Incensed by a recent PlayStation 3 ad that made light of stereotypical Nigerian web scammers, the government of Nigeria has demanded an apology from the company.
At roughly the 12 second mark, the ad in question (embedded at right) contains the phrase, “Bernie, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, otherwise I’d be a Nigerian millionaire by now.”
The Nation, a Nigerian newspaper, succinctly explains the government’s position on the spot:
The advertisement currently circulating on youtube.com and facebook.com and other international websites creates the impression that Nigerians hardly do genuine business.
The government sees Sony’s action as an attempt to undermine the country’s global business interest.
I can definitely see where Nigerians might be offended by being portrayed as unscrupulous scam artists, but at the same time I think the government’s attempt to wring an apology out of Sony is at least partially motivated by the company’s stature. Government officials no doubt realize it would be a PR coup to have a gigantic multinational like Sony publicly state that not everyone from Nigeria is out to swipe your hard-earned cash — a reputation the entire country has been suffering with for years now, thanks to a handful of spammers.
The only question now is how valuable the territory is to Sony. Despite a statement from Nigeria’s Information and Communication Minister Dora Akunyili saying, “It is on record that Sony Corporation has operated in Nigeria since independence and has enjoyed tremendous patronage from Nigerians at home and abroad,” the country of Nigeria must be a drop in the financial bucket compared to Japan and the United States. It may just not be worth it for Sony to expend the nearly insignificant resources it would take to offer an official statement of apology.