Sony PSP Ads Racist?

By Richard Menta 7/6/06

As I look at the image on the right there is just no escaping it. A tall white woman, her left hand clawed and ready to strike. Her right hand tightly clasping the face of a smaller, dark-skinned black woman with a look that says she will beat that woman into subservience. If it were an advertisment for a new feature film it would be rawly powerful and incendiary. In reality it is an ad for a portable game player.

The white woman is supposed to represent the white-encased version of the Sony PSP and the black woman the original PSP. Another meaning is impossible to avoid. According to the firestorm this photo is generating on the Net it is part of the PSP's ad campaign in Holland. The visceral image, with its overt racial overtones, has sparked a firestorm online with many calling the ads racist and insensitive.

Billboard for Sony PSP White

Ad giant TWBA, known for their incendiary United Colors of Bennetton series, developed the campaign for Sony. As TWBA regularly exploits disturbing imagery and themes as a means to break through the white noise of advertising it is fair to say the meaning was not accidental as Sony has since claimed to

There are about a hundred other, less controversial, images in the campaign that play on the contrasts of black and white, but that means little if it backfires into another PR nightmare for Sony. Unfortunately, TWBA may have miscalculated in its moves here for a company that has already angered and alienated customers with last year's rootkit fiasco. What happens next depends if this story spills from the Net into the mainstream media.

GamesIndustry, JoyStick, and Engadget all picked this one up early and you can see their comments and details too.


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