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July 06, 2006

Interesting Ad Strategies

Apparently, the Playstation Portable is coming. In white. To rip off the faces of black people.

July 6, 2006 | Permalink


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Be fair, Ezra: if you look at the whole series, it's not just to rip the faces off of black people; it's also to indulge guys' interracial lesbian fantasies. It's not just racist, it's sexploitative.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jul 6, 2006 5:15:16 PM

Interesting. Apparently, this is one of a series of ads showing black versus white using skin, hair and clothing. This begs the question, if something is racial, is it necessarily racist?

I would like to think we as a people have matured to the point this isn't racist. But we haven't. So, I guess it is.

But it shouldn't be.

Can you tell I'm conflicted?

Posted by: Mark | Jul 6, 2006 5:17:34 PM

gamers are such dorks. now sci fi politico comic book fans- we are sexy.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 6, 2006 5:30:26 PM

The 'ads are in a series' (considered the totality) argument is just BS. An Ad is viewed as a stand-alone entity.

It doesn't matter that this is an ad for a game player, or that it was done for a Dutch audience (the Dutch immigrants established South Africa's white separation from blacks). This is pretty clearly signaling racial dominance. All white clothes on white person, all black clothes on a black person. Clearly the white woman dominating, using a clearly demeaning hold on the black.

I was astounded that one person (Eshew Obfuscation) at the linked blog was able in comments to poo-poo (and dominate) other commenters using six posts to do so.

For those who say this isn't offensive, I suggest they take the ad into a black neighborhood and try to get a black person to play the role of the black in the ad. Care is advised: you might end up losing your teeth or your life. In my opinion it offensive both to blacks and whites. I'm white, and I wouldn't attempt to do what the ad portrays with any person of any color - so I feel stereotyped as well.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 6, 2006 7:42:11 PM


I learned many years ago that if someone claims something is offensive then unless that person is lying, that thing is offensive, by definition. So yea, this is offensive to many blacks, albinos and everyone in between.

I just showed this to a black, female friend of mine and she found it very offensive, but not from a race perspective. To her this was typical corporate use of sex to sell. She saw a soft-porn, chick fight.

But because of our history of black versus white in this country some of us jump on any use of skin color as bad. I've seen people (heck, I've embarrassingly done this myself) refuse to mention color as an identifying trait even when it is obviously the most useful. You know, when you go "that guy over their, with the black hair, wearing the red shirt... yea him," when just saying "the black guy" would have saved time. Not racist at all, but it feels that way.

That how I feel about these ads. They use skin color to represent, well, color. In an offensive way, sure, but in a racist way? I'm not so sure.

Posted by: Mark | Jul 6, 2006 9:41:00 PM

Yeah artsy ads are never about color and composition. The SI swimsuit editions that use the black model to contrast with white backgrounds is obviously motivated by the KKK. Beyond that it cant be cooincidence that the majority of Ipods are white, and only one model is black and white rockstar wants you to purchase them. (the U2 model) Obviously evidence of the man keeping black in the minority. *sarcasm*

Thats just wrong. You could just as easily feel the picture is about female dominence. Just because the charge of racism is more controversial we see that as the charge.

The important part of racism isnt in the images, but in the intent. It isnt likely that Sony is sacrificing important ad real estate in a contentious product release to forward an anti-black agenda. They likely want to sell product, and will publish images that catch our attention and promote that product.

In images contrast grabs attention. Black and white is the ultimate in contrast. Theres also all sorts of artsy reasons to use black and white.

The idea also that doesnt matter what audience the ad is intended is naive. Of course audience matters, just as you must be sensitive to matters of the holocaust in Germany or Israel, the civil war in the US, issues depicting women in Islamic countries, etc.. Different subjects risk offending different populations, but if you let 1 offense cover everyone nearly every topic will be ruled out.

Theres something else I find telling about this mock-up controversy. I've looked at 5 different blogs, each with a large number of comments on this ad. Among them are several requests for residents of Holland, especially black residents to comment. I havent found 1 from them yet. The intended audience, just isnt offended. That we should be trying to lecture holland on race relations, and media content is a bit off, since they have much less of a problem then we do.

Posted by: david b | Jul 6, 2006 9:47:41 PM

I should begin by saying that I find this advertisement to not necessarily be racist, but to definitely be incredibly stupid. I think I can say this reasonably because 1) racism was not the intent, but that's definitely what a number of people got out of it, because 2) different people have different standards for what constitutes racism, because of their society - Netherlands vs. US (though only indirectly, because it all goes back to how they interpret symbols) as well as whether people choose to look at it as "just an ad" or a propagation of stereotypes. Of course Sony realizes that this ad, in this nation, would certainly be construed as racist, and with good reason. Though the Dutch have had their own problems with race (its name is "apartheid"), even that was relatively remote, as opposed to a centuries-long struggle (that, in many ways, still continues in the US.)

For fear of sounding like an idiot here, I'm also not entirely sure what constitutes racism. I have, in the past, considered that racism generally entails use of stereotypes or the endorsement of the oppression of one group at the hands of another. However, although the ad could easily be perceived as playing off of racial tensions, again, these are racial tensions that are not as salient within Dutch culture. Also, given the generally bizarre clothing and hair (of the white model in particular), I'm inclined to think that they decided to make it a color contrast rather than a racial one.

On the other hand, the ad has gotten out there, and offended a much larger audience than Sony likely intended. This may owe to the fact that Sony is, after all, a Japanese company. Japan is a nation with a lot of racism, but racism of ignorance rather than malice. I mean, they still have blackface groups there! In any case, this ad was a terrible idea, on a lot of levels.

There's also the fact that, as Majikthese commented in the links, "Sony's agency says that they're using human race as the metaphor for the different plastic cases on the PlayStations." Way to go, Sony, for really shooting my reconciliation in the face. Christ.

So, okay, revision - it's racism. Not at all malicious, but incredibly ignorant at the very least.

Posted by: Jon O. | Jul 6, 2006 11:06:18 PM

And if the roles were reversed? It wouldn't really be an issue. The double standard would protect them.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jul 6, 2006 11:19:31 PM

a completely offensive ad like that makes me remember how long and hard won the accomplishments of the civil rights movement have been,and i just wonder why, anyone would create such an ad.....but then i know at the same moment that negative publicity stimulates interest and an aura around a product...and evil is sexy and darkly glamourous....and since the product will be in demand anyway, it will all work for the good of the advertising agency and the product they have been paid to sell....a win-win...
the total effect is so diminishing, so desensitizing.. that one hardly notices anymore.
after the media is done with our minds, what is left to shock us?...just call out in your sleeplessness, for the little opalescent green lunesta butterfly...no more dark and troubling thoughts.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jul 7, 2006 12:07:14 AM

thinking further about the ad...
i dont think it makes any difference...
i think the saturation is so intense, the envelope so pushed as to be an origami, the glorification of the perverse so prevalent, the bombardment of grotesquerie so commonplace, that it is has all become remarkably unremarkable, hardly noticed, faintly remembered.
an entire society that can be portrayed suffering from a collective attentional deficit.
.....i cant remember what marshall mcluhan wrote about all of this, almost forty years ago, but i am going to revisit his books.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jul 7, 2006 1:38:24 AM

In the long run, it doesn't matter, because Nintendo is wiping the floor with Sony in this market anyway.

Posted by: Fnor | Jul 7, 2006 7:17:24 AM

Intentions are all that matter when accusing someone or thing of racism. I highly doubt Sony intended to promote a stereotype. They probably were just really, really, really stupid, but I DO see how someone could see it as not just offensive, but racially so.....Or the creators and approvers didn't actually see the racial overtones. Did anyone think that could have been the case? I see the possibility.

Posted by: Adrock | Jul 7, 2006 9:56:46 AM

Which market? The portable one? Or the Dutch one?

Posted by: Adrock | Jul 7, 2006 9:57:32 AM

adrock...wondering whether the creators and approvers didnt actually see the racial overtones....
myself, i dont think that could be possible.
i think it was selected precisely for that reason.
racism and sexual subjugation...your winning ticket to make your product look edgy and exciting.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jul 7, 2006 10:28:52 AM

And if the roles were reversed? It wouldn't really be an issue. The double standard would protect them.

Posted by: Fred Jones

That's right. Reverse racism is a much bigger problem than normal racism. Poor, oppressed whites!

As for the ad(s) themselves, jacqueline's interpretation seems most likely.
racism and sexual subjugation...your winning ticket to make your product look edgy and exciting.

But I guess I'm less bothered by it than most people. I wouldn't make a bigger deal about this than about the "heart congestion is manly" ad campaign from about a month ago. Insensitive, reinforces negative or harmful roles and images... but these are a symptom rather than a cause, and at worst they are using negative stereotypes rather than creating/promoting them (though admittedly, it's a fine distinction), and there's a looong list of products and messages we can say that of.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 7, 2006 11:30:43 AM

Cyrus admits there is racism against whites, but apparantly believes it's "kinda OK" since they are white. And that is why many reject the left's double standard on racism.


Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jul 7, 2006 1:25:55 PM

Cyrus admits there is racism against whites, but apparantly believes it's "kinda OK" since they are white.

Your mind-reading powers never fail to amaze me, Fred.

And that is why many reject the left's double standard on racism.


Posted by: Fred Jones.

You sound confused — I'm not Norbizness.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 7, 2006 2:30:00 PM

Your mind-reading powers never fail to amaze me, Fred.

Not mind reading powers, just good eyesight. Let's review your post:
"That's right. Reverse racism is a much bigger problem than normal racism. Poor, oppressed whites!"
---Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 7, 2006 8:30:43 AM

Besides the sarcasm, there is, indeed, an acknowlegement. If you truly are saying that there is no reverse racism, you *are* out of touch, or are not a white person. If you are a white person, take a walk in a poor minority neighborhood, but bring a handgun.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jul 7, 2006 5:18:16 PM

This is Ann Coulter's ego-ideal, right?

Posted by: almostboiledfrog | Jul 8, 2006 2:43:20 PM

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