Nigeria blasts Sony ad over “Criminal” portrayal
October 9th, 2009
Sony’s commercial has caused uproar in Nigeria, with official complaints that it portrays a negative image of the nation, suggesting Nigerians are untrustworthy and prone to partake in criminal activity. During the ad one of the actors states that “you can’t believe everything that you read on the Internet” or he’d be a “Nigerian millionaire by now”. The Nigerian federal government claimed that by releasing such a statement Sony is ruining the country’s image. Sony apologised and edited the ad accordingly, changing the phrase to exclude Nigeria completely from the ad.
The Nigerian federation has also bashed the new and very successful sci-fi blockbuster film ‘District 9’. It includes a Nigerian gang of criminals, gangsters, prostitutes and cannibals, using the name of the former president as that of the gang leader. The suggestion of such negative associations with the population and particularly the idea of cannibalism have caused the film to be banned in the country and a letter has been sent to the production company asking that the scenes containing Nigerian references are deleted.
Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDGG9e00XPk
Behind the news:
What is particularly jarring to African sensitivities is the use of cannibalism – a long standing Western colonial myth perpetrated to reinforce the perception that Africans are inferior and perhaps subhuman.
Nigeria is currently attempting to counter negative stereotypes by rebranding the country as a good place to come and do business. Sony’s extreme portrayals come at a bad time for the nation.
While gangster films do need to be set somewhere – and why not Nigeria after all? – the Sony global brand unintentionally put itself in a lose-lose situation. Nigeria’s already fragile image is damaged further, and Sony alienates consumers across the emerging African continent.
To its credit Sony immediately recognised this and quickly shifted into PR damage mode. A simple recheck on the core message may have avoided much grief and harm.