Willfully ignorant Samsung ad agency gets all racist again

Last month, workers quickly took down Samsung ads at South Station that basically called people in Mattapan phone thieves. Earlier today, Malia Lazu found a couple new Samsung ads also at South Station, that basically do the same thing, only this time swapping in Worcester and Ruggles.

With the first case, it was possible to think that they were just the work of some careless intern on the West Coast looking at the ends of a subway line, but there's no way to innocently pair Worcester and Ruggles - you really have to think about it (and for train purists, the ads don't even show Boston-area trains).

Lazu also photographed Samsung ads in New York City that show the company's ad agency knows how to market their crap without getting racist about it.



Free tagging: 


Maybe Sob Story guy got

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Maybe Sob Story guy got cleaned up and works for Samsung's ad agency now.

Good for him!

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I'd imagine his grandmother, dead or alive, and his parole/probation officer greatly appreciate this. Anyone I'm missing?

Doesn't he have a baby

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He has to visit in a hospital in Burlington?

And not a person, but a flat tire which was the start of his problems?

Oh crap, I've officially lived downtown too long!

Hope he made it to halfway house in Worcester!

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Poor guy was just out of Walpole and just trying to get to a bed in Worcester like every other day when i used to see him.

And jeez, dude, maybe you won't lose your phone if you don't throw a hissy fit and flop around on the T car floor when nobody buys your BS story.

The photo shows a guy

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The photo shows a guy reacting like he forgot something on the train. How is it racist?

Read the words of the ad

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If you're from the Boston area, consider how a phone on the Worcester Line would get to Ruggles - it's the Mattapan conundrum all over again (and if you're not from the Boston area, welcome to the area, hope you have a nice time here).

Can I ask you a question..

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Can I ask you a question.. how often are you in Roxbury? And not Mission Hill, or Longwood, but H-Block.

Ziegler Street?


Dare I say, even, Blue Hill Ave?

You do a great on this site job Adam. But I'm a minority, living in Boston, and I personally think you guys are reaching on this one. It's just an ad. Chill, everyone. Dude just lost his phone on the train.

Point taken

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I'm actually on Blue Hill Avenue fairly often, it's how I get to Dorchester or to places like Newmarket Square.

Zeigler? Not so much, I'm in that area when I go to meetings at the Bolling Building, which isn't that often.

But I spend even less time in Charlestown or East Boston, yet still write about them.

Take three

I hear Samsung's third take on the ad is going to be

You got off the plane in Geneva
But your phone is on Geneva Avenue

Take four

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You're at the Brookline Town Meeting at Harvard and Washington
But your phone is at Harvard and Washington...in Four Corners

I approve

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As a Brookline resident, I laughed out loud at this one. How about this one:

"When you're in Brookline Village but your phone goes to Hancock Village."

Take 4 (a)

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Beat me to it. Here's mine:

When you're going to Harvard this fall but your phone went to Harvard Street in Dot.


I hear what you are saying about that there are just 2 places here. And unlike the last ad, Ruggles is a station, not a neighborhood. If they had said Annuciation or Whittier, then it would be targeting people that live in public housing. There is theft on the mbta, and it perpetrated by people of all ethnic backgrounds. Ruggles is also next to North Eastern U., another place with a lot of phone theft.

By "Read the words of the ad", you mean...

By "read the words of the ad", you mean "read the words of the ad while ignoring the picture", another way of saying "take the words out of context". So yes, take the words out of context and with sone effort you'll be able to find the racism.


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First, the picture itself makes no sense, because that's not even a train you'd see in Boston, and in any case, I was responding to somebody who said he didn't get what was wrong with the photo.

But aside from that, the words combine with the photo to send the message: "Haha, sucker, I got your phone and now I'm on the way to Ruggles to do unspeakable things to it."

Somehow, Samsung has managed to advertise this product (which is not just another phone finder, but a lock-my-data-against-evil-people tool) in New York without referring to places where black people live and where phones could only go if somebody stole them.

OK, so a train not seen in

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OK, so a train not seen in Boston should be 1 clue that the creators of the ad are not from here and have no knowledge of our first class public transportation system that is the envy of world class cities around the globe.


The employees assigned to a train park their cars at the end of the line (or other places along the line). If they send a train out in another direction, those people can't get home.

just like planes, equipment isn't randomly deployed in all directions.

But equipment doesn't care

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I've definitely come into South Station on a train that then left 10 minutes later heading on a different route. MBTA also does that with buses.

I thought I came in on a

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I thought I came in on a Needham train that then became a Fairmount train. But, I did catch that train at Back Bay, so it also could have been a Franklin train or a Stoughton train. It was a while ago.

Can't answer for the trains....

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...but I do have experience with busses changing from one route to another.

The first time was back in the late 1980's when I worked at the Dedham Mall. My friends and I would be coming home after working the closing shift at the mall riding on the route #34 (or #34E, I can't rember for sure), and take it all the way to Forest Hills. From there we would all wait for our connecting busses.

Two of my friends and I noticed that it was often the same bus, and same driver that was driving the route #32 that we would subsequently get on to go home. We became friendly with the driver, and especially in the cold weather he would let us stay on the bus as he drove it in to the Arborway, went in to use the rest room or check in with the supervisor, then come back and drive out to do the route #32 (and as a bounus, he wouldn't charge us the second fare. There were no free transfers at the time, so that made us very happy).

I have also encountered busses changing routes many times since then, usually in the early mornings or at night after 10 PM.


Was a bus in Watertown. When I got off the night shift I could get on the 58 for $.60 and ride it all the way to Boston but it turned into an express that Newton circle

Equipment isn't randomly deployed

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But it often is shuttled between lines during the course of the day. So an in on Worcester, out to Providence (via Ruggles) scenario is indeed possible.

Well, Sorta...

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Crews and trains switch lines all the time. An engineer friend of mine in the course of his day visits such scenic and exotic locales as Kingston, Fairmount and Franklin. To ensure people and trains get back to where they started there are also non-revenue moves (very early morning/late night). Also note the stops at the Southampton Yards (near Newmarket Station) and BET near North Station for crew swaps and relief.

Needless to say, I am very thankful to not be a Commuter Rail crew scheduler!


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Orange Line southbound to Back Bay, get on commuter rail west, forget phone on Orange Line. Done.

But then...

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Why isn't your phone on the way to Mass Ave or Forest Hills? Why Ruggles? Why not Stony Brook or Jackson Square?

I've lived in the Boston area all my life

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And my immediate reaction to these ads was "Boy, that's dumb."

Calling an ad campaign "racist" just because it mentions a specific neighborhood, regardless of the makeup of that neighborhood, only discredits those working to address REAL issues of inequality and racism. And you're giving the company that placed the ads lots of free publicity as well.

As the saying goes-Pick your battles wisely. IMO this battle is a poor choice.

Calling an ad campaign

Calling an ad campaign "racist" just because it mentions a specific neighborhood, regardless of the makeup of that neighborhood, only discredits those working to address REAL issues of inequality and racism.

That's nonsense. Mentioning a specific neighborhood in the context of crime is exactly what reinforces the stereotypes about those neighborhoods and the people who live in them.

And you're giving the company that placed the ads lots of free publicity as well.

"Free publicity" is the stupidest possible argument against this sort of thing. I couldn't tell you which phone company placed this ad without scrolling up and I'm commenting on the article. I couldn't tell you the name of the ad agency if you put a gun to my head.


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If you have lived in Greater Boston in the last thirty years you will be well aware of the stereotypes with "that part" of the Orange Line. In high school I had several white friends whose parents warned against -- if not expressly forbid -- riding the Orange Line south of Back Bay Station. Old stereotypes, just like any other bad habit, die hard. Honestly, it is great if more people currently do not associate Ruggles Station with marauding bands of scary black people. But let us not act like the historical associations have ceased to exist.


Do any of us sincerely believe that Northeastern University notes in its admissions and other promotional materials that it is located on the northwestern frontier of Roxbury? They know that parents of prospective students have access to The Almighty Google. And they know what many of the results, unfortunately, have to say about the neighborhood.

That's not where we are today

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The drinking fountains don't say "colored only" any more.

There are some people, places, and things where overt "holy shit" n-word level racism still exists. But those are much more obvious and don't need much of a discussion to call out. Well, they didn't before the current president and his ilk made more of that somehow less despicable for themseves again.

But the seriously insidious racism is the systemic ones where:

White is the default.

When discussing crime it's always assumed you mean "those people" or "that neighborhood".

We have unnecessarily specific phrases like "the concerns of the white working poor".

Even sensors on sinks and hand soap dispensers aren't tested on dark enough skin tones.

I can't even account them all because they don't affect me the same way they do darker skinned people who want more systemic fairness and some goddamned soap without needing to wait for a white friend.

And, no, I don't think the ad people or the soap sensor people were being racist by design. But that doesn't prevent there from being an adverse effect based on racial difference. Indifference to that was naivety. Continued indifference is relying on privilege or being racist.

You forget that Adam is

You forget that Adam is professionally offended by all that he sees. This is, after all, Trumpland that we all live in...

Doesn't make sense anyway

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Worcester line is out of North Station...are they envisioning a future with the North-to-South station connector?

Um, no

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The Worcester Line is out of South Station. But it's a different line than any of the lines that go through Ruggles, so the not making any sense part makes sense.

It makes sense...

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If someone at the ad agency is just picking random stops on a subway map and there's actually zero racist intent.


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Yeah, waiting for the bus at the WRTA terminal has always been suspenseful.

It makes Winter Street downtown look like an idyllic spot to take your beau a-courting!

But after the first error...

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After the first time there was a protest over racist over/undertones, intentional or not, the ad agency SHOULD have reassigned that particular ad campaign to someone who lives in Boston and would be able to pick stations that wouldn't offend people. Or drop that particular campaign all together.

But they didn't. They just made the same boneheaded mistake all over again, and people got offended again.

Samsung should drop this particular ad campaign and possibly the ad agency. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt the first time that it was an honest error due to the ad agency being unfamiliar with Boston, but since they did not replace them, or insist the agency come up with a different ad, or actually consult with a Boston resident...I feel that Samsung just doesn't care who it offends.

That's probably not true of Samsung at all, but that's what's coming across to me by doing this again.

You people

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Stop being so damn sensitive I'm black and really don't see anything wrong. The minority sympathizers most likely had more of a problem with this than the actual minorities did. If only they'd take on some real race issues.

You're black?

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I'd love to see you face to face with Ms. Lazu calling her a "minority sympathizer."


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that a person clearly pretending to be black who bashes "minority sympathizers" leaves one of the most popular comments on this post.

Act your age

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You think you're showing yourself to be clever when you attempt to hijack the phrases of those you despise. Instead you're just showing yourself to be a screechy, small-minded, selfish asshole. Grow the hell up.

I am

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Black, really black, Wesley Snipes black but I'm no weakling. Imagine if I let racism run my life I'd probably never leave the house. I face racism on the daily in real life. Am I supposed to cry about it? I wonder what makes u think I'm pretending to be what I really am. What I'm not thinking about though is if I'm being discriminated against right now. Get it?

Sounds legit

I know lots of black people who use expressions like "minority sympathizers".

U like?

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Came up with that myself really never heard anybody use it but I'm sure you'll hear it now originality at it's finest

oh fer Christ's sake!

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oh fer Christ's sake!

It's an ad!

First try was opposite ends of an actual transit line. Yeah, they would've done better to have the person going to Mattapan and the forgotten phone going to Alewife, thus pushing the suggestion of a forgotten bag on a train rather than some nasty lowlife from gritty Mattapan having picked your pocket..

Now, it's Worcester & Ruggles.

Apparently it's now a problem that they're NOT at opposite ends of the same line, which suggests that the people complaining now had no trouble understanding what the first ad was trying to say.

Also, have any of you actually been to Worcester? or Ruggles, for that matter? Newsflash: wander the neighborhoods within a few blocks of both stations and you will probably notice that you're not contrasting an urban neighborhood (diversity of people, diversity of economy & construction) with a homogenous, leafy, tree-lined, let's keep the big bad city at a safe distance suburb. You're comparing two diverse urban neighborhoods!

Yeah, I have to agree.

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Originally, I had thought otherwise in regards to the first ad. It probably would of been better if Samsung used Alewife and Braintree, the stops at each end the Red Line but Mattapan is still on the opposite end. I can't say the ad execs were being intentionally racist. This one, I have no problem with. Ruggles is a pretty diverse stop.

Red is Green in this case.

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but Mattapan is still on the opposite end

Of what is, despite being branded as the Red Line, is physically and operationally (it is technically a part of the Green Line) a different line. It still requires a transfer at Ashmont to the Mattapan High Speed line. If they paired Alewife and Ashmont, it might've made more sense.

"It's an ad!"

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oh fer Christ's sake!
It's an ad!

Indeed it is, and a useful lesson for b-school kids who are considering a future in advertising. Lesson: if you hope to make your ad catchy by references that are local or in-group, you'd better get it right. Samsung keeps getting it wrong. Maybe they should stop trying.

It's like telling racist jokes and calling yourself a comedian. You (not literal you, the joke-teller) thought it was funny, and I'm sure the ad agency thought it was catchy and relatable, by virtue of dropping a few local/regional names. You are free to laugh at your own jokes, and the ad agency is free to consider their ad awesome. The audience may have a different view.

Less sense

The image shows a guy running and gesturing towards a train. Presumably, his phone is on that train and he's not. Presumably, because he is boarding commuter rail, the wrong train is also commuter rail. Forgetting for a moment how the phone supposedly got on the wrong train, if it were just lost property, it would continue on the wrong train until the end of the line. So it would make more sense to say, for example, "...you go to Worcester and your phone goes to Needham."

No train terminates at Ruggles, so the ad presumes it hasn't just been left behind but that someone has taken the lost phone and gotten off the train in Ruggles, which is to say it is a theft.

Samsung flacks have gone out of their way to insult people who live near Ruggles.

The idea is that he just got

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The idea is that he just got off the train (maybe final destination, maybe just transfer point), realized he forgot something, oops too late! NOT that someone boosted his phone.

It makes no difference whether it's commuter rail or rapid transit.

It's a generic photo of a nondescript train and platform. They might use the same photo to back up the ad in a dozen cities.

Frankly, if you want to get picky, this looks much more like a rapid transit than a commuter rail train. Certainly not any Massachusetts commuter rail train, in that in seems to be set up entirely for high-level platforms (like some LIRR or Metro-North trainsets, maybe). If anything, it looks like a composite of some NYCTA rapid transit stock - maybe an R32 with something else.

"No train terminates at Ruggles."? This is the MBTA. Trains can terminate anyplace - at stations, between stations, scheduled, not scheduled. Except, of course, for the odd one that goes for a ride by itself.

The real question is

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Can we come up with a pair of stops where this is plausible and where nobody could get offended?

How about maybe BU (any) and Boston College?

Funny but not funny......

B-3 detectives were talking about the original ad a few weeks ago which mentioned Mattapan being the location of the "missing" phone. Right during this conversation Brookline police call and say a lap top that was stolen in their town was being pinged (GPS activated) to a street in Mattapan.

(Owner of course resets her passwords at the Apple store and the GPS goes dead after being told not to, laptop has not been recovered)

Cool story bro

And I have no doubt it is true.

But I am also sure that you don't think it would be appropriate to say "Better get that GPS thing in case your new laptop ends up in Mattapan hur hur hur."


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When I think of Ruggles, I think of colleges and medical centers since a lot of those people get on and off at Ruggles. It makes me think Samsung doesn't trust college kids or doctors.


You know, when you clam everything is racist it kind of hurts the cause of stopping REAL racism. But I guess a headline is more important than integrity.

It's an ad telling people how you can protect and recover your lost phone.....period.


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People like you who don't experience racism on a daily basis, and claim it therefore does not exist.

Get woke (aka wake up).

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Look, they're not criticizing the ad because it's WHITE letters ON TOP of BLACK background...as if that's some kind of coded racism deep in the ad maker's art department.

There's a clear point to be made when you're saying that the white guy pictured who just realized his phone is missing was heading to Worcester (60% white) but his phone is headed to Ruggles (Roxbury, 60% black). It's not as if he left it on a train that's going to Ruggles on his way to Worcester. It's not like Ruggles is the end of any of the lines because he forgot his phone on the Orange Line and it's going to ride to the end now. And given their other ad sent the phone to Mattapan, there's clearly a "stolen phones go to the majority black neighborhoods" vibe to these ads.

And that kind of stereotyping is pervasive and persistent. It's a systemic racism that not only reinforces to people who have never even been to Mattapan that "Mattapan is full of phone thieves" but also consistently reinforces to people from Mattapan that they're only known for being phone thieves.

And to top it off, it's UNNECESSARY at the same time. There's no reason to use Ruggles there, right? Your phone could be off to Kendall for all of the point of the ad. And even if this was an unconscious choice, then it must be called out and identified so that it is recognized next time and the next ad is necessarily NOT just another drumbeat in the persistent, pervasive racism.

Thank you and Lunchbox

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Wherever would we be without white people showing everyone where nothing is ever racist.

Whitesplaining is so necessary in the lives of people who live with racism every day!

Love to hear you whitesplain away the racism in slavery or Jim Crow. You would do it you know.

Dumb ad

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Dude is wearing headphones, but didn't notice the music stopped when he left his phone on the train (or had it stolen off of him) until he's out on the platform and the train is taking off?

Yeah. Ok.

Fool me once, shame on me...

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When the first of these ads showed up here about a month ago, the "Harvard Square to Ashmont" one, I figured it was just the usual clueless non-Bostonian ad people putting their feet in their mouths with an awkward ad. And I thought it was the usual Chicken Littles turning a badly done ad into non-existent racism. And I said so here. But the fact that Samsung has done it AGAIN...even if they were clueless thee first time you'd think they would have caught wind of the uproar and cancelled the rest of the ad campaign. I never thought we'd see another one of these ads. I have to wonder what's going on here. Why would they perpetrate a deliberately racist ad campaign, which is now what they seem to be doing, even if it was originally a mistake? Even companies with blatantly racist or homophobic CEOs like Chic Fil A don't actually run racist or homophobic ADS, they just say racist or homophobic things. I don't get this whole thing.


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Is the CEO of Chick Fil A blatantly racist? Will he not sell chicken to non-whites?

Having to explain why this ad isn't racist

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Is a good sign of a poorly written ad.

So some of you can charge racism, while others can claim it is no such thing, but if the copy was done right, there would be no question. That's how an effective ad works.


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The best, most straightforward comment in this thread.

So, Waquiot, when are you moving to Madison Avenue? ;)

I learned this years ago

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I spent 5 minutes explaining to a co-worker what an ad was "supposed to" mean. At the end, she said "oh, now I get it," which lead me to think and say "boy, if they way they expect to get their message across is to hope that someone can explain what it means, they are screwed, so it's just a bad ad."

Also, a friend of mine from back in the day is a copy writer for ad agencies.

By the way, this ad campaign

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By the way, this ad campaign is the current "plastered everywhere you can look" occupant of the waiting room at South Station.

I didn't inventory the whole collection, but the ad copy was mostly about "you forgot your phone" or "you went this way and your phone went that way" without mentioning locations.

I'm offended that you assume

I'm offended that you assume the people who would steal your phone who live in these neighborhoods are people of color. White people steal things too, you bloody racists.

I wonder why....

... when one clicks on this troll's name one doesn't get the normal page that allows one to search its prior posts?

Bug in the code

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Users are actually stored as ID numbers. The /users/ pages use your ID number to display certain pages (like your user contact page URL for example) but the user's profile page can be referenced with the user's name (with the ID dereferencing happening in the background). Since this user's name is all numbers, the dereferencing things you're trying to use an ID (which you're not) and goes that route and says there's no ID by that number.

It's a bug in the site software where it should be trying to use that username as a username and not an ID number.


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I think Adam banished him/her early this morning (or late last night, depending on what one calls that time just after midnight.)