Interesting Questions about Advertising and Racism

From Venessa Locher:

I overheard a group of students today discussing this commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.  One girl was raving about how racist this commercial was.  When I checked it out for myself, I also felt that it was racist.  So this made we wonder, do a majority of people feel that this commercial is racist?  If that is the case, then why do clients resort to using racist ads to represent their company?  Does this type of marketing attract customers or just get people talking about the company? 




5 Responses

  1. Yes Venessa, I do feel as if this commercial is racist. But I also feel as if this was not the intent of the client. Maybe in some cases companies are willing to have controversial commercials in order to get their companies noticed but I don’t think of this to be the case in this commercial. Even though I do feel that this commercial is offensive I think that it was meant to be more on the funny side but in the end it was not portrayed correctly.

  2. I personally did not feel that this ad was racist, and I’m Asian.

    I will admit though that I am frequently not offended by things that a lot of other people deem racist. Anyways, here are a few things I noticed:

    1. The name of the shop was “Ling Ling’s.” Ling Ling is also the name of a very popular and well known brand of pot stickers that also uses the panda as part of its logo. So perhaps they were opting for something familiar?

    2. Maybe it was just me, but Ling Ling’s wife, Ching Ching, did not have a very stereotypical “FOB” (fresh off the boat) accent. She sounded more ghetto to me. The Psychic Panda didn’t sound that Asian either.

    3. Pandas in China at least represent good fortune and luck and etc. A Genie lamp usually brings good fortune and luck (salesGENIE)… What do even the lucky species of pandas do when they’re low on luck?

    4. This is a cartoon. Americans are fascinated and obsessed with pandas because they think pandas are the cutest things ever. I can easily see why advertisers would’ve chosen pandas for the commercial.

    Perhaps I’m totally off with my observations, but those are just what struck me when I watched this ad.

  3. When I saw this commercial during the super bowl, I thought it was a joke, but I find it blatantly racist and in no way funny. It’s just an all around horrible commercial to me.

  4. To say this particular advertisement is racist is not a statement I would. What makes the commercial racist? The panda bears, comical Asian accents, the bamboo business hut or the panda bear genie? Let’s begin to pull the advertisement apart for a moment and digest the information we are given. The panda bears being used are not symbols of racism and the bamboo business hut goes along with their main source of food in their natural habitat. However, I believe many will take the comical Asian accents as the most offensive aspect of the commercial. I will argue the accents merely compliment the origin of the panda bear and what region of the world we associate the animals. As a viewer, I would see no relevance to give the panda bears a Scottish, British, African, or Canadian accent due to its little relevance to the animal itself.
    Furthermore, I believe the commercial in its entirety is an effective advertising technique. Whether we argue the commercial racist or not, the advertising agency that created the TV ad did their job. As the viewing audience we have seen the commercial, remembered it, and will talk of “that one panda commercial for Sales Genie”. Word of mouth communication is the best type of publicity a company could ask for. Not everyone that hears you talking about Sales Genie will necessarily associate it with racism; it may simply trigger the memory of funny panda bears obtaining clients lists.
    The way by which we interpret advertisements range from person to person and ad agencies are well aware of this. One particular agency cannot create a commercial that will appeal to all demographics viewing their material. If all people could be hooked by one way of advertising, many businesses would be out of business; this is why advertising is cyclical. Obviously has offended some of their audience by using panda bears with comical accents. However, has embedded their message in the minds of others as well as those who associate the advertisement with racism. Sometimes companies’ dance a thin line with what is acceptable and what’s not. But it’s those companies who take the risk, who eventually receive the reward for their efforts and risk. Ultimately, companies who take a risk are typically those who move the industry forward. On that note, it is important to take Sales Genie’s commercial with a grain of salt and ask yourself if the commercials benefits outweigh the risk.

  5. I’m not sure if I would go so far as to say that the commercial is racist, because I don’t think it was made with poor intent. But, the American audience does not recognize the same cultural symbols as the “Far East”, so by default the advertisers are simply perpetuating stereotypes but not making a culturally relevant point. What worries me most is the fact that this is a cartoon. I think kids would really love it, and even play with the characters in their own time, starting to endorse the archaic idea that pandas, or people of Chinese descent, all speak in the same comical manner, instead of sounding like a “normal” American.

    Yes, I think the commercial is memorable, but I’m disappointed that we relied on the archaic foreigner slapstick and “people-from-other-countries-talk-funny” techniques.

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