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Hi Blog. It’s times like these when people seem glad that a forum like Debito.org exists. I say this based on the large number of people who submitted information about the new ANA commercial on Haneda Airport’s increased international flights. Seems that somebody, anybody, should express outrage. Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Here it is (courtesy lots of people; thanks!):
(UPDATE JANUARY 22: ANA has pulled the ad, so the link above is dead. I have archived it for posterity as an .mp4 at http://www.debito.org/ANAHanedaAd2014.mp4. Thanks JK!)
Well, let’s have a think. With two Asian guys speaking only in English (one saying he’s Japanese — the noticeably shorter guy) noting that Japan will have more international access (Vancouver and Hanoi are mentioned as their destinations), the message of the ad is that the image of Japan will change. “Exciting, isn’t it?”, says the Japanese bloke. The taller dude says, “You want a hug?” When nothing happens (i.e., no hug), he oddly says, “Such a Japanese reaction.” When the tall dude says, “Let’s change the image of Japanese people,” the short dude agrees to it. And this is what happens to him:
Yeah, that’ll do it. Put on a wig and a fake nose, and that’ll change Japan’s image.
Actually, no it won’t. This is in fact business as usual, given how Japan has a nasty habit of racializing commodities. Check out but a few examples of racist Japanese commercial campaigns from Debito.org’s archives (click on images to see more information). Then I’ll comment about the ANA one:
COMMENT ON ANA’S AD CAMPAIGN:
Well, I have the feeling that once again, a major Japanese company left their advertising to one of the big-name ad firms (as Toshiba above did), and they once again just thought they were being cute by sticking a wig and a big nose on somebody and making them look “foreign”. After all, who would complain? Japan is after all a homogeneous society with no racial issues (not!). Chuckling old-timey OBs on the board who make all the decisions and expect everyone to knuckle under thought nothing of it, especially since (check out that screen capture again):
the guy looks remarkably like Robert Redford! Who to a lot of Japanese (especially to the generation who haven’t had a Brad Pitt update yet) is the prototypical and idealized Westerner!
But some people, myself included, take a dim view of this campaign. Let me quote an esteemed friend of mine:
I’m not sure you know this, but are you aware that most of your foreigner customers are from places like Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur? And that most of them probably don’t have blond/orange hair?
Oh, and even the ones with blond hair probably don’t have noses like a tengu goblin.
And pretty sure that Japanese people enjoy being hugged and have emotions. Well, at least the Japanese who aren’t sticks in mud CEO boardroom types with no sense that the world doesn’t really resemble their 19th century, “we are so different from you funny looking white gaijin” Meiji Era mentality.
Look forward to seeing your 2020 customers. They may surprise you.
A Big Nose White Guy who speaks Japanese
Quite. If ANA really wanted to change the image of Japan, they should have had the guys hugging! Arudou Debito
UPDATE JANUARY 20: Stating that they are now pulling the ad, ANA officially comments in a reply to complaints below (English original): “The intention of this commercial was to highlight how international flights from Haneda Airport will increase from March 30, 2014 and to encourage Japanese to travel abroad more and become global citizens.”
Interesting mindset. Good to know what ANA was thinking. But do you think this advertisement accomplishes that? Are “global citizens” therefore Robert Redford lookalikes? In light of this, the advertisement is to me even more problematic.
UPDATE JANUARY 22: ANA’s campaign expands to the Hibiya Line in Tokyo (Courtesy of JK, click on photo to expand in browser):
UPDATE TWO, JANUARY 22: FYI, the Japan Times has tapped me to do my next Just Be Cause column early on, you guessed it, the ANA advertisement. Already filed, it will come out Saturday, January 25 JST.