As TechEye reported on 23 January, long before the story surfaced anywhere, a Taiwanese computer firm called Action Electronics ran a TV ad with a local American-born Taiwanese comedian named Ah-Ken posing as a dead Steve Jobs, hawking a product called “Action Pad.”
In the now controversial commercial, the heavenly Jobs, played by Ah-ken – ”阿Ken” – was sporting the late Apple CEO’s famous black t-shirt and blue jeans. But this time he was wearing a white-haired wig with angel wings on his back and a halo above his head, selling an Android tablet marketed by Action Electronics.
The ad was meant to be funny, but it appears to have backfired, judging from the reactions by Westerners in North America and Europe.
“Steve Jobs’ ad blasted as disrespectful,” was the headline of a news story in Taiwan after the controversy erupted on blogs and YouTube channels.
The ad “has been broadly criticized in Taiwan as disrespectful,” wrote the Central News Agency in Taipei. noting: ‘The commercial has attracted worldwide media attention – Reuters news agency, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Fortune magazine and other media have reported on the 20-second TV commercial, with most of them quoting critics who described it as tasteless and shameless.”
The responses were particularly vehement in the United States where it was well known Steve Jobs accused Google of stealing Apple’s technology to create the Android OS, the CNA reporter added.
Jobs branded the technology as “grand theft Android” and promised to spend all his company’s money to wreck Google. He vowed a “thermonuclear war,” saying that he would not accept any compensation because all he wanted was the company’s ruin.
“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said, as was revealed in his biography.
Some overseas netizens have lambasted Taiwanese as a whole and have called for a boycott of Action Electronics, a major daily Mandarin-language newspaper, the United Daily News, reported in a front page banner story on Sunday.
Taiwanese media critic Wu Juo-chuan termed the ad a “shallow creation that hurts.” Wu said he believed that the commercial was a natural product of Taiwan society, which is obsessed with entertainment and low-class jokes.
“In such an atmosphere, the basic values of our traditional culture – empathy and respect – have been overwhelmed,” Wu said.
In a blog post on Jan. 30, Wu said the commercial was made without the consent of Jobs’ bereaved family and showed no empathy for them.
Wu said that from his experience in the advertising industry, he knows that the commercial has hurt the feelings of the Jobs family, and Action Electronics could be sued for infringing on the personal image rights of a famous figure.
Niu Tse-hsun, an associate professor of advertisement at Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said the electronics firm may think it is a creative approach to use a Jobs portrayal in its product promotion campaign.
However, Niu said, he would not recommend using the image of a deceased person since this could be seen as inconsiderate and cold-hearted.
Nonetheless, by making Jobs appear as a lovely angel, Action Electronics has not slandered the late electronics guru, Niu said.
Amid the fracas, some netizens in Taiwan said they saw nothing wrong with the ad. “Is Steve Jobs a god who cannot be portrayed in an ad?” one person wrote. “Many of our ads feature portrayals of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (founding father of Taiwan) and Meng Jiang Nyu (a woman in an ancient Chinese legend whose tears of mourning for her enslaved husband’s death led to the collapse of a section of the Great Wall of China).”
The netizens berated Wu as taking the “high moral ground” to find fault with the ad.
In response, Wu said “respecting others is a basic moral ethic — not that high a standard.”
Meanwhile, Ah-Ken’s agent said the ABT entertainer never meant to show any disrespect for Steve Jobs when he decided to take the job.
“We were just doing what our client asked us to do,” said the agent, adding that Ah-Ken never thought of it as making fun of Jobs.
Sun Yi-min, an executive at Action Electronics, told the United Daily News that the ad was aimed simply at promoting the company’s latest product and not at disrespecting anyone.
Despite that, now there are murmurs that Action Electronics has pulled the advert. TechEye will have its eyes glued to the TV to confirm.