Samsung South Africa apologizes for sexist product release

Women in bikini tops accompanying a refrigerator onstage at Samsung South Africa's 2013 event. Axel Buhrmann

Samsung South Africa is in hot water over a press event that went awry, after complaints circulated over scantily clad female dancers took the stage to show home appliances. The company has apparently issued an apology.

Audiences at the Samsung Africa Forum 2013 were surprised when the electronics press event turned into a Las Vegas-style show.

According to the South African blog GirlGuides.co.za, the electronics giant had women in bikinis accompany refrigerators on stage. Similarly dressed women were also onstage with other appliances. Photos from journalist Axel Buhrmann showed women in swimsuits dancing onstage and said of one part of the event: "vaguely recall wobbly washing machines."

The Samsung Africa Forum was held on March 13, and was meant to showcase new products and services from the electronics giant. The event could have been a typical press event, but instead drummed up unintended publicity.

Following the event, South African technology journalist Samantha Perry wrote an open letter to the Samsung in a blog post, complaining that the show was sexist.

"It would be entirely too much to ask that when you planned your recent Africa Forum you considered NOT using scantily clad beauties to help launch your (wait for it) new fridge," Perry wrote. 

In an email with CBS News, Buhrmann, who is editor of South African tech news site Livdigital Independent, points out that last year's event had scantily clad men and women, yet there were not similar complaints. However, it appears from the photos that the dancers were part of a more choreographed show.

Last week, GirlGuides.co.za reported that the head of Samsung South Africa's marketing and communications Michelle Potgieter issued an apology that said:

"It has come to our attention that, following recent Samsung events, there was dissatisfaction by the use of the selected promotional/entertainment ladies to unveil and demonstrate the new line up of product/s. Samsung South Africa are committed to embracing a variety of consumers across our very diverse local market and in no way intended to isolate or offend any one of these audiences through these events.

As a result, we would like to apologise for any offence caused in this regard and assure you that we acknowledge your views and opinions on the matter. To this end, we will endeavour to be more sensitive around these issues going forward and will raise all relevant matters with our Head Quarters and respective regional head offices accordingly. Furthermore, Samsung would like to assure all media and consumers that we in no way intend to favour any particular type of consumer, where each consumer and target audience represents a viable portion of our business and as a result, we will continue to embrace all consumer needs and requirements within the market."

Samsung did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment on the matter.

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