a niche in Japan with a pricing model that differs from more entrenched competitors.
Monkey deities exist in Hinduism, Buddhism and Shintoism, and monkey figures are common in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Japan, including the famous 17th century carving of three wise monkeys on the facade of the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. In Hinduism, Hanuman is a monkey god revered for courage and power.
Semmoto is a director and trustee of Reuters Founder Share Company, which is charged with safeguarding Thomson Reuters independence, integrity and freedom from bias. (Reuters)
***** Trust the Japanese to come out with a racist ad at the worst possible moment! There are many who have stayed in Japan who will vouch that they are among the most racist and chauvinistic people on the planet.