JEREMIAH FAJARDO WRITES – On paper, promoting a sense of international awareness sounds like a logical quality for an airline to convey in its commercials. Such ads can assure customers of a friendly, welcoming environment. Yet, as All Nippon Airways (ANA) has found, this is hardly achieved by poking fun at racial stereotypes.
On January 19 ANA released a controversial, 30-second commercial promoting its upcoming schedule of international flights through Haneda airport. The company was soon bombarded by complaints, much of them through social media, due to the clip’s final scene.
The ad, which is in English, opens with two ANA pilots, portrayed by actor Hidetoshi Nishijima and comedian Hidetomo Masuno respectively, discussing how they could “boost the image of the airline as an international carrier.” After a couple exchanges Nishijima exclaims: “Let’s change the image of Japanese people.” Masuno responds with an emphatic “Sure.” The camera then pans to him, showing that he is now wearing a blonde wig and large, rubber nose. The comedian’s sudden costume change pokes fun at the stereotypical view of Westerners held by some Japanese.
In the days following the commercial’s premiere, ANA’s various social media accounts were inundated by angry tweets and comments. One Twitter user, @sibylleito, tweeted: “If you are a foreigner and have planned to come to #Japan do not choose an openly racist airline like #ANA! Watch their Japanese commercial.” On the Facebook front, Angela Fukutome posted the following on the official ANA page: “I’ve just seen the new ANA advert. . . Really? ANA think this is OK?!”
In response, ANA has since apologized for the “uncomfortable feelings” caused by the ad and announced that a new version will be produced. The first version is no longer on air and has been pulled from Youtube. However, those curious can still watch it here.