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. WT*


    July 2, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  2. Penny

    Working and operating in a global society means learning about what is acceptable/not acceptable to others.

    July 2, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  3. Nicole in NE

    DISGUSTING – in so many ways!

    Obama 08'

    July 2, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. Naomi, Texas


    July 2, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. Matthew

    Only caucausian countries are racist. Leave the Asians alone... Americans just need to shut up.

    July 2, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  6. JFK

    Oops! Bad idea! Someone is losing a job in the marketing department.

    July 2, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. Obama-Junkie, IL

    Japanese media is notoriously racist towards people of African descent and darker South Asisans. The "SAMBO" image is still used today in Japansese newspaper cartoons, manga, video games, anime and public service announcements.

    July 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. Don

    And the ugly head of racism persists. Why are some human beings so stupid? I guess if i had an answer i would be a rich man.

    July 2, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  9. Truth B Told

    Hit them in the pockets Japan!!! Then they will know how this was interpreted! Totally uncalled for! I would love to see their other commercials to see how their company mascot is portrayed in other instances!!! Go to work now CNN.

    July 2, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. Independent-Minded American

    I'm not on the Obama bandwaggone yet, but this is TERRIBLE!

    Big mistake eMobile, because monkeys are not revered is America, and your company is doomed to go down because of this.

    Also, stay out of our country's matters if this is the kind of nonsense you have to offer!

    Americans Unite 2008!

    July 2, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  11. LET IT GO

    How digusting , times haven't change at all, It 's amazon how many dummies we still have in the world.

    July 2, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  12. Peter E

    So what? For years democrats have likened Bush to monkeys and apes, even refering to him as 'Chimp.' Why is that any less offensive than this?

    July 2, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  13. Done with Dems

    Sorry......I think this is hillarious!!!

    Obama/Lancelot Link

    July 2, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  14. Nick

    I think something was lost in the translation... obviously they didn't intend to have a racial undertone to it. Accidents happen.

    July 2, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  15. Does it matter ?

    I'm an African American and I don't think it was their intention to offend anyone. Now looking back, they probably thought it was in bad taste.

    July 2, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  16. Junior Walrond

    That ad was ABSOLUTELY out of place.


    July 2, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. Veterans for Obama

    Believe me, there is plenty of rascism in Japan. For them to not realize the negative conotation this ad would produce is a farce.

    July 2, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  18. MIT Student

    I'm actually not surprised. As an Asian-American, I have witnessed how the culture is not shy at all about expressing its racist beliefs.

    Shame on whoever created this ad...(and whoever this "Gan" dude is)Not only are you putting yourself down, but you are putting the rest of the Asian-Americans down who do not share this type of narrow-minded and disrespectful type of behavior.

    July 2, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  19. Jonathan James

    Somebody call the Whaaaaaambulance. Hate to break it to you oh great race baiter Obama, but most people don't care about race anymore, not to mention the fact that your not even black. You are half white, half african-muslim. Black is a term used in America to denote african-americans descended from slaves. You were born to and raised by a white mother. Your father simply happens to be a Kenyan.

    July 2, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  20. SMITH


    July 2, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  21. jane in CA

    Take it off, Japan. Tha't not fun.

    July 2, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  22. Joe the Troll

    Non-event. The differences in culture make something small in one culture, like a thumbs-up sign, a huge insult in another culture. Hardly a blip on the radar.

    July 2, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. nas from Ohio

    time and again, we see people making stupid calculation with regard to their racist tone thinking that it is going to slip people mind only to find themselves to be wrong. this is nothing but racism. even if that was not the case then they should have thought about as this is a real issue to this day. so long story short, i don't buy this kind of excuse.

    July 2, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. Tiana

    It sounds like a genuine mistake. I don't think that they had any ill intentions especially given the fact that their mascot is a monkey. Americans are overly sensitive about race and we need to be cognizant that not every culture has shared our historical experience. We have bigger fish to fry so people need to get over it an move on.

    July 2, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. Tre

    Ok...what planet is Eric from. I dont buy for one second that Eric didn't know that using a monkey to represent a black person would draw fire.

    July 2, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
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