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. Anonymous

    What a stupid ad. shame on you Japan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 2, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  2. Jim from IL

    This is an outrage! I am sure the Hillary or McCain camps have somthing to do with this. Get on board you bunch of racist!!!!! Obama will win wheather you like it or not, so start geting used to respecting him!!!!!!!

    July 2, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  3. randy

    Well the better do because i was in japan in april the way there own racism is that some of are racism but the dont know it because there is not enough minority in that country.

    July 2, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. Ben M

    haha priceless...

    July 2, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. Oh! The Irony

    I'm black and have no problem with the add. We can't expect the world to be knowledgeable on every distasteful and disgusting racial insult within the U.S.

    If the add was done by a U.S. company, then I would have a huge problem with it.

    July 2, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  6. BIFF, BIFFINGTON...

    IDIOTS...!

    July 2, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  7. Sweetie

    He is the "Change" Monkey!

    And it is no Joke when you are actually expected to vote for him!

    McCain 08

    July 2, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. richard

    the japanese regard for a monkey does not carry the same racist undertones as in america; different culture.

    interresting that they would use obama as a message for change, even in changing carriers. to quote:

    "ad was just a nod at Obama’s worldwide popularity"

    see that people, worldwide popularity. the world collectively knows obama is the better choice by a landslide. america will be a joke if we elect mccain for bush's third term.

    July 2, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  9. Enlightened Voter

    HAHA, I would vote for the monkey first. He probably has more credentials.

    July 2, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  10. Lisa

    Of all the people to call someone a monkey- JAPS! Come on- Japs look within and then reconsider who's not only the real monkeys heres but eat them and any and everything else! The worse always try to find the worse in someone or something else. Sit down and shut up you have enough to deal with.

    July 2, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  11. Kevin Leo (Jonesboro, GA)

    This shows the imkportance of diversification in the workplace, regardless of where the workplace may be. If someone of African-American ancestry had seen this idea or commercial somewhere along the line, they would have been able to quickly tell them how racist this ad would appear to the majority of people. To say that it was a take off of Barack only makes the matter worse given some of the historical issues between Japan and African-Amricans dating back to World War II.

    July 2, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. Honest Mistake, and correct response

    Having been overseas with the military, I can tell you that they really don't have any idea about race relations in the western world today. They do know stereo types and often accept them as fact; but I digress, put into context this add was not offensive in a sense that it was their intent to be offensive. It can be offensive when put into the context of Western world. That only shows how different our cultures.

    July 2, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  13. harry

    This must be the works of republicans. Who knows if it is in japan!

    July 2, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. Common Sense

    Unnecessary overreaction.

    July 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  15. Observer

    Why on earth is CNN covering this? I have lost all respect for this news channel

    July 2, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Theresa in Georgia

    Racism not only exist in the great of USA, it exists across the world!!

    July 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. ProundToBeDemocrat

    The white people are trying to spread their racist view and life to the world now, America was not enough for them.

    July 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  18. tigerakabj

    No worries Japan. We know you love Obama. When he starts travelling, you'll get the pleasure of meeting him personally as so many Americans have.

    July 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  19. Danh

    there was a racist view implied in the ad. Gan gave a stupid explanation.

    July 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  20. fred m

    Let me tell you all something. All these countries who don't like us want Obama to win. Who do you think the Palestinians want, Ajkmadenijad, Germany wants, etc, etc,. Voters, you better think about this. Countries who want a weak, docile America, want Obama to win. You have been warned. And, I doubt this gets published.

    July 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  21. William Ayers

    Ironically, the monkey has more executive experience and more solid stances on issues than Obama.

    July 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  22. W.H. Thomas

    After spending 1.5 years in Japan, I can honestly say as an African American, that Japanese citizens know very little about racism. It is good to know that Obama is popular in Japan.

    July 2, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  23. Tom

    Karl Rove nonsense is baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

    July 2, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  24. lil

    Believe me they knew that their were racial undertones they just didnt
    care or was trying to make a startment. Either way I dont like it.

    July 2, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. not important

    Maybe they should do an ad about Pearl Harbor? Just rude and stupid ad. Obama should sue them.

    July 2, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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