The ad, played in Japan to promote a mobile phone company, eMobile, draw some deeply felt criticism from individuals identifying themselves as African Americans living in Japan. In their eyes, they said, the monkey was a stand in for American presidential candidate (presumptive) Barack Obama.
The implication is that the monkey is a demeaning depiction of African Americans as monkeys.
My own perception, my own experience, is that this is clearly a very sensitive issues for Americans who have faced racial discrimination in America. Any kind of discrimination, of course, can cause deep emotional pain -- and can have a lasting impact.
But was this racism -- or a confluence of events, leading to unintentional pain?
There is no confirmation on eMobile's website (either in English or Japanese) as yet (see press releases in English here), but an article in The Guardian dated June 27, 2008 says the company has decided to pull the ad.
The article quotes an interview with eMobile's chief executive and Reuters, saying, "We had no bad intentions, but this is a cross-cultural gap issue and we have to accept it".
Monkeys, like the one used in the ad, are native to Japan. This wikipedia entry gives the lowdown and provides some pictures.