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Panasonic pulls controversial headphones ad after fierce backlash

Tech brands are really trying to make wearable speakers a thing. Both Sony and Panasonic have recently revealed neckband sound contraptions, and we're unconvinced that they'll ever not look weird. But even stranger than the product itself is Panasonic's disastrous marketing imagery for its new SoundSlayer speaker.

The Photoshop-heavy campaign features gamers fully immersed in their sound experience – soundwaves bursting out of the SoundSlayer, dragons breathing fire into their ears, that sort of thing. But not only is the imagery ridiculously over the top, but the internet has spotted an altogether more troubling design crime. Indeed, unlike the best print ads, this is earning double-takes for all the wrong reasons.

Panasonic ad featuring an apparently white man gaming while a dragon blows fire in his ear

Looks painful  (Image credit: Panasonic/Future owns)

After a stock imagery-based investigation, The Verge discovered that Panasonic appears to have placed a white man's head atop a Black man's body, and also lightened the latter's skin to match. Which, you'll be unsurprised to hear, is not going down well online. 

Panasonic stock imagery comparison

(Image credit: Sean Hollister on Twitter)
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As many have pointed out, Panasonic appears to be offering a crash course in what not to do when it comes to advertising. It's not clear what exactly what was wrong with the original image, or why, if Panasonic was unable to achieve its desired effect using stock imagery, the brand couldn't have simply hired a photographer. Whatever the explanation, changing the colour of a model's skin arguably isn't a great look.

And now that's been pointed out to Panasonic, it seems the company agrees. According to The Verge, it has pulled every promo image featuring a human being from its image distribution folder for the product, and claims to be "looking into the matter". 

Well, if all that's got you in the mood to buy a weird neckband speaker, check out Sony's snappily titled SRS-NB10. And if you'd prefer something a little more traditional, you'll find today's best AirPods deals below.

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Daniel Piper

Daniel Piper is senior news editor at Creative Bloq, and an authority on all things art, design, branding and tech. He has a particular penchant for Apple products – some corners of the internet might call him an 'iSheep', but he's fine with this. It doesn't bother him at all. Why would it? They're just really nicely designed products, okay? Daniel is also a comedian and national poetry slam champion, and his favourite Bond is, obviously, Sean Connery.