A global campaign for Jo Malone’s ‘London Gent’ which saw the brand’s ambassador and face of the campaign, British actor John Boyega, cut out from the release of ads aired in China, has attracted widespread criticism.
The British brand Jo Malone, most recognized for its scents and perfumes last week made a public apology to Boyega for their error of judgement. The brand had worked with him to create their recent campaign ‘London Gent’, but it transpired that he had been left out of the Chinese edit completely.
To make matters worse, not only did Boyega take a starring role in the line of adverts as part of the campaign but he also formed a huge part in their creation, lending a hand to help develop the narrative of the advert along with his personal visions to help bring the messaging to life. Since the upset expressed by Boyega, Jo Malone has “deeply apologized”. The advert featured the a-list actor, as an inside to his life and successes filmed across Peckham, London, a setting of particular personal relevance to the actor. He was filmed walking the streets of the area in which he was brought up, dancing and being surrounded by family and friends. He also paid homage to his Nigerian heritage with inclusion of his culture through both dress and musicality.
But upon the adverts release globally, the star was shocked to find that he had been replaced in the Chinese release by Liu Haoran. The adverts did not feature Peckham, or appear as autobiographical in nature as the original, but had still very clearly copied the storyline and simply replaced Boyega with a Chinese actor.
Jo Malone were quick to admit their error and made a full formal statement which read, “We deeply apologize for what, on our end, was a mistake in the local execution of the John Boyega campaign. John is a tremendous artist with great personal vision and direction. The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experiences and should not have been replicated.”
Following on from this incident, it has been reported that Boyega has not accepted the brand’s apology and has since terminated his association with the brand including his role as ambassador, firmly believing that the decision to cut him from the advert was ‘wrong’. He even took to social media platform Twitter to publicly share his feelings on the matter in an emotional statement which said, “dismissively trading out one’s culture in this way is not something I can condone. Their decision to replace my campaign in China by using my concepts and substituting a local brand ambassador for me, without either my consent or prior notice, was wrong,”
The actor, clearly not comfortable with the actions of the brand and made particular reference to the personal nature of the story line and cultural message held within his original advert. “The film celebrated my personal story – showcasing my hometown, including my friends and featuring my family,” Boyega explained.
The decision has led to an untimely end to the partnership, with Boyega reminiscing on his time working with Jo Malone before the relationship turned sour. He said, ‘When I joined the brand as their first male global ambassador last year, I created the short film we used to launch the campaign. It won the Fragrance Foundation Virtual awards 2020 for Best Media Campaign’. However, despite the public apology, it appears that the move was a step too far for the actor, who has clearly decided to move on and seek out new opportunities.
Boyega finalized his statement by concluding “It’s back to back but I assure you this will be dealt with swiftly. I don’t have time for nonsense. We press on and stay strong. Stay blessed people.”
This is not the first time that the actor has seen his prominence in a marketing campaign pushed to the side. The actor appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and at the time, particular prominence was given to the introduction of a black character, a sign that diversity in the big budget movies was being embraced. However, Boyega was angered to see that the Chinese poster for the 2015 movie had significantly reduced his character’s prominence in the line up.
Speaking to GQ Magazine about this incident Boyega was reported as saying, ‘What I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side.’
It is clear that Boyega is not afraid to stand up for what he believes is right. He is also known for actively campaigning in light of the death of George Floyd, making a passionate speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park, London, which was circulated widely across the media.