A Russian restaurant has pulled an ad campaign featuring a Black man and white women after the company’s co-founder received numerous death threats from members of the nationalist hate group the “Male State.”
Russian sushi delivery chain Yobidoyobi has stores in 65 Russian cities. On Aug. 14, the company posted the first of the controversial ads. The image featured a Black male model surrounded by three women with apparently Slavic features. The initial ad was shared in all 65 cities but only seemed to to create concern in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.
However, it was the second ad that sparked a wave of hate comments and threats. The second ad, shared on Aug. 24, featured an image of the Black man alone, eating sushi.
According to Yobidoyobi co-founder Konstantin Zimen, the swirl of controversy began after Male State leader Vladislav Pozdnyakov shared the ad on social media.
“On August 24, they came in a commentary on the August 14th post and began accusing us of ‘promoting multiculturalism.’ People (mostly men) began to write angry comments on social networks and threaten me with reprisals,” Zimen wrote on VC.ru.
The Male State describes itself as promoting “traditional values” and “national patriarchy,” and members have been known to threaten women with biracial children and feminists. There are an estimated 150,000 members in 25 local and foreign branches.
The group was founded by Pozdnyakov in 2016 and gained prominence in 2018 when members appealed to Russian women not to engage in intimacy with foreigners during the World Cup to avoid a new generation of biracial children after many were born following the 1957 Moscow Youth Festival.
Zimen said that after his phone number was leaked online amid anger over the ad, he received numerous death threats, Zimen said Pozdnyakov ordered his supporters to make fake calls to the restaurant ordering food, then refuse to pay.
“In Pozdnyakov’s Telegram channel, subscribers call for ‘real’ actions, publish links to the social networks of girls who starred in advertising, and write negative reviews on all review sites, online maps, AppStore, Google Play,” Zimen wrote.
Ultimately, the company removed the ads. “On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos. We have removed all content that caused this hype,” Yobidoyobi said in an apology message on Instagram.
“Yobidoyobi is known for its provocative marketing, but this time we did not pursue these goals — we just made a very ordinary promo for social networks. Many brands use images of different models, which may differ in skin color, gender, and so on,”
Zimen told a Russian outlet. “There was no provocation in this — it is just the voice of the times. I am sorry that someone thinks that a photo of a Black man (especially next to supposedly ‘Slavic’ girls) on the Internet is unacceptable.”