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. ken

    Say karl Rove!

    July 2, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. Chut Pata

    As someone who works closely with the Indians, I know monkey is as revered as a cow there. In Hindu religion cow is the symbol of mother but monkey is a symbol of their god Hanooman who rescued their god Ram. Monkey is a slur among countries who believe we humans evolved out of monkeys and therefore monkeys are primates.

    Indians tell me there was a controversy when and Indian cricket player called an aboriginal Australian cricketer "Maan Ki **" which means "Your Mother's". The Australian cricketer thought he said "monkey" and mistook it with a racial slur. It was a big issue and the Indian fans were at a loss to understand why calling a common slur was taken as racist.

    July 2, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. Zip it

    You liberal nut bags will be the end to us all…….
    Plus it was funny, get over yourselves already

    July 2, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. Alex

    Funny but not funny...

    July 2, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  5. ObamaforPresident

    well the point still remains that McCain would gain more by going from where Bush will leave off, where as Obama will do his best to get our troops back. People have tried their best to pursuade why McCain would be the best choice, but he is just the typical politician. Pointing out that Obama had tested drugs when he was a kid, makes me feel more connected to him as a person instead of a squeaky clean rich groomed guy.

    July 2, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  6. kim hussein taylor portland, oregon

    so i see racist ignorance still spans the globe-LOVELY!!!!!!!!

    i cant believe that there are still so many idiots in the world that think someone's skin color means ANYTHING!!! hopefully most of them are from generations that will soon be moving on to the next phase of their lives (good luck explaining THAT idiocy at your pearly gates, jesus aint gonna be happy with you folks)!!! kids are SO MUCH smarter than adults on these kinds of ignorant things!!!

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

    WOW, how on earth did someone THAT stupid become president of anything?!?!

    July 2, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Hey Obamites! Not everything is a Carl Rove plot. This was a cultural misunderstandiing. You Democrats are supposed to be the inclusive and diverse party. Well the genger and race bashing in your primaries showed you are the 'do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do' party. You unwillingness to cut this Japanese company a break just shows how racist and intolerant you are.

    July 2, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. Catty

    Tom and Joe,

    Typical Democrats. Blame everything ont he republicans, even when it has NOTHING to do with them. Bitter, table for one?

    July 2, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. pat huntington LI

    Karl Rove has this aired to target Americans living in Japan, including those serving in military bases over there, not to vote Obama.

    Rove should be investigated for this...as should McCain...he's behind this too!

    Vast Right Wing Conspiracy still at work!

    July 2, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  10. Lor

    Um, can I vote for the monkey? Primates for Change, I like it.

    July 2, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  11. kingsley

    The marketing director should've known better

    July 2, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  12. Charlotte

    I hope people read the whole article before they spout off. Japan revere the monkey, so it should be construded as a compliment, at least in Japan. Here it is not. Let the race card begin..1..2..3..

    July 2, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  13. Truth B Told

    Hey Jim in S.C,
    The reason he avoids it is because he can!!! He will debate that loser when he's good and ready, maybe by then McSame will have already forgotten that there was even supposed to be a debate!!!!

    McSame is gonna have to be careful of what he wishes for, this will be no push over debate for McSame. Town Hall debates should be left up to Mayors of towns and not presidential candidates!!

    OBAMA 08

    July 2, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  14. Who cares

    Can people not read? Karl Rove had nothing to do with this. Liberals are too paranoid. Get a life.

    July 2, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  15. Christiaan, Norman, OK

    I think this speaks more to the radical differences between Japanese and American cultures than it does to any sort of racism. To put it in a kind of playfully offensive and culturally biased way, they just have a weird sense of humor and I really don't think they're being racist.

    July 2, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. Rose

    So, if Senator Obama becomes president, is race going to be an issue for the next 4 years? Not everything that is said or done is a racial issue...until someone MAKES it an issue. I don't think I can stand 4 years of everything being a race issue, I'm already sick of it.

    July 2, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  17. Joe B

    I cannot believe that the Japanese are that oblivious to racism
    You need to research some of the pamphlets that were dropped during WWII

    July 2, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  18. P. Morrison

    Why should Obama furnish McCain with a huge crowd just because he can't draw one on his on??
    The monkey ad is beyond disgusting!!


    July 2, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. Nick - Arlington, VA

    Jim in S.C. July 2nd, 2008 11:44 am ET

    Why does Obama continue to evade a debate with McCain?
    Why do you post comments that have nothing to do with the topic?

    July 2, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. David in Illinois

    Why does McCain still want more war, war, war?
    Why doesn't McCain learn something about economics?
    Why does McCain have so many lobbyists in his campaign?
    Why does McCain think it would be a good thing to have another terror attack on American soil?
    The list goes on and on...

    July 2, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  21. Kathy in Elgin

    Why does Obama continue to evade a debate with McCain? Probably because he's being kind to old people. Obama standing next to McCain, looking young, vibrant and statesmanlike will sink McCain in a heartbeat. Then when McCain opens his mouth and confuses Sunni and Shia AGAIN . . . it's over.

    July 2, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  22. kim hussein taylor portland, oregon

    jim in SC, you cant POSSIBLY be trying to imply obama is scared to debate mccain??? that is absolutely laughable. it's gonna look like an SNL skit when those two debate!

    obama doesnt work on mccain's schedule. besides john's too busy these days with his "town hall" meetings-–that he holds at private businesses, as opposed to TOWN HALLS!!! mccain's so out of touch, those big businesses ARE the "regular folks" to him

    July 2, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. LT for Obama

    Jim in S.C. – Why are you and McCain pushing for debates this very minute? We have months before the GE with plenty of opportunity for debates. They are trying to find common ground that both candidates agree with. McCain keeps pushing the town hall meetings but also needs to consider other formats and they don't have to be right now.

    Get a grip and just be patient, the debates will happen just not on YOUR schedule.

    July 2, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. JVD


    July 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  25. RSR

    I hate to say it, but I think the monkey is more qualifed to be president than Obama is!!! Seriously thou, why did they pull the ad? Because Obama's 'people' (the news media) came down hard on them. Why is it, you can say anything against this guy? why is the press giving him a 'free ride'? why won't they print the thruth about this guys (real) background? You can't trust a person you know nothing about. Besides.....he is just not experienced enough to handle the most important job in the free world.

    July 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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