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.