Marketing Errs To Learn From Brands: Sony And The Case Of Racist PSP Ad

04 June, 2021 (Friday)

There was a time when having the PlayStation Portable was the coolest thing ever. But a certain campaign stirred up massive criticisms for PSP.

In the summer of 2006, Sony had launched an OOH campaign in the Netherlands to incite anticipation for a new version of the PlayStation Portable. However, it was met with anything but. The billboards used displayed a domineering white woman dragging a black woman by her face with the caption saying, "White Is Coming."

Sony defended itself by saying that the advertising was designed to emphasize the difference in color between white ceramic PSP and black and did not have any racist undertones.
Nevertheless, the public wasn't happy with the statement and Sony was subjected to incessant criticism from both the press and the consumers. What worsened the incident was Sony's lack of an apology to the public. They maintained that there were no racist messages to it and was a part of a wider marketing campaign they had planned. In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, "The marketing campaign for the launch of the White PSP in the Benelux focuses on the contrast between the Black PSP model and the new Ceramic white PSP model.
A variety of different treatments have been created as a campaign to either highlight the whiteness of the new model or contrast the black and the white models. Central to this campaign has been the creation of some stunningly photographed imagery, that has been used on large billboards throughout Holland."

After a bigger outcry from the public, Sony buckled down and withdrew the campaign with a spokesperson apologizing, "We recognize that the subject matter of one specific image may have caused concern in some countries not directly affected by the advertising. As a result, we have now withdrawn the campaign."

The campaign was to be run in different European countries and was also withdrawn and the controversial poster ad wasn't seen again after it.