The Italian airline Alitalia was fiercely criticized this week after releasing an commercial on social media that featured an actor carrying blackface taking part in former President Barack Obama.
The advert was one among 4 Italian-language movies made to advertise the airline’s just lately introduced nonstop flight from Rome to Washington. Its different movies confirmed actors portraying President Trump, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, with the hashtag #WhereIsWashington.
The video that includes the character of Mr. Obama rapidly elicited offended feedback on YouTube and Facebook, principally written in Italian, after it was posted. Comments on Facebook referred to as the video “outrageous” and famous that blackface was “universally considered a racist practice.” In response, a consultant for the airline initially defended the video, saying that the actor portraying Mr. Obama was not Caucasian and that “makeup was applied to highlight features.”
Later on Wednesday, the corporate apologized and stated that it could take away the advert from all of its social media channels.
“Alitalia deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the promotional video on our new Washington route,” it stated in a press release. “For our company, respect for everyone is mandatory, it was never our intention to hurt anyone and we will learn from what has happened.”
Alitalia is the newest model in latest months to launch merchandise or adverts which have been criticized as racist. This 12 months, Gucci, one other Italian model, stopped selling a black-knit women’s sweater that could be pulled up over the lower half of a wearer’s face. Its opening for a mouth was surrounded by bright red lips, and the garment was decried on social media for evoking blackface imagery. Prada, also based in Italy, apologized for charms on bags that resembled black monkeys with outsize red lips. Last year, H&M, based in Sweden, apologized for an image in its online store of a black child model wearing a hooded sweatshirt that said “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
The issues are not just limited to international brands.
This week, Nike canceled the release of a sneaker that featured a 13-star American flag, which is associated with the Revolutionary War and considered by some to be a symbol of oppression and racism. Colin Kaepernick, the former National Football League quarterback and social justice activist, reportedly criticized the design to Nike privately, expressing concern to the company that the Betsy Ross flag had been co-opted by groups that espouse racist ideologies.
Brands have become quick to respond to these crises, which inevitably raise questions around who is making the editorial decisions behind these ads and products. The ad industry has long struggled with a lack of gender and ethnic diversity.