Apple drops Dalai Lama from Asian ads

Maybe Apple Computer doesn't think so differently after all: the company has removed a photograph of the Dalai Lama from advertisements set to appear in Asia, reportedly for fear of offending China, and in the process set off a maelstrom of bad publicity.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that Apple had decided to pull the image of the Dalai Lama, currently appearing in the US version of its ad campaign, when the marketing effort begins in Asia. The advertisements depict a black-and-white photograph of an historic figure or a celebrity and the words "think different". The campaign has included the likenesses of the Dalai Lama, Miles Davis, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Amelia Earhart, among others.

The withdrawal of the ad provoked editorial outrage at the Asian Wall Street Journal where writer Michael Judge opined: "Apparently the folks at Apple have been taking night classes at the Rupert Murdoch school of free speech. Lesson No. 1: Free speech is fine and dandy, unless it jeopardises your access to a massive and potentially lucrative market. Apple's market share in China is negligible. It may have decided that ads featuring the Dalai Lama, once reviled as a 'political insect' and more recently compared by Chinese officials to crazed American cult leader David Koresh, would not be good for business."

The Dalai Lama, the Buddhist spiritual leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has been in exile from Tibet since 1959. The Chinese army invaded Tibet in 1950, killing thousands and systematically destroying almost all of the Buddhist temples in the country.

Ever since his exile to India, the Dalai Lama has remained in the forefront of attempts to gain autonomy for Tibet. In recent years, he also has become something of a cultural icon as well as a spiritual leader, giving permission for his likeness to appear in the Apple ad campaign, gaining support for the "Free Tibet" movement from US celebrities and having his story told in Hollywood films.

According to the New York Times and the Asian Wall Street Journal, Apple initially said that the ad was being pulled because the company wanted to depict someone better known in the region than the Dalai Lama -- a comment that apparently was met with skepticism given that the Asian ad campaign will feature a photo of US aviator Amelia Earhart, whose plane disappeared in the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

A reporter with the New York Times News Service in Hong Kong noted that the Apple explanation was thin given that Earhart "is hardly a household name here" while the Dalai Lama is well known.

Later, an Apple spokeswoman admitted that the issue was one of "political sensitivities" and that the company does not want to offend China.

"We needed to decide on images that were appropriate across the region," Sue Sara, an Apple spokeswoman in the Asia-Pacific division based in Sydney was quoted as telling the Times.

The fact that Apple decided to use the Dalai Lama's image in the campaign in the first place drew a caustic comment from Judge in a recent Asian Wall Street Journal editorial.

"While Buddhism, Tibet and the Dalai Lama are the latest craze in advertising and Hollywood ... they represent a way of life (and death) for millions of Asians who take their freedom and their faith seriously," he wrote. "Apple's mistake was trying to hitch itself to a religious and political movement, mixing it indiscriminately with an American-style celebrity list."

Judge went on to detail the death fast of six Tibetan activists in New Delhi who are protesting Chinese repression in Tibet, which has intensified in recent years. The editorial writer noted that when Apple kicked off the ad campaign, Steve Jobs, company founder and current interim chief executive officer, said, "Think different celebrates the soul of the Apple brand -- that creative people with passion can change the world for the better."

By using the Dalai Lama's image to sell computers "and then only where he is not a threat to the status quo, Apple runs the risk of rendering words like 'soul', 'creative' and 'passion' meaningless," Judge wrote. "Perhaps Mr. Jobs and his friends at Apple should change the name of their latest ad campaign from 'Think Different' to just plain 'Think'. "

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?