Ever contemplated what having sex with Hitler would be like? No? What about Stalin then? Saddam Hussein? What -- evil dictators just aren't your thing? Thanks to a new and highly controversial ad campaign that just came out showing Der Führer in an embrace that would inspire 10 Lil' Wayne songs, now you too can be scarred by genocidal sex. In the graphic commercial and on the accompanying posters, there is mood lighting, glistening bodies and even a stray nip here and there (NSFW, obviously) so clearly a lot of thought and planning went into this. And yet, what on earth would anyone want to advertise with this kind of wash-your-retinas-with-acid-afterward illustration?
It's an AIDS PSA.
I know, it took me a minute to get it too. Actually it took me more than a minute. I was so taken aback with the disturbing rape overtones and the torture-porn aspect of the pictured encounter that I didn't even notice it was Hitler until I saw the accompanying text. The caption reads "AIDS is a mass murderer."
Das Comitee, a Hamburg advertising agency, said the advert's shock value was aimed at highlighting the dangers of unprotected sex at a time when public awareness about the risks was diminishing. "We knew the face we gave to the illness could not be a pretty one," said Dirk Silz, the creative director. The advert was trying to "show the ugliness of the illness, not of aids victims."
Unfortunately the ad fails on several points. While AIDS is an admittedly ugly illness and deserves public awareness, to qualify as a public service announcement it might have been more effective had it actually educated the public on how to avoid the HIV that leads to AIDS. Also, with proper health care HIV is not necessarily the death sentence it used to be. In addition to not mentioning condoms, it also manages to offend several large populations by misappropriating their biggest fears. Rape victims, for one. Women in general. Oh and all the survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides. Especially upset were AIDS sufferers themselves pointing out that the ad equates them with mass murderers.
Sometimes shock campaigns work but this one just leaves me feeling cold. And kinda icky inside.
What's your reaction? Does a disease as serious as AIDS warrant this kind of in-your-face advert? Or does the medium overshadow the message?