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A ‘fat man’ goes nuclear over Japan in Xiaomi ad, prompting backlash

A ‘fat man’ goes nuclear over Japan in Xiaomi ad, prompting backlash
Xiaomi was trying to find a perfect metaphor for the fast charging feature on its newest Redmi phones. (Picture: Xiaomi)

Smartphone maker Xiaomi may have been a little too eager to draw attention to its Redmi Note 9 handsets in Japan this week. The company published an ad featuring a “fat man” that inflates into the shape of a balloon after eating some sushi, only to float into the air and explode into a spectacular mushroom cloud. The visual was apparently meant as a metaphor for fast charging on the Redmi Note 9 series phones that can charge at 33W. But the target audience took it a little differently.

The ad drew backlash for imagery evocative of a nuclear explosion over Japan. Xiaomi deleted the video on Wednesday and issued an apology on Twitter. The backlash isn’t hard to understand considering that “Fat Man” was the codename of the nuclear bomb dropped over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The bomb was named after its bloated, egg-like shape and resulted in as many as 80,000 deaths (including deaths from long-term health effects of the radiation).

Xiaomi officially launched in Japan in December, but the market that hasn’t yet warmed up to Chinese phone brands. The company said in its statement that it will try to prevent similar incidents in the future. But Xiaomi hasn’t been doing that well back home either. Last week, the company vice president Chang Cheng deleted a joke that was deemed sexist from Chinese microblogging platform Weibo and donated US$14,100 to a local NGO as part of his apology.

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