French auto manufacturer Renault and its advertising agency, Publicis, are to be commended for their timely response and attempt at an official apology to Indian country for a series of offensive advertisements.
The apology was spurred by a critical examination of the advertisements in the April 10 Indian Country Today. Requests for a response from Renault sparked an internal investigation that is leading to the termination of the ads. The ads had been appearing in, among others, the popular French television magazine Telestar and were provided to us by a subscriber in France.
The apology, reprinted below, unfortunately has failed to bring closure to the issue. The Renault apology states that the Indian depicted in their ad is an adaptation of the character "Bison F?t?" ("Smart Buffalo"), the mascot of the French government's National Traffic Center. The center's website, www.bison-fute.equipment.gouv.fra, features an absurd version of the caricature.
Accordingly, the government of France should follow the precedent set by Renault: it should pull this offensive object off state-sponsored material and apologize to American Indians.
Nous nous souviendrons (We will remember.)
The Publicis apology follows:
"We received your mail dated March 29th. Please accept our apologies for having offended your community and yourself. It was not our intention to do so.
The purpose of the ad (whose publication will stop in a few weeks) was only to show the silence of the Kangoo's new diesel engine by using a cartoon-like creative device. Indeed for us the use of modeling clay clearly establishes a distance with real life situations.
Additionally, the Indian depicted is a reference to a French national cartoon character called "Bison F?t?" who gives traffic directions on TV on the eve of long weekend migrations to the countryside. French people immediately see the reference that is a positive and friendly one. Understandably enough, this reference does not carry the same positive connotations for your people. So again, let me renew my apologies for having offended your community with an ad that was not meant to cross the Atlantic.
Renault spokesman Pierre Zigmant added:
"I hope this letter will convince you that Renault and Publicis did not have any intention of being injurious to the Native American community, which clearly enjoys a very favorable image in our country, due to its ancestral wisdom, its traditional responsible attitude towards nature and the environment, and its proverbial bravery."