Sony goes white



The picture above features Sony’s PlayStation Portable advertisement. The advertisement managed to court controversy from across the globe, soon after its release. The controversy focused around whether this ad had a racist undertone to it. A white woman fixes a black woman with a decidedly hostile look and it almost seems like she tries to kill the black woman in the picture. The white woman is portrayed as being so powerful that the black woman isn’t able to pose any resistance to her whatsoever. Many people felt that the ad signaled racial discrimination quite blatantly. What’s more, most potential consumers of Sony’s PSP are young people, and the racial implication would hurt black teenagers and cause a very negative influence on their sense of worth. It could lead to white children considering themselves to be superior to black children and also bullying black children more often.

Apart from the demerit mentioned above, we also think that this advertisement is a reverse side case of model’s pose. The model painted in white could scare young kids. Many parents would also take offense to this picture as it portrays violence which could lead to kids imitating model and resorting to violence more often in daily life.

Sony revoked this advertisement after more and more people hammered it, and apologized for its mistake. Sony though, insisted that they just wanted to promote their white PlayStation Portable by using this picture, and never had any other purpose. This picture emphasizes contrast of color between the new edition PSP and the old edition with black appearance. And if someone questioned if the horrible picture would impact young people negatively, maybe Sony would claim that they only wanted to attract young people by using a cool picture!

This advertisement was showcased on billboards for only six weeks. But due to viral nature of the Internet, and the controversy caused by this ad, it is still being circulated around the web. We would say that this is an effective advertisement as it attracted the attention of many consumers. To some extent, it broke the local restrictions of outdoor advertisement. This new edition of the PSP became widely popular. At the end of this blog, we question whether making the controversial advertisement is an approach of Sony to promote its product, although the company firmly asserted that the original idea of this advertisement was simply to convey the information about the new PSP.

Written by Kaiyu Xiong


1. Ludwig Kietzmann (2006). Sony pulls controversial PSP ads

2. Christopher Grant (2006). Ad critic: Sony’s racially charged PSP ad


Diesel following rivals?


Advertisements often stretch the social and ethical boundaries of creativity. While advertisers generally pride themselves on designing ads that are meant to positively influence their target audience, they sometimes do so by not keeping in mind the negative social consequences that their ads might result in. Diesel, the well-renowned Italian fashion-giant, launched an ad campaign titled “Smart May Have The Brains, But Stupid Has The Balls. Be Stupid, Diesel.”, a few years ago. The poster featured above was one in a series of many such ads that were released during the campaign. The ad was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for being indecent and promoting anti-social behavior. [1]

We find the ad to be offensive to the youth and especially young women. A lot of parents would also feel uncomfortable seeing youngsters indulging themselves that way. The ad has been presented in an indecent manner and carries an overtly sexual theme. Diesel might have tried to imitate some of its rivals such as Benetton and French Connection, that have used the art of shock advertising in many of their previous campaigns. The ad also stereotypes women by showing the young woman in the ad as a sexually provocative figure. We will discuss each of these aspects in more detail: [1]


The  theme of the campaign, “Smart May Have The Brains, But Stupid Has The Balls. Be Stupid, Diesel.”, seems to celebrate wild and inappropriate behavior. It almost encourages youngsters to be stupid and participate in activities that might get them into serious trouble. The young woman in the poster is shown to have climbed up a ladder in order to flash her breasts at a surveillance camera. The image and theme is synonymous with young teen-aged men and women who get drunk, and behave inappropriately. Most of them tend to not have memory from the previous night when they wake up the next morning. The ad captures such situations and encourages inappropriate behavior. [1]


The ad definitely uses sexual appeal to catch the attention of consumers. The campaign’s aim might also have been to generate publicity for the brand by using techniques that would grab them some eyeballs. The image of a woman flashing her body parts at a security camera is not something that any consumer would generally associate as being normal or sane. It is highly possible that Diesel was only doing what many other apparel houses such as Benetton and French Connection have been doing since years. However, that doesn’t justify the merits of their campaign. [1] [2]


The ad stereotypes and portrays women inappropriately. The woman in the picture is shown as a sexually provocative figure. Ads like these have been held responsible for inducing violence and crime against women by portraying them as sex objects. The theme of the ad makes a reference to being stupid and dumb, and shows the woman indulging in behavior that only strengthens the argument. The ad stereotypes women as being dumb, wild and irresponsible. [2]

How advertisers may justify the use of this ad 

Diesel might say that it tried to portray women as being confident and uninhibited while expressing themselves. The ad also addresses the fact that consumers nowadays are being constantly monitored by surveillance cameras. In addition to all that, advertisers might argue that most lingerie and swim wear ads get away by showing nudity in a much more provocative manner than what has been shown in this ad. [1]

Effective or not? 

We feel like the ad was definitely not effective. While it might have managed to gain the attention of many teenagers, most of them would be the first to admit that they wouldn’t intentionally want to indulge in activities that would leave them feeling ashamed the morning after a party. “Being stupid” and “having the balls” are two completely different arguments. “Having the balls” could mean possessing the guts to take strong decisions in order to do the right thing. It definitely does not mean climbing up a ladder in order to flash your body parts at a security camera. Now that is just being stupid.

– Manish Priyank Busi


[1] Poulter, S. (2010). Mail Online News. Retrieved from Daily Mail:

[2] Belch, G. E., & Belch, M. A. (2009). Advertising and Promotion – An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective, 9th edition. New York City: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.