6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns

#3. The JC Penney Tea Kettle of Intolerance

via Ad Week

The Plan:

Check out the above JC Penney billboard for a new designer teapot. Do you see it?

No? You've no idea what might be off about this picture?

It's the pun, silly! This kettle has "the bells and whistles you deserve." Kettles whistle, and this one has a bell. Get it? Hahaha.

Also the teapot looks like a saluting Hitler.

The Mistake:

Wait, what? How can a teapot look like-

via CNN
"Here is my handle, and here is my Lebensraum."

Oh, shit.

There is no way that was intentional on the part of the designer. It's a total case of pareidolia. But look again: You can't deny it -- the lopsided hairstyle handle, the knob mustache, the saluting spout ... hell, thanks to a poorly placed side-handle, it's even wearing a little tie. This is the Manchester United of kettles.

It was Reddit that first pointed out the resemblance and Patton Oswalt who, thanks to his crippling lack of faith in humanity, first predicted that sales of the teapot would skyrocket. Which, obviously, they did. Adolf Kettler sold out online almost instantly.

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Most buyers put their purchase on top of their oven.

With fame comes notoriety, and soon even the Anti-Defamation League was chiming in to criticize a kettle that looked like a Nazi. So JC Penney decided to take down its billboard and cease sales of the teapot, instead leaving consumers to search for the Fuhrer in their toast slices and cereal bowls like the rest of us.

#2. The History Channel Casts Familiar Face as Satan

History Channel

The Plan:

There's only, what, a few billion years of history to pull from, tops? Obviously the History Channel was going to run out of relevant content to cover within a decade, so it's understandable that they moved on to more abstract concepts, like this miniseries about the life of Christ. Of course, any movie about Jesus needs a Satan, and to fill that quota, they hired Moroccan actor Mehdi Ouazzani, who is a veteran of biblical-era films and looked sinister enough to portray the prince of lies.

Abdeljalil Bounhar, Associated Press
After playing "Old Testament slave trader" and his time in The Satanic Angels, Ouazzani was worrying a bit about typecasting.

The Mistake:

The problem came when a few billion people in a niche audience called "Americans and people who have heard of America" noticed that the devil looked strangely familiar:

via Los Angeles Times
Hmmmmm.

So was the History Channel trying to say that the 13 percent of Americans who believe President Obama is the Antichrist are totally onto something?

Probably not! And it's probably at least a little suspect that folks see two dark-skinned dudes side by side and say, "Yep, those guys are both the devil, all right." But the idea that the producers had deliberately cast an Obama look-alike as the dark lord became so big on social media that the unsocial(?) media picked up on it, and right-wing Christians around the country offered many Internet high-fives to the filmmakers.

Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty 
"It makes sense, 'cause Obama, the Moroccan, and Satan are all Communist Muslims."

High-fives that were unwelcome, and left hanging: The History Channel eventually released a statement insisting that any resemblance between the sitting U.S. president and the king of hell is purely coincidental. Even so, the filmmakers decided that the controversy distracted too much from the film's message and have removed the devil from the rerelease, which means that, on some level, Barack Obama has vanquished Satan.

#1. German Toilet Freshener Sparks International Outrage

Henkel

The Plan:

Back in 2013, German detergent company Henkel released a toilet freshener bar called the Bref Duo Stick. In the design world, not even the color of the soap you drop into your toilet bowl is left up to random chance -- the product designers claim that the blue color and the wavy pattern represent the cleansing nature of water, while the yellow represents the fresh lemon-scented goodness.

Henkel
To some, the colors suggest bruises and urine, but there's no pleasing everyone.

The Mistake:

See this proud bastard flapping alongside the Henkel urine-wedge?

Gleb Garanich/Reuters, selensergen/iStock/Getty Images
No, not the proud flapping bastard on the left. We're talking about the flag.

That's the flag of Ukraine. Oh, don't worry -- this product wasn't marketed to Ukraine. But then start worrying again, because it was marketed in Russia.

As you might know if you've taken a European history class or watched the news, or if you're generally aware of the abstract concept of wars or hatred, Russia and Ukraine aren't exactly on speaking terms. And yet boredom is the great equalizer, so many Ukrainians still watch Russian television. When ads for something you put in your toilet that looks exactly like the national symbol of Ukraine -- it's not just the colors; it's even goddamn flag shaped -- start running on Russian TV, folks just might start reading into it.

Henkel, not wishing to go down in history as the company that started World War III over toilet bowl freshener, immediately ceased production of the product. Sure, national integrity was preserved and conflict averted, but piss collectors all throughout Eastern Europe are now tragically absent the refreshing stink of citrus. Peace, but at what cost?


Related Reading: The amount of corporate boners is endless. Once upon a time, Abercrombie & Fitch had the whole racism thing locked down. Then there's the time Adult Swim caused a bomb scare. And never forget the time a giant beach ball terrorized London.

You've probably got a friend who lives in terror of "the corporations". Click the button below, share this on Facebook and help him realize they're much, much dumber than we give them credit for being.

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