UPDATE: So, a Brit firm was involved with this (HT to Pawi)?
He stressed that foreign experts were involved in the designing of the package, including graphic artist Papaboule, and designers from (Marmot’s addition: the ironically named) Korean fashion magazine Cracker Your Wardrobe.
One wonders what Papaboule’s contribution to this was, if any. I suppose it should be easy enough to find out.
ORIGINAL POST: Yes, I’m posting this a bit late, but still, it’s nice that KT&G has decided to pull its ad for its new ”This Africa” cigarettes.
I suppose KT&G deserve kudos for debuting a product that uses a “African traditional method” of smoke drying the tobacco, I suppose the accompanying ad campaign could have been better thought through:
The KT&G ads featuring a monkey dressed as a human were launched a month ago to promote the brand’s new “This Africa” cigarettes, according to the Agence France-Presse. The ads to promote cigarettes dried and roasted in “traditional” African style showed monkeys dressed as humans, tagged with the slogan “Africa is coming!”
The monkey news anchor was a classy touch, too.
Mind you, KT&G says it didn’t actually intend to be racist:
KT&G responded that the controversy was “regrettable” and that ads would be pulled this month to “dispel concerns of racism.”
“We absolutely had no intention to offend anyone and only chose monkeys because they are delightful animals that remind people of Africa,” said a spokesman for the company.
I’m guessing they really didn’t mean to offend, but like I said, I’d like to know a) who did the ad, and b) did they focus group it, and c) who sat in the focus group. I suspect if it was focus grouped, it was to groups composed entirely of Koreans. Which is fine, especially given the market and Korea’s demographics, but may on rare occasions produce results that make your company look like a bunch of knuckle-dragging racists on the BBC.
Interestingly enough, KT&G isn’t changing the artwork on the packs, which, it could be argued, is even more offensive than the ad campaign. At the WaPo, Max Fisher links this incident with Korea’s complex racial issues:
The whole incident is a reminder of how complicated racial issues can be in South Korea. Korean society has long defined itself by its race; scholars such as B.R. Myers have written about Korea’s view of its own national-racial identity as unique, something that shows up in both the North and South. Metrics of racial tolerance tend to rate the country poorly. As in much of East Asia, those attitudes seem particularly likely to manifest with regard to sub-Saharan Africans.
Immigration to the country can be difficult and is rare, relative to other countries of comparable wealth. Last year, in a story on how rising immigration from Southeast Asia was challenging racial attitudes in South Korea, the New York Times noted, “Only a decade ago, school textbooks still urged South Koreans to take pride in being of ‘one blood’ and ethnically homogeneous.” In some ways, then, this controversy – and the company’s response – are a reminder of South Korea’s sometimes difficult racial politics.
Mr. Fisher’s commenters seem to take exception.
I don’t know. I don’t think anybody will disagree that Korean attitudes about race can be a bit rough around the edges, or that Korea’s immigrant population is relatively small compared to that of the West (whether that last point reflects poorly on Korea or the West is a separate matter). That said, I do think this was more a case of PC insensitivity than intentional racism. I have a hard time believing KT&G intentionally set out to compare Africans to apes. I can fully believe, however, that at no time during the making of that ad campaign did anyone raise their hand and say “Africans+monkeys=RED FLAG! RED FLAG!”