Startup Nutanix removed a series of videos featured in its recently launched anti-VCE marketing campaign on Thursday, after a chorus of critics on Twitter labeled them offensive and sexist.
The "Nix Vblock" campaign, which has its own website, is Nutanix's bid to attract VCE customers that have bought Vblocks, the pre-integrated combination of Cisco servers, EMC storage and VMware virtualization software that many enterprises use for private clouds.
In the videos, a data center manager named Doug meets a woman named "Vicky Block" through an online dating site, and they decide to meet up. While Doug is a normal, seemingly intelligent fellow, Vicky Block is presented as a bizarre, scatterbrained individual who wears a mix of three different outfits.
Vicky is also constantly hearing three different voices in her head, making conversation difficult for Doug.
Through Vicky, Nutanix is trying to make the point that a joint venture of three different vendors isn't a good place to buy data center gear, and that Vblocks are an unwieldy, confusing amalgamation of technologies.
But on Twitter, several industry watchers called out Nutanix for what they considered to be a sexist portrayal of "Vicky." Others criticized Nutanix for making fun of people with mental disabilities.
Howard Ting, vice president of marketing at Nutanix, tweeted an apology for the offending videos, which have since been replaced with ones that do more conventional competitive comparisons.
We apologize to those offended by #NixVblock videos, which have been removed. We value the opinions of our customers, partners & community.
— Howard Ting (@howardting) June 5, 2014
In a separate tweet, Ting said Nutanix is standing behind the core messages of the Nix Vblock campaign -- that Vblocks are legacy infrastructure that's more expensive, complex and slower to deploy than its own converged infrastructure appliances, which combine servers and storage on commodity hardware.
Nutanix declined to make Ting available for an interview or to comment further on its reasons for pulling the videos. VCE couldn’t be reached for comment.
While the Nutanix videos play on entrenched gender stereotypes that many in the tech industry are fighting hard to change, one industry executive told CRN there are other factors amplifying the uproar.
Nutanix, which has raised more than $170 million in venture capital since its founding in 2009, has acquired a reputation in some industry circles for being "arrogant and brash" in marketing its products, the executive said.
"They often act like they're the smartest guys in the room," said the industry executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It also bears mention that many of the most vociferous critics of the videos either work for, or are affiliated with, Nutanix's competitors. There is certainly no love lost between Nutanix and EMC, and more recently, animosity has crept into Nutanix's once-close relationship with VMware as well.
VMware uninvited Nutanix from its annual partner conference in February but said the San Jose, Calif.-based startup would be welcome at its VMworld conference in August. Sources later told CRN that VMware was upset about Nutanix poaching several of its top engineers, among other issues.
Nutanix isn’t the only tech vendor whose marketing tactics have triggered an uproar lately. Last month, EMC was blasted on Twitter after The Register posted a photo of female contortionists in Lycra suits performing at its booth, though apparently the act also included male contortionists.
Someone at EMC think it is acceptable to use women as human Connect Four pieces. pic.twitter.com/c7audJhpKL
— Jack Clark (@mappingbabel) May 6, 2014
PUBLISHED JUNE 6, 2014