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. Vernon

    As a black man I too was offended.But in response to some these comments being posted,What does this have to do with Karl Rove....as much of a snake that he is..this doesn't relate

    July 2, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. JVD

    WHY CAN'T THEY MAKE AN AD ABOUT HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI. STUPID PEOPLE. TO SOON TO START CRYING ABOUT FREE TRADE. BUT WE WANT TO USE OUR CARS AND BRING OUR JOB BACK HOME.

    YES WE CAN

    July 2, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. Former Bitter HRC Supporter Coming Around

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

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

    Give me a break.

    July 2, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. fred m

    CNN is for free speech if you are a liberal.

    July 2, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. Fella from Chicago

    The Japanese are just trying to show it's monkey business as usual with the Democrats.

    July 2, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. Ms. Sims

    I don't think it was racism. You have to look at the differences in the countries. To them it may have been honorable to us its offensive. It's just a cultural thing. We are so sensitized in America until everything is offensive to some race, culture, or religion.

    Obama '08

    July 2, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. Jan

    It does not seem to matter who does what–if it is not praising Obama–it is racist!

    July 2, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  8. Marc

    William Ayers, hilarious comment! It's funny because it's true...

    July 2, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  9. The Truth

    and a couple of you are putting this on Rove

    stop drinking the kool-aid

    July 2, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  10. Definitely Not Important

    I can honestly say that in other countries monkey is not as derogatory a word. If you think about it, it is the smartest of all animals (next to human of course). My girlfriend from the Czech Republic doesn't think about that when she sees a picture of a mother and child monkey and thinks of it as a cute picture of her and our daughter. I wish we could stop seeing everything through filters.

    July 2, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  11. Peter E

    Democrats have been calling president Bush all sorts of names from 'Shrub' to 'Chimp' and even 'anti-Christ.' That never made it in the news.
    Now that it's Obama, a single misguided (and otherwise positive) reference to him is sensationalized.
    Way to be consistent...

    July 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. Linda K.

    I lived in Thailand, and I would add that racial symbolism doesn't have meaning in Asian cultures. But there's no excuse for Americans who pull this.

    July 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  13. Jean

    THIS IS THE BRAND WE AMERICANS IS SELLING TO OTHER COUNTRIES GIVE HOW WE DISREPECT MEMBERS OF OUR SOCIETY. THE LEVELT WHICH WE STOOP TO SELL, WIN OR GET THE LEAD.

    HE SHOULD SUE THE COMPANY THAT PRODUCED THE ADD AND THE MEDIA OUTLET THAT PUBLISHED IT!!!!!!!!!!!

    THIS ADD DID NOT WALK IN THE OFFICE STEP UP AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

    July 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. Photon Torpedo Dallas, TX

    William Ayers Quote: "Ironically, the monkey has more executive experience and more solid stances on issues than Obama."

    You are probably the creator of the ad. However it won't stop the inevitable: "YES WE WILL!"

    Obama 08'

    July 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. Donna

    Ignorance is global..didn't you all know that?

    July 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. frank

    If a monkey can be chosen a president, it is a real change!
    Haha! This is what you need.

    July 2, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  17. Emeka, London UK

    In Japan maybe ok, but looking at this act from an intercontinental level, the use of a monkey denotes one thing and that is the black man.

    We hope none of these ugly jokes show up again.

    July 2, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. rich

    Even if you bought the company's argument here, they should have known that this would have been percieved negatively giving the history of the U.S. and the uniqeness of Obama's candidacy. Claiming ignorance is no defense.

    July 2, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. Anonymous

    i think is funny , and humar

    July 2, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  20. Darlee

    If the ad had appeared in the US, sure, sue the pants off of them. But I honestly can see that our own weird racial crap does not feed over to a completely different culture and society. We think we own the world and that everyone knows how things appear in the US. Crazy...

    July 2, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  21. Gary

    With a multitude of critical issues facing America at this very moment I am astounded that this kind of nonsense is crowding the airwaves! If Americans and the news media continue to give play to this crap instead of talking about real issues, we will get what we deserve – a standard of living that will decline quickly, a depression and homelessness like we've never seen since the 1930's.

    July 2, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. mike

    Barack Obama would make a great President and he sure has my vote. Michelle Obama rocks!

    July 2, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. C!

    Get over it... I'm a super supporter of Obama, Hope and Change... but this is ridiculous. I don't think there were any racial undertones (since it was in Japan).. Other countries interpret things differently and are unaware of sensitive issues like these. But come on... bloggers are you serious? Get a life.

    People are grasping at any and everything to try to stir up some kind of drama. Let's just hear what the candidates have to say about the real issues and everyone else stfu. Goodness Gracious.

    OBAMA `08!

    July 2, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. Ken

    I now declare this day, free banana's before the 4th day,

    July 2, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  25. Marcus.

    This is great. Somehow Karl Rove has influence in Japan. Different culture people. Different views on life. Isn't that what all this is about? And like they said, the monkey is revered in Japan. It would be like us using an eagle.

    Too wonderful.

    July 2, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9