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July 06, 2006

White blight: Sony's ghastly PlayStation Portable White ad


"what the... fuck?"

Nubian of Blac(k)ademic spots a PlayStation Portable White ad that might represent a new low Madison Avenue, pictured below.

What can you say about an ad like this?

How about...

Dear Sony,

Please fire your ad agency. Lynching isn't a joke. Do not attempt to convince the gaming public that your system is superior by likening your potential customers to anime-besotted Klansmen. Who do you think is going to buy your system, Trent Lott?

Yours truly,


Nubian is encouraging people to contact Sony to complain about the ads. Here's the contact information that she supplies:

Sony Computer Entertainment America
PO Box 5888
San Mateo, CA 94402-0888
800-345-7669 (800-345-SONY)
M-SAT 6:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. PST
Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m

Hat tip to Amanda of Pandagon.


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Yeah, I think we have enough black on white hate as it is, don't need to perpetuate it with stupid ads like that.


I saw this yesterday, painted a different way. There are more photos, apparently.

Grand Moff Tarkin: Damn. American PSP sales are lagging. What's are weakest demographic?

Admiral Motti: Technically? Neo-Nazis.

Grand Moff Tarkin: Seriously?

Admiral Motti: Haven't bought a one.

Grand Moff Tarkin: I didn't even know we tracked that stuff. What do they like?

Admiral Motti: All things angry and white.

Grand Moff Tarkin: Great! Let's make us a white PSP, then, and show just how much black ass it kicks. We'll make those black/white iPod battles look like Hands Across America. Now who wants a sip of virgin's blood?

This is about lynching? I think its pretty stupid and disrespectful, but I don't really get that...not from this computer view...

I posted this on Amanda's site:

While I certainly wouldn't encourage vandalism...

It would make the racism inherent in the ad explicit if someone put a big sticker under the women saying: "Her mommy's maid."

Like Phantom I'm curious about how you see lynching in this photo. Is it the necklace around the white woman's neck? From here it looks a little like a noose but I can't be sure.

Even if there's no lynching in the photo, it is damn weird.

They look like lovers to me. The I'm sorry would be hot.

It looks as if she's inspecting her teeth.

When I see stuff like this, I always hope (and often assume) that it's just some terrible misunderstanding. Maybe to an advertising executive in Japan---where blacks and whites combined are less than 0.5% of the population---the whole black/white thing really is just about skin color.

Still, you'd think they would have run it past a focus group or something...

bit lame for me to threaten Sony over gaming consoles since I keep miles from the electronic drug. But I will take the suggestion to write as a hint that we DO expect the financial interests underwriting tastless and offensive crap in the media to be sensitive if hit over the head hard enough with letters.

I hope!

Sony Exec: OOOOHHH! Apple is charging and getting more money for black iPods. We sell our black PSPs for regular price!

Sony Marcom: Let's introduce a white PSP!

Sony Exec: Great idea! Let me get our clueless ad agency on the phone.

Maybe to an advertising executive in Japan

Even Sony isn't clueless enough to entrust their stateside advertising to a Japanese agency.

Keep in mind that Japanese consumers enjoy products with names like "Pocari Sweat", so putting your ad budget in the hands of culturally misaligned copy writers and creatives wouldn't be such a good idea.

No, I think this is just another example of a how sex sells. Period. Two "regular-looking" women engaged in a fictional fight over a portable videogame wouldn't get a second look on the streets of Manhattan.

The really brain-dead part of all this is that Sony is selling the idea that there must be a conflict between black and white. That conflict between black and white (with big boobs, natch) is a given and therefore socially acceptable. So fuck them, their eleventy-three forms of DRM, their new "buy everything over again" video format, and their crappy portable players.

The woman on the right must offer a glamorous role model for the little girls of Prussian Blue to aspire to grow up to be.

You know, I first saw a mention of this billboard a few days ago, and it didn't even register that there was a second (black) person in the shot.

I only noticed it in the shot above.

Jesus, what the hell are they thinking.

Sony's ad agency is quite upfront about the fact human race is the metaphor they're using to sell the black and white plastic cases on portable PSPs. That's very poor taste right off the bat.

Then, as F'in Liberal pointed out, you've also the violent subordination aspect. I've read commenters arguing that the campaign as a whole isn't racist because in some of the shots, the black woman is kicking the white woman's ass. The fact remains every shot in the campaign shows the Personification of Race 1 kicking the ass of the Personification of Race 2. So, Sony's not just using race to sell their plastic toys, they're using race war. Classy stuff.

The face-grabber ad is even more disturbing because it comes across as a sick parody of infamous lynching postcards and other black and white photographs of racial violence in America.

Look at the symbolism. The black model is styled to look like a slightly hipper and more "urban" version of Aunt Jemima. The white model is tilting the black model's chin up in a particularly ugly submissive pose.

I'm not saying that the ad is literally referring to lynching. I'm saying that Sony is exploiting every emotionally-charged racial and sexual trope in the book to sell PSPs.

Taking a second look at the ad, it also occurs to me that the pose doesn't suggest that the white model won a fair physical fight. She's just grabbing the other woman's face and forcing her into a submissive "chin-up" posture.

Contrast the face-grabber ad to the image in which the black woman is dominating.

the white woman seems to bear a not too subtle resemblance to paris hilton.

of the 3 photos, only the one posted here i find offensive because of the demeaning pose (while it's a stretch for me to make the lynching association, i do find it undeniably racist). the other two, while tasteless, seem more 'hot inter-racial chick action' than race violence (there's no way paris hilton's gonna scuffle and get her hair and jacket mussed).

i'm surprised so many people are getting so upset about this. after all it's not only as trite as the blondes hairdo it's as equally a poor marketing campaign. ... other than getting everyone talking about the racial aspects, it's just another tasteless ad campaign.

I grew up in an ad agency, so I feel qualified to hold forth a bit more now that some other points have been raised. I think it's far past the time when Sony should have fired TBWA and found a new agency and new in-house creative talent. The campaign is terrible, it's opffending people, and this is what Sony has to say in an official statement:

All of the 100 or so images created for the campaign have been designed to show this contrast in colours of the PSPs , and have no other message or purpose.

Sony, Sony, Sony. It's no wonder Apple is kicking your ass. No matter what you think of their products, they and Chiat/Day realize that simplicity - whether as part of the interface of a device or in that device's advertising - is far more effective than cryptic "Black versus white" battles that piss people off.

To be plain...

Apple's ad: A white and black iPod sitting next to each other.

Sony's ad: White and Black people fighting.

This, and Sony's crack team of PR folks can't figure out what they're doing wrong? Meant to offend or not, the ads should be pulled, scrapped, and apologized for. They're reloading and aiming for their foot - again.

First thought: Flip it. Make it male. And make the product introduction Black and not White. ie. A black man grabbing the throat of a white man to symbolize the arrival/dominance of a "Black" product.

From that angle you can't tell us race/racism/history isn't essential to understanding the concept of this ad. It is.

This is not new, and it is not, perforce, from a photographer's point of view necessarily one thing or another. ie. complicit just because it engages the subject matter / tactic. No image can be judged that simply. Pictures contain the ability to "use" and "go beyond" at the same time.

Think Toscani. Think Mapplethorpe. Or, less, well known Thierry Le Goues.

Point is, however, this campaign is about essentializing black and white as both different and violently opposed...even as it "plays" with the concept of colors (products) and skins (people) as do the above photographers...the manner it does so, in this instance, is just so wrong

The casual essentializing. The idea that any of us can be reduced to "black" or "white" what sets this apart from the links above...all of which seem to point, to varying degrees, outside of the essentializing box even if they get there only by pointing out that essentializing is a box, a fetish, a construct.

It also must be noted that the incorporation of violence, which, it must be said...speaks historical nevertheless the shock that gives these ads their power.

It is seeing black and white as diametrically opposed, one beating the other, one winning only at the other's expense that is the additional sick insanity here.

Personally, it seems the ads get their power specifically because of the history they incorporate. And because U.S. culture is written across this very divide right now.

Who is "white"? Who is "black"? Who steals from whom? Who comes out on top?

After fifteen zillion images of a kind of fake racial harmony have been used to sell everything from toothepaste to digital cameras....the question/premise of this campaign is, however foul, nevertheless apropos.

I posted about this yesterday - this ad has launched here in Amsterdam as a test (it's on giant building-high billboards), the Dutch being in a one of their seriously xenophobic phases at the moment. Race relations here are about the US/UK 1978 levcl.

They picked the launch city right.

The team that produced the ad claim to specialise in oppositional and challenging marketing. I guess it worked. Here we are doing their job for them.

I don't really think the ad is aimed at the US market - it would cause way too much open furore. But by launching it in Europe and relying on bloggers' anger to viral market it, they can get around open trouble in the US or UK media, where it realy would cause deep and justified outrage.

Clever, if you admire that sort of thing.

What's a PSP? I only have an Xbox. [/sarcasm]

Shocking... heh... why?

My first thought on seeing the photo was... boy is that skinny white chick about to get her ass kicked.

As to Sony, good on them, race is a taboo that shouldn't be. Its that elephant in the room everyone is afraid to talk about. We use everything else in advertising why not that?

And I hope no one will take this personally, but watching everyone respond like a bunch of prudish christians after seeing Janet's naked boob, really made me smile. Do we need a fatwa on Sony for showing what cannot be shown? Blacks and whites not getting along.... how could this be? Certainly not in america.

Probably gonna get all kinds of shit for this, but why is using race to sell stuff worse than using sex and violence? Its not like racial harmony is actually the norm here on earth.

"...why is using race to sell stuff worse than using sex and violence?"

Surely you can grasp the difference between the use of sex in advertising and images of violence targeted against a particular minority group.

"As to Sony, good on them, race is a taboo that shouldn't be."

So you believe this ad campaign is going to promote healthy political discussion? (The discussion here doesn't count. This ain't what Sony had in mind, I'm sure.) What other societies can you name for us where advertising images of brutalization and debasement towards a particular group contributed to the public debate?

Personally, I don't see where you get the whole, "lynching" angle from that ad, Lindsay, nor did I see the whole "Klansman" thing. Although the ad is somewhat tasteless, I find the reaction to it rather overblown.

"Blacks and whites not getting along...."

I don't think the problem is that it's demonstrating blacks and whites are not getting along. If that were the premise, and were easily explainable in an ad, then it probably would be ok.

However, it's more than that. They are depicting stereotypes. Notice the black woman is smoking, the white woman isn't. Notice the white woman's clothes denote wealth and class, where the black woman's are baggy and cheap looking (you'd have to look at all the photo's to see some of what I've described).

They are contrasting racial aggression, class, wealth, and using it to sell a product. I don't think people care one way or the other whether people talk or discuss black vs. white racial issues. That's healthy. However, making it seem like it's some sort of war, not only of color, but of class and wealth, seems a bit cliche'. I'm white, and live in an all black would you think having something like that posted in my neighboorhood would make me feel? Comfortable? I get african american guys on the bus as it is who have called me cracker, whitey, and what not, making me realize there is alot of racial tension out there - do I really want that exacerbated? It would be nice if there could be a public discussion on it, however, I'd rather it not be made to sell playstation games.

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