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360fly’s new ad is a racist mess. I thought we were better than this.

TechCrunch TechCrunch 24/06/2016 Haje Jan Kamps

What do you do when nobody is paying attention to your 360-degree camera brand? Well, you have a couple of options. You could put together a campaign that shows how awesome your tech is and how it is the perfect match to your target audiences. 

That’s right… churro cart vendors.
— 360fly's press release

Or you could go the other way, enlisting a Trump impersonator and an inexcusable dollop of stereotypes to try to get the word out.

Guess which one 360fly chose.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer — to promote its new 4K 360-degree camera, 360fly decided to opt for thinly veiled racism under the guise of parody, and then doubled down by claiming that none of the TV networks wanted to go near the ad, supposedly because the networks “want to be sensitive to specific ethnic groups.”

Here’s a crazy thought: Perhaps 360fly should have taken the networks’ judgement to heart.

As an aside, I asked 360fly for a contact at one of the TV networks that had rebuffed their advances so I could confirm the refusal, but they weren’t able to supply any names or contact information. The LA Times also looked into the claim that the TV networks refused the adverts, but wasn’t able to get confirmation that anybody had turned the ad down. In one case the paper found that “there was no record of 360fly in [the network’s system], and its standards and practices staff doesn’t recall seeing an ad that matches this one.”

A cavalcade of poor taste at best

In the advertisement, titled The Wall, you are treated to a Donald Trump impersonator who, in this particular version of the future, has erected a wall on the Mexican border.

“From now on, no more Mariachis interrupting dinner,” fake-Trump says, as a number of people in — you guessed it — mariachi costumes climb out of a hole in the ground behind him.

“The campaign strategically leverages the national and global interest in the 2016 presidential campaign,” the company’s PR agency highlights, “complete with a Trump impersonator, Hillary and Bernie look-a-likes, Mexican Mariachi bands, housemaids, gardeners and even churro cart vendors. That’s right…churro cart vendors.”

“We aren’t idiots”

I spoke with 360fly’s CEO Peter Adderton, who claims that 90% of the people they surveyed don’t have a problem with the ad, and that the advert is actually meant to be anti-racist.

“We aren’t idiots. We knew that the ad would be controversial,” said Adderton, saying that he expected that 1% of viewers would hate the app “But the feedback from the community has been unbelievable. People tell us they love the spot and say it’s extremely funny.”

“Every other camera out there only shows what is in front of you. It wants to believe just one thing,” says Adderton, drawing a parallel with what is going on in US politics. “In the ad, we have our 360-degree camera bring all the views together, and we say there is a better way. We are trying to bring people together.”

The ad’s punchline, “get a broader perspective” is meant to shed light on what’s going on here, but that doesn’t lessen the blow of the fact that the company is leveraging the frothiness of what passes for political discourse, sprinkled with xenophobia, in a desperate ploy to stir up enough outrage to get some press coverage.

“You wouldn’t be talking to me if we hadn’t done this ad,” Adderton says, not entirely accurately; we have covered the company quite a few times before, sans dodgy advertising campaigns.

He does point out that the advert is doing what it was intended to do, however, in creating “a tremendous amount of publicity and awareness” for his company.

This is the reverse of racism.
— 360fly's CEO

“I don’t think that every Mexican who lives in this country plays in a Mariachi band,” Adderton says. “The majority of people get this ad for what it is: a parody.”

“How is this racist?” Adderton asks, pointing out that his tagline is meant to do turn the advert on its head, highlighting how the current discourse in US politics is problematic. “It is the reverse of racism. If I’m a racist, I wouldn’t come up to you and say ‘hey, you should broaden your perspective’.”

Adderton says his company has a number of Mexican and Latin American employees, pointing out that the company has an office in Florida. He claims that both they and the company’s Mexican distributor love the ad, but the Australian-born entrepreneur who volunteered that he’d be voting republican if he was able to vote in the US reveals he might be less aware of the issues at hand.

“I am Australian, and I didn’t grow up with the whole battle with the wall and immigration, so I have a very open mind,” says Adderton. “Mexican American people have no more challenges than any other Americans, I believe that the majority of Mexicans are hard-working, family-loving people. We all have families, we all have the same challenges.”

And that is where we get to the crux of the matter. There is a tremendous amount of research on how the latino population in the US is suffering tremendously under discrimination and poverty, and saying that people of Mexican descent have the same challenges as everybody else is simply not true. And I would argue that mariachi players sneaking across the wall in mariachi costumes and with churro carts are hardly going to be a positive voice in the debate.

There are plenty of good parodies. There is a lot of excellent satire out there. This is neither. At best, it’s tasteless and tone-deaf. At worst, it’s actively racist and detrimental to the very people they’re claiming to “help.” Either way, 360fly should be deeply ashamed of associating themselves with this drivel, and I’m amazed that they are choosing to stand by it.

This sort of advertising is what gives the rest of our industry a bad name. It has to stop.

If you really do want to see it, hit play below.

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