An Armenian television commercial using comparisons of prices and quality of goods with people of different age, color of the skin and physique has sparked criticism against its authors who have been accused of showing a discriminatory approach.
On the video advertizing one of the building materials markets in Yerevan a construction foreman explains to his workers, among whom there are an elderly man, a man with a black skin, an obese person and others, why one should buy goods at a particular store, making references to the peculiarities of these people for instructive purposes.
Eduard Aghayan, the head of the marketing department of the Yerevan Fair, said they had no intention of insulting anyone by showing this TV commercial. He called it just humor. In a written reply to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) Aghayan said: “We have never sought to ridicule anyone or spread racism. It’s just a humorous video and for greater imagery and better presentation we invited actors who play these parts, and there is no insult to these people. The goal was to make it interesting for people to watch.”
The company representative said that an Armenian could have played the part of the black person. “There can be nothing racist in it. It’s just a humorous advertisement. We realize what age it is now to afford such a thing,” Aghayan added.
Meanwhile, media expert Suren Deherian said that the advertiser should also bear social responsibility. “For some, there may be different levels of humor, but this ad should not have contained this cynicism, which I think forms a negative attitude towards another person.”
Varduhi Aramian, head of the Armenian Camp NGO that deals with disability issues, voiced concern that TV commercials like the one in which in her view people are ridiculed because of their physical parameters, age or color of their skin do the opposite to what her organization has been doing for years through social ads and various programs – trying to overcome discrimination in society.
“It turns out that people are equated to goods as their qualities are compared. This is a bad trend. Perhaps the next time someone will decide that a person without one leg should be compared to a table or a chair missing one leg. Such commercials are a stimulus for deepening these stereotypes. That’s why we sound the alarm, because one video, which has an impact on a wide audience, undoes all our long-term work,” she said.
The Yerevan fair whose store was advertized in the controversial TV commercial belongs to well-known Armenian entrepreneur Khachatur Sukiasian. Earlier this year, his company was criticized for the “Our Country” advertising board depicting cows dressed in Armenian women’s national costumes. Ethnographers then said that comparing an Armenian woman to a cow was offensive, while the company manager explained that the billboard was humorous.