6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns

Advertising executives have to have their thumb on the pulse of pop culture at all times. After all, how else are you going to sell diapers for dogs if you can't quickly and accurately reference the latest episode of The Walking Dead? But all too often a marketing department will shoot for the "hip" and end up with the "wildly offensive." Nobody involved in these ads likely had anything but the best of intentions, which is why it's all the funnier that, with glistening eyes and purity in their hearts, they accidentally wound up endorsing pedophilia and the Nazis.

#6. Nestle Makes the Wrong Internet Reference

Scott Ehardt

The Plan:

When Nestle decided to promote the new Kit Kat Instagram page for its Australia and New Zealand branches, they needed a mascot to help spread the word. After short deliberation, they decided that a bear playing drums was the ideal image to represent chocolate-covered wafer sticks. It worked because the drumsticks were actually Kit Kat bars, and what's friendlier than a big ol' snuggly teddy bear?

Plus, he's chunky, like the product, and like the target customer.

The Mistake:

Inadvertent or not, Kit Kat's new mascot looked exactly like 4Chan's Pedobear:

via Sydney Morning Herald
Do not ask him to break off a piece of his bar.

If you're not familiar with the meme, it's a bear that molests children on the Internet. If you're not familiar with the Internet, it's the place that invents shit like this. Nestle pleaded total ignorance about the significance of their adopted character and quickly retired him to Mascot Island, where he is not allowed within 500 yards of the Keebler Elves at any time.

#5. Adidas Releases Shoes That Celebrate Slavery

Pete Williams/Highsnobiety.com

The Plan:

When Adidas hired designer Jeremy Scott to come up with a new shoe for kids, he did what was natural and looked to his childhood for inspiration. He found it in a toy from the 1980s called My Pet Monster. It looked like this:

And was, presumably, "totally badical."

Scott's monster-inspired sneaker design, called the JS Roundhouse Mid, referenced the trademark orange shackles, and looked like this:

As a boy, Scott identified with the monster because it's tough being a teen.

The Mistake:

According to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the shoes were little more than an "attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation." To be fair to Scott, that probably wasn't the exact phrasing he used when he pitched the design to Adidas. You see what Scott was going for, now that you know the full story -- but it's not like My Pet Monster is an accessible reference to the sneaker-obsessed youth of today. And even if it was, they called the shoes "JS Roundhouse Mid" -- not "My Pet Monster Shoes" or "Totally Not Slave Kicks."

Adidas apologized for the unintentional allegory and decided not to release the sneakers, but they came to their designer's defense, promising that Scott's work was purely the result of an obsession with '80s pop culture ... and a big honkin' blind spot in American history.

#4. Manchester United's Newsletter Looks Like Nazi Propaganda

Manchester United

The Plan:

Soccer -- or "footsy kickball," as they call it in Europe -- is pretty serious business. And one of those serious businesses is an English team called Manchester United. They recently began releasing a weekly email newsletter for fans called United Uncovered, which, in defiance of the name, comes with a cover. Like this one:

Manchester United
An email formatted like a magazine? It's like it was designed in 1939 or something.

Huh. For some reason that black guy seems oddly out of place with the overall motif they've got going here ...

The Mistake:

Well, to start, their logo looks like a Nazi reference from a dystopian sci-fi film.

Manchester United
"All men must use their assigned positions to defend the common goal!"

Of course, the swastika is a pretty simple shape, so it's understandable if you accidentally designed an abstract logo that's vaguely reminiscent of it. But how do you explain the severe and unflinching presence of the phrase "New Order" right next to it? If the term doesn't ring a bell, "The New Order" referred to Nazi-occupied Europe and was one of Hitler's favorite wacky catchphrases, right up there with "Do the Schutzstaffel shuffle!" and "I did NAZI that coming!"

The group's head of media, David Sternberg, released a full apology and promised to launch an internal investigation, which eventually concluded that the whole thing was a "bloody accident," no doubt enabled by decades of ceaseless World War II references in British comedies.

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