#6. D.C. Metro Advertises Railway Revamp With Casual Sexism
In 2013, the D.C. Metro began widespread renovations, because it had last been updated in the '70s, and "retro" doesn't always mean "safe," or "effective," or, in the case of the '70s, even "remotely tasteful." To promote the changes and encourage people to experience all the joys and interesting smells of public transportation, the Metro Forward campaign was rolled out. This mostly consisted of posters depicting people having "casual conversations" touting the Metro's energy efficiency, convenience, and reliability, hoping to "get people talking" about the Metro. One particular ad definitely did that.
Ah, the hurtful "Asian cobbler" cliche.
Look, pop culture is full of lazy jokes that rely on cultural stereotypes, like that women only care about shoes. That sort of thing takes up about half the runtime of Family Guy, after all. But there's a time and place for them, and it's probably not in a public, taxpayer-funded campaign.
You might think that the ad was but one of a series of posters depicting lazy cultural stereotypes interacting with the newly redesigned Metro system, which would make it ... art, or something? (Probably. Everything we don't understand, we generally chalk up to "art.") But no, the versions with men feature no talk of football, beer, meat, boobs, or any other hackish punchline pulled from an episode of Two and a Half Men. Just two reasonable guys, staying on topic and giving a subway renovation campaign literally all the attention it deserves.
Although "rail fastener" totally sounds like it could have been a 1920s slur.
#5. Delhi Police's Charity Ads Call Poor Children Murderers, Advocate for Child Labor
Poor, homeless, and underprivileged kids are, by their very definition, more vulnerable than others, especially in places like New Delhi. They're often exploited, and they turn to a life of crime because they don't have any other choices.
That was the rationale behind the Delhi police's 2013 campaign for donations to the Delhi Police Yuva Foundation, anyway. The foundation's aim was to provide training and jobs to street kids, to show them how rewarding honest labor could be compared to the immediate gratification of robbery. "Help him learn how to chop an onion," the ads read, "before someone teaches him how to chop a head."
Did you laugh? We did. Pretty funny ad campaign, guys! Only it wasn't supposed to be. Check out the poster:
"Teach a boy to sell fish, and he'll let you escape with your life."
Somber, serious black-and-white photo of an at-risk youth. Severe text. Police logo. Yep, this is not the time or place for humor. Many charities and children's rights groups agreed and were not pleased with this choice of words. For one, they thought a child's propensity to "chop heads" had more to do with reduced opportunities for education than, as the ad seemed to suggest, a lack of child labor. For two, the ad was reinforcing the stereotype that Delhi's impoverished street children were just aching for a chance to commit wanton, random violence. Add both of those implications up and you have the message: "Somebody please exploit these savages before they kill again."
The Delhi police apologized for any hurt feelings and ended the campaign when the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights began investigating them (and presumably found a number of orphan children carting the police chief about on a palanquin in order to "help curb their insatiable bloodlust").
#4. Estonian Gas Company Jokes About the Holocaust
In 2012, a Dubai gym found itself in hot water for running an ad featuring a picture of the Auschwitz concentration camp with the slogan: "Kiss your calories goodbye." Wait, motherfuckin' Dubai isn't all that sensitive to the plight of the Jews? Who could have called that one!?
Slightly more surprising was the time an Estonian gas company decided to decorate their homepage with the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. You know, the place where Zyklon B was first tested and a staggering 960,000 Jews died through an assortment of unspeakable horrors, not the least of which were gas chambers. Get it? Gas company? Get it?
via Virtual Jerusalem
"You're not laughing. Do you not get it?"
When it turned out most folks weren't, as Gasterm bafflingly assumed, secretly cool with Hitler on the DL, the company replaced the gates with a photo of a gas burner and an apology for causing an "inconvenience." Executive director Sven Linros slimed out of a gutter to explain the true intention behind the ad: It was really because the Nazis used gas heating and absolutely nothing else gas-related was implied here. Haha, what did you even think we meant? Honestly, guys.
Linros further qualified his apology by saying, "The slight provocation was probably a bad idea." Also that the website was designed for heating experts, and heating experts were totally cool with it. Then, no shit, he made a joke about Hitler and his gas bill.
Then he lightened the mood by dissolving an orphan with his caustic skin-grease before devouring it.