Repsol courts controversy with Iwo Jima ad

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Repsol_Iwo_Jima_Ad.jpgRepsol is using this graphic to promote its Twitter account. Referencing the most iconic image from WWII, it depicts the Spanish oil giant’s GP racers struggling to raise a chequered flag. Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the second flag raising on Iwo Jima has come to symbolize the monumental struggle the US faced during World War II, three of the six men in it were later killed in combat. Despite several instances of adaptation, the image is largely considered off-limits for commercial use due to its importance to the American conscience. Repsol’s adaptation would be akin to Exxon repurposing Robert Capa’s photo of Fredrico Borrell Garcia’s death during the Spanish Civil War for an ad campaign here, it belittles the sacrifice our country made.

Repsol via Two Wheels Blog

  • wardt1

    I am amazed that this made it out of their ad agency. This is in very poor taste. They should remove it and apologize.

  • mototom

    BOYCOTT e.o.m.

  • will

    Besides being in primo bad taste, I don’t know what it’s supposed to be saying anyway.

  • Mitch

    Hmm. I’m of two minds about this – I’ve seen quite a few parodies and homages of the photo in question in other places, so it is definitely not off limits. I think some see it as not only a sacrifice, but as a moment of US (and it’s founding ideals) triumph, of overcoming a great obstacle. In that way, they are not looking to make light of the men who died for that island, but to celebrate the victory.

    Better idea though: photoshop or create a Repsol themed NASA spacesuit with the checkered flag on the moon photoshoot.

  • ben j

    We just had a local version of this controversy in DC recently. A mall in the area used what appeared to be a section of the Vietnam War memorial wall with the names of fallen soldiers replaced with the names of stores in the mall. The mall stayed pretty much ahead of the controversy by immediately apologizing and pulling the entire ad campaign (which it claimed was unauthorized, but come on…)

  • Mitch

    Re: ben j

    Whoa… now that is messed.

  • aeolus

    There is little nowadays that one can do or say that doesn’t outrage some group or other. The thing is with this depiction I don’t think any offense was planed but perhaps a restatement of what the original stood for: bravery. From that standpoint it’s a homenaje.

  • Sam

    I don’t really see anything wrong with the image, as the symbolism and meaning of the original image is still in use, just with a different analogy.

    The image you site, Fredrico Garcia’s death, is really a poor comparison, as although it is also an important image, it’s subject matter and meaning are entirely different. (and would likewise be an awful ad campaign)

  • v

    it depends what the original picture stands for iin the hearts of americans..for me(non-american)it represents triumph in the face of adversity,but let’s us not forget that spain was the last bastion of fascism in europe for a long long time(until 1975) so i can fully understand why you are offended..i would hate to see a russian company advertising it’s services using this photo for example

  • KRT

    As an American, I think it’s awesome. To me it means the photographer/repsol believes the iwo jima image is the ultimate depiction of triumph. Not sure why anybody would get their panties in a twist over it.

    • KRT

      v beat me to it. Emulation is the ultimate form of flattery.

  • lago

    May I be the first to point out the irony in the Repsol team riding Japanese motorcycles?

    • Supply Side Economics…lol

      It’s ironic; however, people think every differently, when comparing different parts of the world. Using the Japanese as an example, near the end of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election a famous Japanese cell phone provider ran a televised ad depicting a crowd holding signs that read “change”, then, there is a monkey at a podium as if to image a US Presidential candidate (e.g. the first black US Presidential candidate, now US President Obama, message was “change”). The point is, offensiveness rhetoric, per se, are very much like US obscenity laws; you’d never find brothels and gambling in “Joe the Plumber’s” home town, but you will in parts of Nevada. Because Repsol is not a US company, US obscenity fails to cross or influence national sovereignty in this particular case. Lastly, and ironic again, from a financial point of view should the Japanese or Japanese companies, with GNP exceeding GDP, really be in the business of offending anyone; or, is this just one big Japanese ironic WWII joke?

  • James Bondage

    It doesn’t bother me (I am American) To me this also depicts the struggles and triumphs on the battlefield troops face.

    Just as a race team would face struggles and victories on the track.

  • Cal H

    Some images should not be used for commercial purposes. This is one of them.

    The struggles of pampered millionaires on the racetrack have absolutely nothing in common with the sacrifices of the men in the original picture.

    Wes, your analogy to the use of Capa’s photo is particularly apt.

  • carlos

    ok. bad form in using the image. but besides that what’s the message? what adversity is repsol honda facing? being one of the best funded teams in racing. Premier Riders, Premier machines, Buku-financing. Letting Rossi go?

  • robert

    I don’t see a problem though I do respect that many feel protective about the Iwo Jima image.

    To me, the Iwo Jima image is an image of sacrifice and heroic struggle against almost insurmountable odds. In this, it completely transcends nationalism. It is an image of a timeless and archetypal nature that is part of the image history of world culture.

    To be concerned with nationalism and to take offense is to miss the point completely.

    It remains a beautiful image and I am happy to see it again in a new form.

  • MTGR

    Even if this is a homage it is in poor taste. I have been a lifelong racing fanatic and think the world of motogp, but no matter how much you respect it you can’t compare what they do to Americans who sacrificed their lives for their country and ideals, never mind comparing a non-American oil company to it. But this clearly is generating a lot of buzz (including all of us here) so the ad agency has already acheived what they likely intended right from the start.

  • Remix

    It’s poor taste. It should be off limits for any country besides a US one. If Repsol was a US company i would condone it.

    • Hosenpants

      Really? If Wal-Mart or Whole Foods (can you imagine the fire storm) used this image it would be ok?

      I think the opposite might be true. To the rest of the world it probably symbolizes 1) Hard earned victory and 2) some association with the US (it is cool to be into America again) – thus usable. I’d bet that only in the US, and maybe Japan (which is another weird angle that hasn’t been brought up – how does Honda feel about this? My guess, very little) does this image have serious emotional attachment and is much to loaded and historical to be used to sell soap.

      That said I think it is a dumb ad and in poor taste. But I’m old enough to still think that the Beatles/Nike advertisement was an abomination. (NOT that I’m comparing the Beatles to soliders that gave their lives, just that it was another line that was crossed where anything could be reduced to an image used to sell stuff).

  • MTexile

    Since it’s a Spanish company, why don’t they use a image from a Spanish military victory…what? Spain hasn’t had such a thing in 300 years? Well how about their NATO support after 9-11…huh? They pulled out of their overseas commitments after a subway bombing? Maybe the flag should be white…

    • Design Ronin

      Maybe they were the smart ones? Coming from a country that has an unbalanced commitment to the region, especially when compared to many EU countries, I can’t help but think just what are our troops dying for?

      Anyway, as we all know, that’s in the past. As far as the image goes, don’t we all know that nothing’s out of bounds anymore? In a world where EVERYTHING’s been done before, marketing types have to go to places we would never have considered before.

  • deckard

    I am no flag waving nationalist, but this Repsol ad is LAME.

  • drjohndee

    The original photo was a marketing gimmick too.

    • Wes Siler

      That’s a common misconception, but it wasn’t staged nor taken after the battle.

      • drjohndee

        That’ll teach me to learn history from Clint Eastwood

  • Peter Senger

    Comparing 9/11 with the IInd world War? Oh, come on …
    remember the facts please
    This is advertising – keep your patriotism at home and start looking outside of “god‘s own country”, my 5 cent.

  • will

    This has nothing to do with nationalism. For this, Wes’ analogy of the picture of Garcia’s death is particularly apt.

    Taking a symbol of victory and survival for one of the bloodiest battles of WW2. for the purposes of self-identification, promotion and profit, is not okay.

  • aeolus

    Whatever else, the image should remind us of the generous support of Repsol for motorcycle racing and give them the benefit of the doubt as to motives.
    Chauvinism tends to cloud men’s minds.

    • hoyt

      “generous support” ? and in reference to an oil company? Brutal.

  • will

    Whither chauvinism? I don’t think anyone has it out for Repsol, but this is plainly a marketing decision in poor taste.

  • meatspin

    doesnt bother me but I can understand if people are.

    it kinda lacks creativity though, dont you think?

  • Design Ronin

    Just as if to prove a point from my above comment, I saw the Iwo Jima pose used for an advert for an insurance company yesterday, with a family hoisting up a beach umbrella and the tag ‘Work life balance’. I don’t think anyone here in Australia would think too much about it unless they actually knew the reference.

    Give the two, I’d go the Repsol usage because at least there is some connection of fighting the fight.

    Sad but true.