An advert for chocolate for Valentines Day by Japan and Thailand-based Loft has been pulled from YouTube after receiving criticism online for depicting women negatively.
The ad, which aired on YouTube, used illustrator Chika Takei to create an ad that celebrates friendship and showing girls as being fun. However, users online took offense to some of the dialogue and interpreted it to show women as competing over boyfriends, perpetuating a negative stereotype.
According to the Huffington Post in Japan, the key image that angered people on social media is towards the end. The girls turn around, to show each other pulling each other’s hair and clothes, essentially physically hurting one another.
The company pulled the ad from YouTube last week and has issued a statement apologising for the ad. A translation of the apology said, "As for the posting of the Valentine's Promotional Visual this time, there are a few customers who had displeasing feelings, and we deeply regretted that it resulted in a lack of consideration.”
— ねとらぼ (@itm_nlab) February 9, 2019
The Japan Times noted that Loft’s parent company had also recently been called out for controversy around similar topics. At the start of January, department store brand Seibu and Sogo launched an ad showing a woman being hit with pies in the face, with the narration starting with the question “We don’t need an Age of Women, do we?”
The ad then goes on to explain this by suggesting that complaining or discussing women’s issues perpetuates it and that we should instead be entering an ‘Age of Me’. So the ad isn’t entirely dismissing diversity or female empowerment but it confused and upset netizens nonetheless.
Controversial advertising can work in the favour of some brands but with social media users ready to call out work that makes them uncomfortable, some of Japan’s big brands are having to rethink their strategies.