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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/02/art.monkey.ap.jpg caption="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. Linda Esen

    How can they not have known this was racist????? How would they portray McCain?? No worries; when Obama is President – Japan will bow down to the dominance that is the US of A

    July 2, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  2. Shame on Them

    People never know what they are doing until someone brings it to their attention and then they are so sorry.

    These people are not stupid. Advertising and Marketing people no matter what country, culture or race are well aware of what they put out to market their company. I don't have one doubt they knew what they were doing. Look at the publicity they have now. It is literally global advertising for free.

    July 2, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. Nick - Arlington, VA

    This isn't racism...only a difference in cultures.

    July 2, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. Cynthia

    Racism not only exist in America, but world wide.

    July 2, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  5. Linda31

    first, monkeys are revered in Japan. Next this happened over a week ago. We are talking about this, why?

    July 2, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  6. Kevin

    This is nothing more than a misunderstanding between cultures. This is not racist. Being black, I found this to be a bit amusing actually...:)

    July 2, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  7. Lorna, NY

    How is this news?

    July 2, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  8. Lynn

    I'm glad they pulled it. It was in poor taste and disgusting.

    July 2, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  9. Lake side

    Maybe all those bitter Clinton supporters should move to Japan after Barack is elected President.

    July 2, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. Chris

    I'm an Obama supporter, but can we please have some "nonsense" news articles on McCain as well?

    July 2, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Tim Hutchins

    This is just a first taste of what's to come if That Man should be elected. EVERYTHING will be racist and forced from the public (Probably by some new/change law).

    July 2, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  12. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    I knew this was coming. The ultra left proclaim even the vaguest slant on Obama to be a hateful racist attack. And from the Japanese no less!!!

    Why wasn't it considered racist when the "Curious George" photos and documents, blog posts, were going around about George Bush a.k.a. "monkey boy".

    At least conservative fight for fairness, equity, freedom, and liberty for all Americans–not just those of color or presumed social insignifiance.

    Obama certainly has the ears...and his agenda–well read for yourself.

    July 2, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  13. Independent man

    I really don't completely trust a poll. I believe that most intelligent people view Michelle Obama very favorably. In this day and age, we don't need a June Cleaver, but rather a Michelle Obama – intelligent, attractive, articulate, capable of holding a conversation with her own opinions and not just a "yes" wife. Hurray for First Lady Michelle O!

    July 2, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  14. Pat Va

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

    This idiot needs to be fired post-haste!!! What century is he living in???

    July 2, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  15. Shelly in IL

    Okay? Can't touch this one. Never been to Japan, so don't know how the Japanese people work. Can anyone tell me?

    July 2, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  16. Former Bitter HRC Supporter Coming Around

    OMG – anytime anyone says anything about Obama they are a racist. And the Clintons were accused of playing the race card.

    Give me a break.

    July 2, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  17. Marie

    CNN really know how to get the racial divide juices going. Anything for ratings. Just wait they will be an expert/idiot panel to discuss this later. CNN/FOXNews the lines are becoming less clear.

    July 2, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |

    This is really outragous.That phone company and the people behind this are totally idiots. OBAMA 08

    July 2, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. Peter Damoah-Afari

    How can some Japanese be so stupid?

    July 2, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  20. Tim from WV

    Let's just leave this one alone.

    July 2, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  21. bailey

    Culturally speaking, the Japanese are racially biased. However, the real problem is that every culture has some things that have different meanings. For example, a rat in America is not very respected but in Chinese astrology it is a highly regarded sign and in some parts of India it is worshiped. Racial bias and culturally relative differences do not mix. Ads that make sense in America do not necessarily make sense in Europe or Africa or Asia. And what is not offensive in a society with less than 1% blacks might be taken the wrong way in a society that has over 25% blacks in a population.


    July 2, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  22. Mike in Columbus

    I really don't think they intended any disrespect. Just a cultural difference at play. I think it is a testament to Obama's popularity around the world.

    July 2, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  23. Rob

    why the heck is that racist??? everything that is kind of against Obama or people making jokes about him are racists. where is this county heading????

    Rob from NC

    July 2, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  24. Matt in NC

    This makes western culture look incredibly stupid. Just goes to show how ridiculous our history of racism looks to other cultures. Cut the Japanese a break.

    July 2, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  25. Augustine

    No one should really believe that a reputable company like eMobile would purposefully use racial undertones. As a black man, I knew this was not an intended to be racist. As a marketer, and one who has worked in Japan where the requirements for high standards are high, I would've re-evaluated the position of the author of this ad.

    Simple marketing/advertising rule – as much as possible, avoid using imagery or language that's likely to be offensive in another language or culture.

    July 2, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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