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. david

    why would anyone vote for McSame?
    clearly everyone else around the world wants OBAMA!
    C'mon people...this is not a difficult decision. Stop looking at race and vote for who will be the BEST choice for president!

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

    I can't believe how many racist people there are still in the world. We need to evolve more.

    July 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. Jim

    Why are Obama supporters offended by them using a monkey?

    Do they think Obama is a monkey?

    July 2, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. joe in VA

    No way! Obamaniacs crying "racism"? I'm shocked!

    July 2, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  5. Binh

    Not all mentioning of monkeys and those of African descent is automatically wreaking of racial undertones/overtones..

    I'm Asian Canadian and I love monkeys (from my childhood love of the Monkey King legend).. Instead of being so quick to judge, we must see why this Japanese company with a monkey as its company mascot might want to equate its monkey to Barack Obama.. Barack Obama is the world's hope that the US steps up to the plate and create positive change!

    July 2, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. Philips

    That's very stupit, now republicans are doing everything here and oversae to get to the whitehouse

    July 2, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  7. John G

    So now we expect people of other cultures to be sensitive and politically correct too? It isn't enough that we can't express our own opinions without a disclaimer, we actually have to force it on the Japanese?

    This is ridiculous.

    btw "their company’s mascot is a monkey – an animal revered in Japan"

    It was a COMPLIMENT!

    July 2, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  8. Ernesto Lopez

    No big deal, monkeys are cool

    July 2, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  9. John in Ohio

    "Why does Obama continue to evade a debate with McCain?"

    Because both are still just the presumptive nominee. In the 2004 elections, only 4 debates were held. Three presidential, and one vice presidential. The first was not held until September 30th. So why the sudden insistence to change things up this year before we've even had the party conventions?

    July 2, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  10. CongoJack

    Look at an above post.

    W. H. Thomas has been in Japan and states what he saw... that Japan has no idea of Racism (probably because there were a somewhat cut off society until modern times).

    Don't blame everything on the GOP machine...crying wolf (not blitzer) will not help when this issue is just a mistake. Save the righteous rage when it is needed.

    24 yr old male, Catholic, Republican, From Colorado (swing state +swing voter) for Obama 08

    July 2, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. bill in ny, ny

    How long until Obama throws Pickels under the bus?

    July 2, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  12. Davis

    It is time we stop seeing everything through the color lens. It is getting really ..really ridiculous. I have no doubt in my mind that Japan is amongst the top racist nations in the world. I still think this ad was interpreted out of context.

    Monkeys are revered in many cultures. Just because some white trash junkies used it as they did in the past doesn't mean the world should stop mentioning them. As a person of color I dont find anything wrong with the ad. Monkey is their mascot for many years and they rever it.

    I think its time we focus on real problems at home like stopping voilence and educating the children.

    July 2, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  13. Biz

    I don't think it was intentional.. but how stupid do you have to be to compare a presidential candidate with a monkey even if a monkey is revered in Japan! That's common sense.

    I am a republican turning Democrat and i think this was outrageous.

    Sen Obama. is more populat all over the worl than McBush. We all love him!

    July 2, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  14. aware

    Obama – monkey see – monkey do! 🙂

    July 2, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. It takes sound judgement, not experience

    I am an avid Obama supporter however I don't believe they meant any harm by this. The rest of the world does not have the racist, bigoted, ignorant views we have here in the ol USofA. The rest of the world actually is in love with Obama.

    July 2, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  16. California Gold

    I don't buy their public claim of ignorance that they were "...unaware of how the ad might be interpreted." They should have been able to smell how bad it was if their common sense failed them.

    July 2, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  17. flavoter

    The U.S. does not have the monopoly on ignorance and poor judgement. Personally this would fit McCain better anyway, being led around by Bush's policy or there lack of policy. Bush the big top circus leader. Peanuts anyone thats what my pay check has become thanks to Bush / McCain (McCain how many years in the Senate, i'm not impressed). But at least my job hasn't gone over sea's or been eliminated as of yet.

    Come on Colin don't be afraid to cross those broken party lines it's a new day, step out on the scene America is ready to hear from you make some noise ( YES WE CAN). We must all unify to save this country from the rabbit hole Bush has taken us down.

    Obama / Powell 08

    July 2, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  18. Nick

    Funny ad. I liked it.

    July 2, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. KB

    Racist? Perhaps in America. But you have no idea what that means in Japan do you? Eastern Culture and Western Culture are way different and its awful ignorant to think something means the same thing across the board.

    To them it may just be a loveable little monkey. To us it may be a hateful demon of repression. Or just a funny take on politics, considering all national level politicians are pretty much owned by corporate interests.

    July 2, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  20. faye, NV

    Why show this mess, it is just offensive and disgraceful for CNN.

    When Sen Clinton was being outspoken and displaying strength is was okay. However, Mrs. Obama is treated different. Double Standard.

    July 2, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  21. GaVoter

    Curious George was funny because his ears and hair cut do actually look similar to Obamas, which is directly related to his take off of Bob the Builder's motto "Yes we can!". A parity of childrens cartoons if you will.., much like the DNC.

    But an ad with a real monkey is just blantant racism. And yes, the Japaneese do know what racism is. They did once concidered themselves superior after all....

    July 2, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  22. Arin

    Perhaps, perhaps, the Japanese company really meant no offense since this is the company mascot, but come on! Can they really be that uninformed? I find it highly suspicious. The ad, intentionally or not, is very offensive.

    July 2, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  23. Jeff

    I envy the Japanese if they are truly in blissful ignorance of the type of racism that this ad invokes.

    July 2, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  24. EMJ

    I have been and still am a strong Obama supporter (and life long Republican) but the racism thing is getting on my nerves. Today in the US you can barely say anything about anything without someone using the six degrees of seperation approach to claim racism. I am very proud of the fact that I have never, ever heard the actual presidential candidate say anything was racist against him, many times when it was obvious that is was. When people flat out attack him with distortions and false claims he never takes that opportunity to throw more mud back but instead the statements he makes are usually to say 'that was unfortunate' etc. I don't recall ever a presidential candidate having to put up with the junk Obama has such as his religion or his patriotism. I've never seen a presidential candidate smeared so much over his middle name or his family's history. It's always fear and rumor mongering blind to any rational thinking. How else can you take a middle name and somehow use that to smear Obama as anti-jewish? Or that he would meet with leaders of rougue nations which hmm seems to be what George is doing right now. It is very sad to see, because of this election, just how racist and filled with hate a great deal of Americans are still today. A black man is acceptable in our society as a sports star or a musician but God forbid we have a black man as the leader of the free world.

    July 2, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  25. Mary

    Boo! Why did they have to pull it? Guess I'll have to search for it on youtube.

    July 2, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
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