Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Japan Company eMobile, Pulls Obama 'Monkey Ad'

A Japanese mobile phone firm said today it had pulled a TV advert depicting a monkey as a political candidate amid accusations that it was a racist reference to Barack Obama, who is seeking to become the first black US president.

The ad, for eMobile, shows a monkey in a suit addressing an election rally, surrounded by supporters carrying placards with the word "Change".

The apparent intention is to persuade subscribers to other mobile phone carriers to transfer to eMobile.

But the combination of the monkey, and the resemblance of his message to the theme of Obama's campaign - "Change we can believe in" - prompted bloggers to accuse the company of making a racist slur against the Democratic hopeful.

The company, which stressed it had used the macaque mascot in several other adverts, said it had never intended to insult Obama but had decided to pull the "Change" ad in response to criticism in the blogosphere.

"We had no bad intentions, but this is a cross-cultural gap issue and we have to accept it," eMobile's chief executive, Sachio Semmoto, told Reuters. "There are African-Americans in Japan, so we decided to take prompt action and shut down the ad."

Semmoto went further, describing the senator from Illinois as the kind of leader who could benefit not only the US but also Japan. "For two years I've been saying Obama has the capacity to change America, the kind of capacity that Japan needs," he said....

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