South Korea‘s top tobacco firm said on Wednesday it would pull the ads for its new “This Africa” brand of cigarettes after complaints that the use of images of apes dressed as humans was racist.
KT&G launched the brand about a month ago, with a promotional hook that the cigarettes used tobacco that was roasted and dried in “traditional” African style.
The packet carries a graphic of two monkeys roasting tobacco leaves over an open fire, according to a report in the South African online newspaper, Mail & Guardian.
Advertising panels and posters for the product – displayed at convenience stores nationwide – feature chimpanzees dressed as news anchor and news reporter, announcing the slogan, “Africa is coming!”
The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) called recently for the posters to be withdrawn.
Mocking African People
“We are deeply offended by KT&G’s shameless and insulting use of this mocking imagery,” said the African Tobacco Control Alliance in a statement calling for the withdrawal of the ad campaign. The alliance said it was “at a minimum culturally insensitive”.
It added: “Mocking Africa to sell a product that causes death and disease is unacceptable, and we will not stand for the exploitation of Africa by tobacco companies.”
According to the BBC, A KT&G company spokeswoman told news agency AFP it would pull the ads this month.
She called the controversy “regrettable” and said the company wished to “dispel concerns of racism.”
“We absolutely had no intention to offend anyone and only chose monkeys because they are delightful animals that remind people of Africa,” she said.
“Since this product contains leaves produced by the traditional African style, we only tried to adopt images that symbolize the nature of Africa.”
However, she said the cigarette packet images would remain, as the company does not consider them to be offensive.”