ANA to modify commercial after accusations of racial stereotyping


All Nippon Airways said Monday it was modifying a TV commercial after apologizing to customers who complained it used racist stereotyping, but insisted it meant no offense.

ANA started airing the new 30-second ad on Saturday to promote its beefed up schedule of international flights from Tokyo’s Haneda airport in March.

In the commercial, two Japanese men — played by actor Hidetoshi Nishijima and comedian Hidetomo Masuno — dressed in ANA pilot uniforms discuss in English how they might boost the image of the airline as an international carrier.

After Nishijima complains that Masuno is acting like a typical Japanese person, he says: “Let’s change the image of Japanese people.” “Sure,” replies the comedian known as Bakarhythm, who is suddenly wearing a blond wig and an improbably long rubber nose.

The ad caused a stir among English-language social media users in Japan.

“I’ve just seen the new ANA advert. . . Really? ANA think this is OK?!” Angela Fukutome said in a message posted on ANA’s Facebook page.

“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,” tweeted @sibylleito on Twitter.

ANA spokesman Ryosei Nomura said the carrier wanted to express the importance of the upcoming international flights at Haneda and to urge Japanese to go out and see the world.

“But we have received opinions different from the message that we wished to convey. We will modify part of the advertisement and will release the second version soon,” he said.

The original TV spot was initially supposed to air from Saturday through Monday but has been pulled for now, he said.

Earlier, an ANA spokeswoman said the carrier “has received calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad.”

“We apologized to each of the customers for having caused uncomfortable feelings and also thanked them for bringing up the issue,” she said.

“We have passed on the issue to the section in charge of the advertisement, but as of now we have yet to decide how to deal with the commercial,” she said.


  • 7188photo

    I still love ANA – awesome service, only good experiences with this airline. Who cares about an ad like this – see it with a bit of humor. I dislike the lack of bringing a message across much more in this clip than the same “friendly racism” you see everywhere in Japan.

    • kevin

      Really? try other Asian airlines like Korean Air & Singapore Air. the flight itself for ANA is so old fashioned as well as the flight attendants.. they watched me turn off my ipad until they made sure I turned it off completely.. and the flight did not even began to move. I was insulted because she was obviously not trusting me and was giving me this weird look. those kinds of japanese mindset really turns me off.. too much order and structure to the point that makes people feel uncomfortable. (nowadays, there are even airlines that allows the use of electronic devices even taking off and landing.)

      • JTCommentor

        That’s a government regulation. The FAA recently relaxed the rules in the US, but the Japanese bodies still require these devices off. Of course a Japanese carrier is going to strictly adhere to Japanese government regulations. It is their responsibility to ensure passengers follow the directions, rather than any perceived mistrust.

      • 7188photo

        I used both Korean Air and Singapore Air (of which Singapore was way better), but both are beaten by my recent ANA flight. Sure, these this all depends on which particular flight you are on, and I was on their probably newest plane. But I’m also not talking only about in-flight experience, but also about the ground staff etc.
        Anyway, this is all subjective, so if you had bad experiences – sucks for you.
        About the iPad – there’s nothing to add to what JTCommentor wrote.

  • lasolitaria

    I don’t endorse what they did but I believe those customers are way too easily offended. I remember the main criterion to choose a company used to be the obvious: that its service was better/cheaper than the competition’s or at least good/affordable. Now it is whether it’s perceived as PC or not. Even if the service of ANA is not that good, “racially sensitive ads” ranks pretty low in a “reasons to patronize” list based on logic. This truly is a society where feelings are more important than logic.

    Besides, a lot of foreign customers couldn’t care less about what a Japanese company thinks of the size of their noses.

    • Mike Wyckoff

      You are right, it probably won’t deter many people, but it certainly doesn’t help a company’s image to stereotype certain customers.

  • Jeff Ogrisseg

    I’ve seen worse. But what would happen if Delta, UA, AA, etc., made a commercial with someone making “Asian eyes” or the lot of other easy stereotypical props? This was just plain stupid, and what does lower my regard of ANA is this backhanded apology that implies Westerners just didn’t get their message.

    • lasolitaria

      If an American airline did this kind of thing it would probably get lots of heat but the problem is not the act itself but the exacerbated sensitivity of the American people.

  • JTCommentor

    That’s the opposite of logic. What does “what would happen in the UK” mean to “what should happen in Japan”? Two entirely different countries with different sensibilities and different ideas of what is acceptable or not.

    There are plenty of things that would be considered extremely rude in Japan that happen every day in The uk. Should uk people start changing their behavior?

  • lasolitaria

    “mocking” is totally subjective. It has nothing to do with logic.

  • this was in good humor, I think

  • C321

    ANA is probably the best airline, but this advert doesn’t change the image of Japanese, it reinforces the image many foreigners have of Japan as being a bit racist, insensitive and ignorant. The advert is also not even remotely funny if you put the racism to one side. Sadly another case of some incompetent old fool being in charge of marketing and being well past his retirement age. Any decent marketing executive would have at the very least tested this advert with a select group of customers and would have never allowed it to be released. If ANA are so sorry about this advert why is it even still up?

  • Mike Wyckoff

    I am a long-time ANA mileage member and absolutely LOVE flying with them, HAVING SAID THAT, I was deeply concerned with their CM. Not only is it stereotyping but shows complete ignorance. It’s rank and more than that, it’s old. For anyone who has lived in Japan long enough, the long nose, blond haired figure goes back quite a ways and has often been used to impersonate white foreigners, and while it may not have seemed to anything more than an innocent “gag”, can you imagine ever seeing this?
    An American Airlines (or whatever) commercial with a couple of white guys impersonating black people with fake afros and painting their skin with black paint; or impersonating asian with tape stretching their eyes wide and fake buckteeth? NO! absolutely not! So why is this acceptable???? It isn’t PERIOD

  • Mike Wyckoff

    If that is how they feel, and they are poking fun at themselves, it simply shows complete and utter ignorance of a portion of their customers.
    Remember, ANA is an international company, far from the local bakery.

  • Gordon Graham

    I think the Japanese should be equally offended if not more for the implication that to appear more Western like is a preferable image.

  • Mike Wyckoff

    True, but there are MANY foreigners living in Japan who watch “local” TV.