Aids, Alzheimers, abortion: Europe's most shocking adverts

Article published on Sept. 15, 2010
Article published on Sept. 15, 2010
From Spain and Italy's saucy adverts, via the UK and Germany's treatment of diseases, to Poland's nazi memories - a video tour of the banned adverts which most recently shocked modern European society

UK: first television abortion advert ('are you late')

Should adverts for abortion be allowed? The latest one in Britain was screened after 10pm in England, Scotland and Wales, but was banned in Northern Ireland. Channel 4, known as the most 'alternative' channel of the five national ones, was host to the month-long campaign in May 2010. Produced by Marie Stopes International (MSI), a sexual health charity which runs eight clinics in England, the spot shows three pregnant women who are 'late', fading in the number of a free information hotline at the end. As always with the senstitive subject of abortion, emotions ran high. Michaela Ashton, anti-abortion activist and spokeswoman for the Life organisation, called the decision to advertise abortion clinics 'grotesque'. They aren’t, after all, simply producing some kind of cleaning product. Marie Stopes International doesn’t see the commercial as an abortion advert. Rather, it's there to inform and to explain. According to UNICEF, the teenage pregnancy rate in Great Britain is one of the highest in Europe. The advert was commissioned from icreate4, the media agency Village Green and with PR by Hill & Knowlton

Poland: NaziSexyMouse poster

It may well be about art – the residents of the Polish town of Poznan, however, find the motif anything but appealing. Simply mounting Mickey Mouse’s head on the body of a naked lady on a huge outdoor poster would not be everybody’s thing. The large swastika glaring out from the background does not go down well in a Poland where many people were murdered by the nazi party in the 1940s. NaziSexyMouse, the self-evident title of the work, was created by Italian Max Papeschi in July 2010 to advertise an exhibition for the Berlin and Poznan-based art gallery Abnormals. Unfortunately, the twice-vandalised poster was hung only a few meters from the town synagogue, which was used as a swimming pool during the nazi regime. Papischi wants his work to be understood entirely politically: by combining symbols of, among other things, oppression with 'cultural icons' like Mickey Mouse, the latter lose their 'pacifying effect' and transform into a 'collective nightmare'.

France: Saatchi Alzheimer 'Fortunately' scandal

In February 2009,  internet petition 'Alzheimers Another Way' ('Alzheimer Autrement') was launched against this Saatchi&Saatchi Paris commercial produced for the France Alzheimer association.  'The advert shows a deformed and apocalyptic vision of Alzheimers disease,' explained the petition's initiator, Valérie Roumanoff. 'Horror film techniques such as escalating music are used, the victims are presented as monsters,' she explained. The end slogan is: Fortunately they won’t remember it at all. Definitely an advert to be remembered for a long time. The folks at compared it to the English version of the advert here

Italy: Former porn star Rocco Siffredi likes crisps

At first sight, it may not be obvious to non-Italians why this advert for a well-known crisps brand was censored in Italy in 2006. It's not exactly Gary Linekar naughtily stuffing Walkers in his mouth either; Rocco Siffredi is a famous porn actor (modestly referred to in the video as 'actor') and the setting of barely clad ladies lasciviously lounging around the pool may well seem unsavoury to many. The actual reason for the ban, however, comes down to the script for the advert. As Siffredi munchses to the sound of Daddy Cool, he mutters: Mmmmmh, I love little potatoes (patatina);  ‘a little potato’ in Italian is also a colloquial term for female bits.... This, combined with Rocco Siffredi, is enough for a concrete scandal

Germany: Aids, mass murderer

This 2009 ad campaign made no friends for the Rainbow Inc. Initiative, an Aids prevention society: the slogan Aids is a mass murderer was not positively received in any country, let alone Germany. Along with Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Saddam Hussein are having unprotected sex with women.

French Aids campaign shows a woman sleeping with a scorpion

Protests came from Great Britain and the USA. Above all, the stigmatising of HIV positive people as 'mass murderers' was criticised. The ad contains no information about how to protect yourself from Aids and is equally problematic in terms of gender roles: women are portrayed at victims of the infection, 'evil' men as the carriers.

Spain: Diary of a nymphomaniac

Diario de una ninfómana is the title of the film which this poster was supposed to advertise. A scantily dressed woman slips her hand into her underwear, an image which adorned buses and subway stations in Madrid at the time of the film's release in 2008. The authorities found it provocative. Christian Molina, director of the nymphomaniac film, suspected that is wasn’t so much the woman in her underwear as the concept of nymphomania that presents a problem when another poster, on which only the film title and no half-naked woman can be seen, was equally rejected.

Videos (cc): abortion UK Marie Stopes International; NaziSexyMaus maxpapeschi; alzheimers France flouze1; Rocco Sifffredi alemona; Aids Hitler Vallepirate; Spain film trailer xunadvdclub/ all via Youtube