Aflac Did Right Thing by Dropping Gilbert Gottfried

Marketers Shouldn't Be Tied to Tasteless Jokes

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Bill Imada
Bill Imada
I was in Tokyo when the largest earthquake in recorded history hit Japan.

No one could have prepared fully for the strongest earthquake in recorded history. Nor could anyone have imagined the horrendous destruction that occurred as a result of the massive tsunami that hit the shores of Japan and elsewhere.

This is clearly not a time for tasteless jokes and mindless tweets when so many people have perished, and even more are missing. Today millions of Japanese families live without power, food, medicine, running water and transportation services. While the Japanese remain one of the most-prepared countries in the world, even they could not fully prepare for the damage and destruction caused by the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunamis.

With so many deaths, destroyed cities and unaccounted-for people throughout the country, this is a time when all of humanity should be rallying around Japan and its people.

As someone who has just returned from Japan, I was shocked to hear that a comedian such as Gilbert Gottfried would even think about making jokes about what had just occurred. I was even more incensed when I learned that rapper 50 Cent posted his own jokes on Twitter. While both subsequently apologized for making and posting incendiary remarks surrounding the ongoing disaster in Japan, their comments have fueled even more vitriol that is quite disturbing.

For the past few days there have been commentaries and posts saying that the Japanese "got what they deserved," and that this is "payback" for Pearl Harbor. I have even seen posts saying that the Japanese are rich and don't need earthquake relief or humanitarian assistance. This is all far from the truth. What is true is that one of our closest friends and allies in Asia needs our assistance and support.

While none of us take joy in seeing someone fired from a job or assignment, Aflac did the right thing by immediately terminating its contract with comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the voiceover talent for the company's well-known mascot. By taking this decisive action, Aflac and its executives made it publicly clear that there are times when being funny is appropriate and times when it is clearly not. In this case, these jokes and tweets aren't funny at all. The company also pledged to donate $1.2 million to relief efforts.

I commend Aflac for taking decisive action in this matter.

I welcome your comments.

P.S. It is very important to note that many Americans and Canadians have given generously to Japanese and international relief organizations. More than 90 countries around the world have offered assistance to the Japanese government, and dozens of American companies and media organizations have organized relief funds to help the Japanese cope with this terrible disaster. If you'd like to make a contribution, consider any of the following:

U.S.-Japan Council Earthquake Relief Fund
2207 Colby Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90064

JBA Foundation – Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund
Japan Business Association
1411 W. 190th Street
Suite 270
Gardena, CA 90248 (In Japanese and English)

Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund
Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California
1840 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

Direct Relief International
JACL – Japan Relief and Recovery Fund
27 S. La Patera Avenue
Santa Barbara, CA 93117

American Red Cross
Japan Earthquake/Pacific Tsunami
2025 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006

Canadian Red Cross
Japan Earthquake/Asia Pacific Tsunami
5700 Cancross Court
Mississauga, ON L5R 3E9

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