Leica, the leading German camera maker, is under hot water and facing heat from Chinese censors and nationalistic internet users. The camera maker launched an ad dramatizing the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. In an immediate attempt, Leica has been censored on the social media platform Weibo.
Leica released a five-minute video titled “The Hunt” which depicts the story of a photojournalist who chooses to resist interrogation from Chinese police. The journalist manages to stay in his hotel room so that he can snap a photo of a lone protester standing in front of police tanks, blocking their path. His scenes are interspersed with clips of other life-threatening situations around the world. The end of the video says: “This film is dedicated to those who lend their eyes to make us see.” The image of the Tank Man has become iconic, and no one knows what happened to that man. (Some suspect he was killed.) It’s a heavily pro-democracy message that strikes a nerve with China. This has come when China’s censors are gearing up for the upcoming 30th anniversary of the protests on June 4th.
Chinese users on Weibo
According to Chinese internet users on Weibo, this video ad created by Leica is an insult to their country. An extremely raged user even suggested the company to “get out of China” as an extreme demand. Reports tell us that Huawei could be in trouble too since it uses Leica in its flagship phones. One comment read: “Has Leica gone crazy? It’s free to look for trouble for itself, but does it want to throw Huawei under the bus, too?” Interestingly, following the outrage, Chinese censors have hidden many of these comments. However, Leica’s official Weibo account still seems to exist, and it contains many posts.
F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi; A Brazilian ad agency is the real culprit?
Leica didn’t immediately respond to comment, but a spokesperson told the South China Morning Post, that the ad wasn’t officially commissioned by Leica. The ad was created by the Brazilian ad agency F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, part of a large ad network that supports clients including T-Mobile, Lexus, and Toyota. The original video appears to have been taken down, but there are still re-uploads available on YouTube. As of this writing, Saatchi & Saatchi’s tweet is still up.
The Leica spokesperson wrote in an email to SCMP, “Leica Camera AG must, therefore, distance itself from the content shown in the video and regrets any misunderstandings or false conclusions that may have been drawn.” In the same story, the SCMP interviewed a human rights activist who was also a student leader and survivor of the 1989 protests. He expressed disappointment in Leica for distancing itself from the ad.