July 2nd, 2008
10:00 AM ET
6 years ago

Japan phone company pulls 'monkey' ad that hints at Obama

A Japanese company has pulled a cell phone ad that uses a monkey that appears to portray Obama.
A Japanese company has pulled a cell phone ad that uses a monkey that appears to portray Obama.

(CNN) - A Japanese cell phone company has pulled one of its television ads that used a monkey that appears to portray Sen. Barack Obama.

The commercial opens with a crowd rallying behind a well-dressed monkey speaking from a podium. The supporters are cheering and waving signs that say “Change.” In the ad, the monkey was encouraging users to change providers.

Watch: Cell phone company pulls ad

The company behind the ad, eMobile Ltd., insists it had no idea of any racial undertones and says the ad was just a nod at Obama’s worldwide popularity.

Eric Gan, president of eMobile, points out that their company’s mascot is a monkey – an animal revered in Japan - and has been used in previous ads.

“When we saw the idea for the first time, it was ‘Hey, you're copying the idea from the presidential election in the U.S.’ Yes, but, you know, that's how you make a presentation. How you make an impact. We thought it quite was interesting,” he said.

Bloggers immediately voiced their disapproval of the ad and accused the company of being racist.

Gan says the company was unaware of how the ad might be interpreted, but “now, of course, we know.”


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. It takes sound judgement, not experience

    Hey Jim In S.C. – who said Obama is evading a debate? The problem is mccain thinks he can call the shots and Obama is his own man and will determine what is best for him also. Who the he– does mccain think he is anyway? I know what he is but I can't say it here.

    July 2, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. Bill in Ohio

    The monkey is the mascot of the company. It is a clever ad and nothing else. They should do one with a skeleton for McCain.

    July 2, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. Silence Dogood

    This is every challenger politician in the world. They have always run on "change". Why Obama fans think this is a new thing is beyond me. It isn't enough to take offense locally. We have to scour the world to find new venues to be offended. It is not always about you! There are more people in the world than the little black vs. white drama we have created. We = all of us, including Obama.

    I think the world is just waiting to see if we choose a War president or Preppy suit president. If they are not starving somewhere and could care less. Which one makes us gag less?

    July 2, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  4. Carl Granieri

    This is a matter of cultural static, not racism. If an American company did this we would all rightfully be outraged, but the monkey is a sacred animal in Japanese culture. It's entirely plausible that they did not know the American implications of the use of that animal.

    July 2, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. Davis

    It is time we stop seeing everything through the color lens. It is getting really ..really ridiculous. I have no doubt in my mind that Japan is amongst the top racist nations in the world. I still think this ad was interpreted out of context.

    Monkeys are revered in many cultures. Just because some no good morons used it as they did in the past doesn't mean the world should stop mentioning them. As a person of color I dont find anything wrong with the ad. Monkey is their mascot for many years and they rever it.

    I think its time we focus on real problems at home like stopping voilence and educating the childre

    July 2, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  6. al

    ******************************************

    MAYBE THE AD MAKER IS RACIST OR THE EXECS ARE RACIST
    MAYBE NOT
    MAYBE THE EXECS KNOW THE AD HAS RACIST UNDERTONE
    MAYBE NOT
    MAYBE THE EXECS KNEW IT WOULD STIR CONTROVERSY
    MAYBE NOT
    MAYBE THE EXECS SHOULD BE AWARE OF AMERICAN DO'S AND DONT'S
    MAYBE NOT
    THE BOTTOM LINE IS PUBLICITY AND THEY SURE GOT IT.
    STILL A DISTASTEFUL WAY OF DOING BUSINESS

    July 2, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  7. CL OT

    I Would vote for the Monkey over Nobama

    July 2, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. Peter E

    Ooo, stop the presses! Somebody in a remote part of the world made a reference to Obama that in some twisted way could be interpreted as negative! See how Obama despite his popularity and millions in fortune is a victim of the entire world?

    July 2, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. Monkeyman

    how did they get George Bush to do the ad for eMobile? Remember for whom the chimp smirks, it smirks at thee

    July 2, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  10. eric

    Because he knows people like you, Jim, won't listen to a single thing he says anyway, so why waste his time right now. The Japanese really didn't know there was anything to it. They actually rever the monkey as being intelligent and noble. It's pretty dumb to think a Japanese company will ignore their own country's cultural heritage to adopt a foreign country's just to make a racist statement about a foreign political candidate. Remember, the commercial only ran in Japan.

    July 2, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  11. Voter in ATL

    This is disturbing on so many levels that I don't know where to begin.

    While I don't think that the Japanese meant any ill will or overt racism, I do know that having traveled abroad that many non-Americans connote blacks with Simians – largely due to African correlation. So the implication is there.

    It was just a terrible ad choice and whomever the ad executive was should be strongly reprimanded if not fired.

    I don't think that any neo-Cons had their hands in this, but then again I don't know that for sure.

    I just think it's improper when we, as Americans, are taught in advertising to be sensitive to other countries especially if we plan to market or sell our products globally. Even if they are not planning to do that, they have to realize that Americans, black and white, are present in their country and see their commercials.

    This is simply deplorable.

    July 2, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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