Thursday, July 2, 2015

AT&T: Image Fail (New Notes Added)

The first time I saw the commercial, I didn't really take notice of it.  Nor did I the second time.  I think it was the third time, though, that it hit me - as though it were a slap in the face from racism itself which seemed to say: "See, it's 2015 and I'm still around."

It was the AT & T "Life Simulation Facility" commercial to which I refer.  I could hardly believe it when I first became taken aback, but when I've seen it since, it still strikes me that the robot is a "blackface" one.  I even called AT& T; I can't say my experience was very satisfactory.  My concern seemed totally brushed aside and I was informed that my feedback wouldn't even be passed on. (One might ask why I even bothered to call.  If you visit their website, the only way to contact them online was to choose one of their products and I'm not an AT & T customer.)

Questions? I suppose the first one is this: "Is there doubt that the robot is blackface?"  Well, to me it sure looks as though that is indeed the case.  Note the oversized white mouth and huge white eyes. And what about the hat? Also, having seen it twice recently on tv again (to the same negative reaction), I believe it's more noticable on the tv screen (where we're not so close) than on a monitor or smartphone. Here's a primer on blackface if anyone needs a refresher.

The second one might be: "At & T - really?"  I did some online searching and found that this isn't the first time AT & T commercials have been suspect.  I found this blog post from 2013 which discusses their series of 'more is better'/'faster is better' commercials.  I'd totally forgotten about them, but do remember feeling at the time that the African-American children in them were not showcased on the same basis as the other children.

There also seems to be some evidence that the corporate climate of AT & T isn't all that friendly toward diversity.  The company is being sued by Knoyme King. 
There is also another lawsuit being brought by National Association of African American-Owned Media (‘NAAAOM’) and Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios.

The third question would probably be: "Why is this such a big deal anyway?"   Maybe it's not a question of say, war or peace, but the images that we're subjected to (and things like ads can affect us even when we're not paying full attention) can be offensive, hurtful, and even harmful.  I found a good article from 2009.  From this article by Mark Sawyer:  "Whether it is the original white "Amos and Andy" or white fraternity/sorority girls and boys, blackface is always about mocking black skin and presenting stereotypical black behavior. Minstrels always clown around, sing and dance and otherwise dehumanize the individuals they represent."  I think that sums it up. 


1) For some reason, the video of the ad in question at the previous link was made private.  I put in another link.

2) I called and sent an e-mail to Lifetime network about this commercial as I had seen it airing there.  I also called NBC as it's been airing during episodes of "Dateline."

3) I believe the ad was done by agency BBDO.  Shame on them!!!

4) Folks - am I the only one that sees a problem with this???

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