How ‘China fear’ affects companies: Leica tries to disclaim an ad that features the Tank Man

April 21, 2019

A promotional video that presents several vignettes of photojournalists documenting violence and conflict around the world became a controversy not just between the company Leica and China but also between two companies.  A recurring scene features a photographer who captured the famous image of a civilian blocking a column of tanks the day after the Chinese military’s deadly crackdown of protesters in June 1989. As the photographer’s shutter closes to capture the historic shot of the “Tank Man”, as the still-unidentified person is known, the screen transitions to a dedication to “those who lend their eyes to make us see”, before Leica’s distinctive red logo appears.

Following a public uproar in China and censorship of the brand on social media, Leica Cameras AG said on Thursday it had neither commissioned nor authorised the five-minute video – entitled The Hunt – that depicted photojournalists covering Beijing’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy activists in 1989. Yet despite Leica’s efforts to disavow the video, F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, the ad company that represents the German firm in Brazil and which produced the film, said on Friday that it was “developed together” with its client’s representatives in Brazil. F/Nazca “would never [harm] its huge reputation by creating, producing and airing a work without the proper approval of its client”, spokeswoman Carolina Aranha said in an interview on Friday. The agency was “immensely proud” of the video, which was released earlier this week, and was confident it had “delivered a remarkable piece”, she said. Leica did not immediately respond to requests for comment on F/Nazca’s statement when contacted outside business hours…

Airing just weeks before the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, the video came at a highly sensitive time for Beijing, which routinely quells any mention in China of the events of June 4. But Zhou Fengsuo, who was a student leader at the time of the protests and now lives in the US, said Beijing was unlikely to make any explicit response to the video for fear of drawing attention to the matter. But that did not prevent a stern response from some members of the Chinese public. Soon after the commercial was shown online, social media users rushed to pour scorn over the German camera maker, which works with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to develop lenses for the company’s smartphones…

Following the outcry, the company said that it regretted any “misunderstandings or false conclusions that may have been drawn”. China is one of Leica’s fastest growing markets, with the company planning dozens of new stores on top of its current nine.

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