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Creative Water Cooler Creative

John Boyega drops Jo Malone after being cut from brand's China ad


By Imogen Watson, Senior reporter

September 15, 2020 | 5 min read

You may not be anywhere near the office water cooler right now, but we still want to spotlight the most talked about creative from the brands that should be on your radar. Today, we're exploring Jo Malone's re-shoot of Star Wars actor John Boyega's personal 'A London Gent' ad.

Jo Malone/ John BJohn Boyega drops Jo Malone following censorship from China spotoyega

John Boyega has resigned as Jo Malone ambassador after his ad for the brand was reshot for its Chinese market

British actor John Boyega has said he will no longer be working with Jo Malone London. Despite becoming the brand's first male brand ambassador last year, his statement comes after the perfumer chose to re-shoot the ad he appeared in for its Chinese audience – omitting the star and his friends and family from the local execution.

Described as ‘a story of talent, energy and inspiration from a true Londoner’ John Boyega's first work for Jo Malone London was a hit. It was even award-winning, clutching best media campaign at the Fragrance Foundation Virtual Awards 2020.

However, Boyega was shocked when he saw the ad he directed and starred in received a total makeover for Jo Malone's Chinese audience. The premise of the original campaign was a homage to London, Boyega's hometown, and a personal story that featured the actor's friends and family hanging out in his home district of Peckham.

The version the perfumer released in China, however, saw Boyega replaced by Chinese star Liu Haoran. Despite the changes, the ad follows largely the same script.

While Boyega concedes that companies can rightly use different representatives to cater to different markets, he wrote on his Twitter account that: “[Jo Malone's] decision to replace my campaign in China – using my concepts and substituting a local brand ambassador for me, without either my consent or prior notice, was wrong. The film celebrated my personal story – showcasing my hometown, including my friends and featuring my family.”

Jo Malone has not provided any reasons as to why it chose to re-shoot the ad for the Chinese market. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Jo Malone London admitted that the concept for the film was based on Boyega's personal experiences and should not have been replicated. Quick to pull the replica ad from circulation, the perfumer stated that it recognised the re-shoot was ‘painful’ and ‘offensive’. Jo Malone joins a long list of brands fallen foul of censoring Black people from ads. Indeed, Boyega previously faced a similar situation in 2016, when Disney chose to shrink the size of his character, Finn, in the poster for The Force Awakens in China.

Star Wars china

In 2009, Microsoft got itself into a spot of bother when it was caught altering an image from its US website for its Polish audience, when it changed a black man's head to that of a white man. Earlier this year, the Associated Press (AP) was called out after it cropped Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan climate activist, from a photo featuring prominent climate activists, Greta Thunberg, Loukina Tille, Luisa Neubauer and Isabelle Axelsson.

Nakate addressed the Associated Press on Twitter with a video, detailing “what it means to be removed from a photo” which went viral. In its defence, David Ake, the AP’s director of photography, told Buzzfeed UK that, under a tight deadline, the photographer “cropped it purely on composition grounds”.

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