Tuesday, March 27, 2007

No Mo' Joe

What's the first thing that would come to mind if you'd heard that the mayor of Jerusalem used the image of Adolf Hitler in an anti-littering campaign? It would probably be along the lines of has he lost his fucking mind?

So you can imagine the reaction of many Ukrainians when officials of Ukrainian city of Donetsk dusted off the image of Josef Stalin for use in a series of public service announcements aimed at getting residents to pay off their delinquent utility bills. One television ad showed grainy black and white footage of Koba with an overdubbed voice howling "Those who don't pay for their heat should be PUNISHED!" to the thunderous applause of a sycophantic Politburo.

First of all, the use of dictators for marketing purposes, while not new, is fairly stupid by any measure. The use of dictators in advertising becomes even more loathsome when the targeted audience is the exact same one that suffered most because of the dictator in question. This advertising campaign would merely be stupid in Russia or Georgia, but it transforms into an affront of monumentally bad taste in the Ukraine. You don't even have to go back too far in the history of Donetsk itself to get into Uncle Joe's legacy, as the city itself was once renamed "Stalino" by Stalinist toadies, even as Stalin was tightening the screws on the Ukraine.

So what did Donetsk's municipal utility company have to say about their ill conceived ad campaign?

"Stalin is used here not as a historical personality, but more as a symbol of inevitable punishment. Failure to pay for one's services is a serious wrongdoing."

Oh, why didn't you just say so in the first place? No problem then, I guess.

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