6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns

Nobody involved in these ads likely had anything but the best of intentions, which is why it's all the funnier.
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.

Nestle Makes the Wrong Internet Reference

Kit Kat Kit Kat
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?

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns

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:

2 O4/290600 aet890 0 d 71 e c 33 nevea oooo Mm o toto 042 23731 lean 3 nevo pant OTY SHTT pant WHAT DIDI MISS? tl
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.

Adidas Releases Shoes That Celebrate Slavery

Bep bes BOP vo Mopes
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:

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns

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:

ots aicas cdctet odido

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.

Manchester United's Newsletter Looks Like Nazi Propaganda

AdnanGWore and a this season ranks of Adnan anuai's nergence United's deal enhancee of tive-year COre up the new could make Reds who young to come. fo
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:

Images not displaying correctly? View in your browser. EMETTB United Uncovered UNITED Your weekly emait from the club. the players and the fans ISSUE
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.

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns
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.

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns

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-

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns
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.

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns
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.

The History Channel Casts Familiar Face as Satan

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns
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.

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns
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:

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns
via Los Angeles Times


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.

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns
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.

German Toilet Freshener Sparks International Outrage

DUO + ole reshness

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.


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?

6 Offensive Messages Hidden in Huge Marketing Campaigns
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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