Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Apr 29, 2015

Chinese smartphone maker LeTV attacks Apple with parody ad, Hitler image

BEIJING - Chinese electronics maker LeTV has openly lashed out at Apple with a campaign involving an open letter to Apple, a two-hour speech criticising Apple, a video parody of Apple's '1984' ad and a cartoon image of Adolf Hitler wearing an Apple armband.

Chinese smartphone maker LeTV attacks Apple with parody ad, Hitler image

You get the point. As with so many other phenomena in China, the theatrics of Chinese press conferences and campaigns may reflect more than just corporate fanfare, evoking national pride and a desire to prevent Western brands from dominating the headlines.

Two weeks ago, LeTV, which provides a whole range of products like smart televisions and video streaming services, launched three flagship products called 'Le Super Phones' simultaneously in Beijing, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The company claimed the phones "fully surpass" Apple and "break boundaries".

Jia Yueting (贾跃亭), founder of LeTV, known for a slightly sensationalist streak, spoke at the launch for two hours about Apple's lack of openness, which he said is inhibiting innovation and progress of the mobile industry—the same argument long put forward by Android’s supporters.

He stressed that LeTV is now superior to Apple in many areas, such as design, craftsmanship, hardware and even business model. Jia elaborated on the pricing model of the Le Super Phones, which he said was the first in the industry to be based solely on bill-of-material (BOM) and mass-production costs, meaning apparently that there is no profit margin built in (?).

"The Le Super Phone is not only a mobile phone," he said. "Instead, it is a comprehensive mobile internet ecosystem. LeTV is trying to break Apple's monopoly and bring down the barriers of hardware, applications and innovation with this powerful ecosystem to create new value for users... greater revolution can be expected for this industry."

His live speech marked the continuation of LeTV's online attack on Apple in an earlier open letter (in somewhat broken English), reposted on Jia’s personal Weibo account.

"For Apple users in China, the biggest problem is Apple’s inability to block spam calls and emails. Many Chinese companies have tried to create innovate products to solve this problem on Apple’s platform; however, Apple has restricted the usage of their products," Jia pointed out.

"Steve Jobs is the last idol during the Elite Era," he wrote.

Jia's Weibo account also screamed for attention from the global community by including a cartoon of Adolf Hitler wearing a red armband with the Apple logo instead of the Nazi swastika. (The image was later quietly removed from the account with a public apology from Jia, but the damage was done.)

Putting this cartoon into perspective is LeTV’s oddly obsessive but on-target parody of Apple's original 1984 ad (see side-by-side comparison below). The video, hosted on of course, shows a congregation of white-faced worshipers in white full-body hazmat suits bowing to a green apple perched on a pedestal.

A man in a red hoodie (LeTV's corporate colour) runs from a hallway while fighting off heavily-armoured special forces, breaks into the room of worshippers and approaches the pedestal to take a bite out of the apple. He is positioned almost as the 'saviour' to the world's blind worship of Apple.

While the ad and the overall campaign is eyebrow-raising, the irony is how much Le Super Phones are visually similar to the Apple iPhone 6; how Jia's tone, calling Apple's closed OS system "arrogant and dictatorial", echoes Apple's highbrow marketing voice; and how its print ads shares Apple’s minimalistic style. We leave you—and the market—to judge all this for yourselves.


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