Just weeks after Mountain Dew nosedived into a PR disaster for making what some called “arguably the most racist commercial in history,” pen-maker Uni-Ball is courting trouble with a commercial that mocks black men in prison, playing up racial linguistic stereotypes.
The ad opens with a muscled black man in a prison cell reading a letter. “What up homie,” it begins, before describing how ”we got a hood snitch up in the pen. We gon’ cut you loose like a noose.” In the words of the commercial, “I ain’t spittin, yo.”
The joke is that the cliche-filled letter about “knocking boots with some hood rats” is narrated in an upper-crust English accent, as if the guy doing voiceovers for Grey Poupon stepped into the wrong sound booth. This is because the letter is typed in the Edwardian Script font, rather than handwritten by the writer himself with a Uni-ball pen.
The ad was made by the South African branch of TBWA Worldwide. The premise appears to be about the American racial stereotype of the gangsta, not something from South Africa’s apartheid past.
While pen manufacturers don’t seem like an industry that would seek controversy, last August Bic caused an uproar for offer specialised, more expensive, pink pens “for her.”
The “Bust You Out” ad comes with two other videos that don’t use racial stereotypes.
Here’s a letter titled “Swapped at Birth,” read in the Broadway font:
And here’s “Pappy is dead,” read in everyone’s least favourite font, Comic Sans: