Telecommunications company slammed for using Japanese culture to promote a Samsung product from South Korea.

In Australia, Optus is the second largest telecommunications company in the country, with thousands of customers signed up to their network of phone, mobile phone, Internet, and cable television services.

While they’re well-known in Australia, Optus is yet to make a name for itself abroad — that is until a few days ago, when the company made news in Japan for a controversial commercial that left locals fuming.

The ad, which was broadcast nationally on Free-to-Air TV in Australia throughout May, was one of four commercials in a “Choose Smarter” ad campaign designed to encourage mobile phone users to purchase the Galaxy S10 from Optus.

Called “Wasabi“, the ad shows two Caucasian women sitting at a table in a Japanese restaurant, with the Japanese national anthem playing in the background as the older woman says, “This place is amazing. You been here much?” The younger woman replies with: “Many times. I love Japanese food. Especially the way they do the avocado.”

At this point, the younger woman dips her chopsticks into a mound of wasabi–which she believes to be avocado–and puts a large serving of it into her mouth. With her mouth full of wasabi, her face contorts in pain and confusion as the voice-over kicks in with “Don’t follow a smart choice with a sloppy one.”

The ad then cuts to an image of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy Tab A 8.0, as the voice-over concludes with “When you choose the Samsung Galaxy S10, choose Optus.

The 15-second commercial was uploaded to the official Optus YouTube channel on 16 April, where it remained until today, when it mysteriously disappeared after dozens of angry comments from Japanese viewers started appearing in the comments section.

People in Japan were upset to see Japanese culture being used to promote South Korean company Samsung, leaving comments like:

“Using Japanese culture to promote a South Korean brand? What were they thinking?”
“This is deceiving the public into thinking Samsung is a Japanese product.”
“A South Korean product impersonating itself as Japanese?”
“Even with the Japanese national anthem playing in the background…this made me feel nauseous.”
“I’m sure even Korean people would be upset at the cultural misrepresentation.”
“Riding on the coattails of cool Japan culture is not cool. Why weren’t they at a Korean restaurant?”

Optus’ marketing team and creative agency Emotive, who developed the idea for the commercials, appear to have missed the advice doled out from their own slogan: “Don’t follow a smart choice with a sloppy one”.

Turning a blind eye to the longstanding cultural tensions between South Korea and Japan was a sloppy choice by Optus and one they appear to be acknowledging now, following the deletion of the ad from their official YouTube channel.

However, the quiet deletion comes with no official statement or apology from the company, so it will be interesting to see how Optus will handle the situation now that the issue is being brought to light in the English-language media.

Source: Hachima Kikou
Top image: Twitter/@oonamcgee
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