By Mark Welsh
WHEN I BEGAN AS A COPYWRITER AT OGILVY AND MATHER, THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS ASIAN MODELS. This was Australia in the early '80's, so there was no such thing as black models either. Fast forward 30 years to the behemoth economy that is China, and suddenly it's a whole new kettle of bibimbap. Blessed with faces that both reflect and hypnotize the world's fastest growing luxury market, Asian models are now raking in the yen, yuan and (hard won) won*. They're so omnipresent that you can't swing a cat at Milk Studios without hitting Liu Wen or Tao Okamoto. Which makes the casting choices in the new Air France ad campaign even more dumbfoundingly dumb.
Riffing on the travel poster style of the 30's, each ad depicts different models styled to represent Air France destinations; a stoned blonde for San Francisco...a Botticelli-style temptress for Italy...an African American in dazzling sequins for New York...
...and then suddenly - like the food poisoning one gets from eating Duane Reade sushi - two white girls appear, be-wigged and made up to represent Tokyo and Peking.
My liver-spotted Scottish granny looks more Asian than this, and she's been dead for 20 years.
Qu'est-ce que cela, Air France? Was Du Juan already booked? Had Fei Fei Sun gotten hit by the Avian flu? Did the harried Creative Director at Air France's ad agency say, "We don't have the budget for another girl; just slap some Asian makeup and a wig on those Ukrainian chicks". Probably.
Call me literal, call me pedantic, or just call me to ensure such glaring faux pas don't occur in your advertising, catalogs, or brand books.
*South Korean won only.