Salesgenie's Super Bowl success

CEO-authored advertisements make fun of billions of Indians and Chinese. A job well done.

Published February 4, 2008 2:20PM (EST)

For Vin Gupta, CEO of InfoUSA, a database-marketing company, the universally negative attention garnered by two horrible Super Bowl advertisements touting the services of was an unmitigated success.

In one spot, a midlevel executive named Ramesh, complete with Simpsons-Apu accent and seven children, laments his inability to generate sales leads -- until he goes with Salesgenie. In another, two pandas with the kind of stereotypical Chinese accents that date back to Charlie Chan movies are similarly beleaguered.

"It's hard to imagine that a company would be that insensitive," the Wall Street Journal quoted one branding firm executive as saying.

Ah, but it's easy enough if the goal was to be rude to as many billions of people living on the planet as one can manage in 30 seconds. is a unit of InfoUSA, and CEO Gupta wrote the ads himself, just as he wrote the spot regarded as the worst advertisement in last year's Super Bowl. When hundreds of millions of people around the world are watching, success apparently equals being remembered, whether for good or evil. (Although this doesn't hold true when one's activities embarrass politicians campaigning for the White House.)

So why is How the World Works falling for this scam, and granting even more publicity to such foulness? Because, through our little prism of globalization, it seems that a scrap of hope can be gleaned from this mess. Gupta set out to make the worst advertisements possible, and to fulfill that noble aspiration, he decided that spreading vaguely racist stereotypes of Chinese and Indians was his best bet.

That's progress!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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