Leica’s new advert has sparked a backlash in China so severe that the government has banned the company’s name on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter. Bad news for Leica, given that China is one of their biggest growth markets in the world.
The video, which is titled “The Hunt” and contains strong language, depicts a photojournalist attempting to document the Chinese government’s crackdown during pro-democracy protests in Beijing back in 1989.
To make matters worse, the closing scene features the controversial “Tank Man” photo appearing in his lens.
Speaking to PetaPixel, Leica’s Brazilian ad agency, F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, had previously said at the launch of the ad:
Inspired by stories of photographers who spared no efforts for everyone to see reality, Leica launches today a new production dedicated to these professionals. It is a unique narrative about risk, passion, and history.
The original upload has since been removed from YouTube, with many Chinese citizens voicing their concern that the clip was offensive to their country. A number even asked the question of whether Leica are worthy of collaborating with Huawei, making reference to the fact the phone brand has been prominently using Leica camera technology.
The complaints have only snowballed since, resulting in the Chinese government banning the word “Leica” in both English and Chinese on Weibo. Anyone trying to use the word in their posts on the platform was greeted with a warning that they were “violating laws, regulations, or the Weibo community guidelines.”
As for Leica’s response? They are now claiming the ad wasn’t official. According to the South China Morning Post, a spokeswoman said the ad, which ends with the Leica logo, “was not an officially sanctioned marketing film commissioned by the company […] 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.”