iPad rival's ad using Jobs lookalike divides island

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2012, 12:00am

A television commercial by a Taiwanese computer maker featuring an impersonation of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs hawking a tablet computer running the rival Android operating system has ignited a war of words in Taiwan and abroad.

In the advert posted to YouTube, popular Taiwanese comedian and impersonator Ah-Ken is seen dressed in Jobs' classic look: black turtleneck sweater, blue jeans, round glasses and sneakers. There is also a moment at the end where he sports angel wings and a digital halo.

While many people have found it highly distasteful and disrespectful, others view it as amusing and inoffensive.

Though the advert does not mention Jobs or Apple by name, the lookalike says: 'Introducing the new generation of the pad. It is amazing. What more do we need?' The commercial ends with him saying: 'Thank God, I can finally play another pad.'

Devices running Google's Android operating system, such as the Action Pad featured in the commercial, compete with Apple products such as the iPad, and Jobs strongly derided the rival technology.

Ah-Ken first appeared dressed as Jobs during a press conference promoting the Action Pad on January 10. The TV advert first aired about a week later. However, it appears that the advert was yanked early this month amid the criticism, much of which could be found in international coverage of the advert by media outlets such as Reuters and CNN.

But some web users in Taiwan, accustomed to impersonations aired by local broadcasters almost every day, say it is not a big deal, and that the advert was meant to be amusing and catch viewers' attention by using a well-known figure.

'There are even adverts that feature lookalikes of our [Republic of China] founding father, Dr Sun Yat-sen, and other top leaders hawking something,' said one online post.

Professor Niu Tse-hsun, who teaches advertising at Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said it was not out of line for an advert to use a deceased person to draw attention, and that a number of TV shows on the island have featured impersonations of political leaders and celebrities.

'But it becomes disrespectful to the late Jobs if the advert is using him to promote something he had sharply criticised before he died,' Niu said.

Chelsea Chen, a spokeswoman for Action Electronics, which ran the controversial advert, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Jobs always promoted products that were good for people. 'So his image can also promote other things that are good,' she was quoted as saying, adding, 'It is just an impersonator, not Jobs.'

Neither Apple nor Jobs' family has commented.

It is common for Taiwanese television to poke fun at famous figures. One cable TV network has an impersonation show- The Biggest Political Party - that feature entertainers impersonating famous figures. The show is so popular that the format has been copied by other networks. But one station attracted resentment in December by allowing one of its news anchors to mimic North Korean anchorwoman Re Chun-hee in a news broadcast shortly after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The station was later forced to apologise after mounting criticism.

In March last year, the production team of The Biggest Political Party was forced to apologise after one of its episodes drew protests from Japan by showing an impersonator of Japanese Emperor Akihito cracking jokes soon after the real emperor had visited victims of the devastating tsunami that struck Japan that month.