Air France drew flak for it's racist portrayal of Asian women in an advertising campaign last year in April. Despite much negative feedback from the media, Air France has decided to continue using these visuals in their digital marketing outreach one year on.
The insensitive campaign was undertaken by French ad agency BETC which is part of Havas Worldwide Group.
The campaign showcased visuals of a white Caucasian models in geisha wigs, props such as a lion dance puppet head and exaggerated make-up to recreate longish, almond shape eyes to fit the stereotype of an "Oriental woman".
Each model represented the destination of the city that the airlines would fly to.
A female model dons on a Geisha wig and what looks like a kimono revealing her back and neck, staring at the viewer with a pomegranate in her hand. The pomegranate was believed to be the original forbidden fruit instead of an apple. The symbolism of the fruit itself insinuates that the Geisha was indulging in illegal or immoral pleasure. The Geisha is widely mistaken as a prostitute as Japanese prostitutes associated themselves with the word to bring in more customers.
The white model on the left poster has eyebrows darkened and thickened, dark reddish tone added to her eyes and heavy kohl eye-liner, once again made to resemble the Indian majority ethnic race in Dubai.
One may question why models representative of the races they were portraying from each country were not used.
Due to the wrong execution of a potentially good strategy - using eye-catching cultural icons or visuals to depict each city, Air France has not only failed to capture hearts but inflict damage on it's brand name. The company's brand reputation has been reduced to a shallow, local airlines that has failed to globalize internally thus the ignorance of using racial stereotypes to run a campaign was given the green light to go.
How Netizens Fixed the Air France Racist and Sexist Commercial on Twitter
Worse still, ever since the incident where a hashtag #FixedIt4UAF on Twitter was coined to show Air France how they could have done better.
Unfortunately, the airlines is still continuing to use the shamed campaign imagery to this day.
Although local agencies may know their market well, to reach out to a more sophisticated, global, well-travelled audience, Air France may want to consider using a company who has an international experience like ourselves.
Make an informed choice today. To stop making repeated mistakes in your future marketing plans, contact us today.