It's Racist But It Works: MetroPCS's "Ranjit and Chad" Commercials Boost Sales

Last Updated May 26, 2010 5:29 PM EDT

MetroPCS (PCS) is fast establishing itself as the racist's choice for cellphone service with yet another round of ads this month featuring Ranjit and Chad, their stereotyped Indian "Tech Talk" duo (video below). When the campaign began I predicted it would quickly be pulled because it relied on typecast ideas about Indians as call center operators and IT help desk staff.

I was wrong. Sales at Metro were up 22 percent to nearly $1 billion in Q1 2010, the period in which the campaign kicked off. Racism works, apparently.

Tellingly, MetroPCS has turned off the "comments" section on its YouTube channel, which I suspect is because it would have filled up with people wanting the ads removed from the airwaves.

There are seven ads in total, and the jokes within them revolve around cows, donkeys, cobras, mongooses, snake charmers and other things that Westerners think you can see a lot of in India. One of the new ads can't even get its racism right: At one point, Ranjit exclaims "Holy shishkabob!" Kebabs are, of course, a Middle Eastern, not Indian, food. Metro's ad chief defended the ads:
"There have been many positive responses by people who find the commercials humorous, as it was originally intended," Bob Fant, vice president of advertising and brand development at Dallas-based MetroPCS Communications, told me in an e-mail. "There also have been some reactions from those who have taken offense. The positive reactions have heavily outnumbered the negative ones."
That's hard to believe. A search for "metropcs racist commercials" on Google now returns more than 10,000 results. Not everyone is buying the "can't you take a joke?" line:
Vijay says: How funny -- a commercial that brings Indians and people who can't stand Indians together in common loathing.
You can see more examples of people complaining about the ads here and here and here and here. As one BNET commenter put it:
orion6642: Blacks and Jews would not put up with this type of commercial. Just imagine 2 yamulke-wearing Hasids dancing to klezmer music. Would never, ever happen.
Orion is right: Indians in the U.S. have traditionally been less militant when it comes to complaining about racism, which is one reason MetroPCS is able to continue to delude itself that it's doing nothing wrong.

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