Oracle : Stumbling culturally

Global content over-rules common sense.

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The feature

Oracle, the US-based software giant, shows a lack of cultural sensitivity by prominently featuring a fulsome tribute to a US soldier on its China country page.

The ‘Tribute to Ryan Pitts’ is the first of four magazine-style stories displayed on the China page in a rotating banner that scrolls automatically every few seconds. The page is dominated by a large photograph of Pitts, a former US Army staff sergeant, recipient of the US Medal of Honor and Oracle employee. A smaller photograph shows President Obama awarding the medal to Pitts at the White House in July 2014.

The accompanying Chinese text features a quote from Pitts and links to more material (all in English with no translations or subtitles) including an Oracle press release, a profile of Pitts on the US Army official website and videos of the White House ceremony and a separate commemoration at the Pentagon.


The takeaway

Oracle is understandably proud of Pitts, who single-handedly held off an enemy advance during a battle in Afghanistan in 2008, in which nine of his fellow soldiers died. In the press releases and video he comes across as the quintessential American hero, selfless and humble. ‘The team is always greater than yourself,’ he says, in a message that would surely appeal to US customers.

Why this story features so prominently on the China home page, however, is a mystery. A quick trawl through a few of Oracle’s multiple other country sites, did not find it featuring anywhere else in the world. It is apparently housed in Oracle’s ‘Features’ section in ‘About’, but was not displayed there when we checked.

It is possible that local management decided the story was suitable – but rather more likely that an automated content system provided the story, and there was no central control to stop it. It is useful to think of the likely outcry if the situation were reversed – say if Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant in trouble recently in the US over espionage allegations, featured a paean to a Chinese soldier on a site meant to sell internet routers to Americans.

First published 27 August, 2014
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