Press Gang: Operation Highlight Hitler

Submitted by on 28 July, 2002 - 1:13

By Nicole Ashford

Like a lot of people, I suspect, I only saw the infamous "Hitler" anti-euro ad once it became a news story.

It was a news story at first because it had Bob Geldof in it. It stayed a news story because it had Rik Mayall playing Hitler in it.

The serious story, to start with, was that persuading Geldof to do the ad was something of a coup for the "No" campaign. True enough.
Unconnected research about public attitudes towards/disillusionment with politics had revealed that the most common unprompted answer from focus groups to questions along the lines of who they admired in public life was - Bob Geldof. That research had been commissioned by the BBC so naturally the story got a good run on TV and radio.

Once the Geldof story had run its course, the No campaign switched to Part Two of their plan - Operation Highlight Hitler. In no time at all, a couple of rent-a-quote politicians had been found to label the ad hideously offensive and, hey presto, it was back in the headlines.

And in case you didn't know what all the fuss is about, you could download it from the front page of BBC News Online. Without the organisers having to pay a penny in advertising fees.

What does all this prove? Very little, beyond the fact that the "No" campaign has a good advertising agency, and that said agency subscribes to the "fcuk" school of gratuitous offence as promotional technique. (A series of French Connection ads have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority - notably one showing a seemingly under-age girl with the slogan "fancy conquering uncharted kingdom" -
gaining publicity for the campaign well beyond its initial spend.)

The anti-euro ad's use of Hitler is distasteful. In the context of the rest of the ad, though, it's not very much more distasteful than, say, the 'Allo 'Allo Nazis. There's not a serious argument in the ad that Hitler would have backed the euro. In fact, there's not a serious argument in the ad at all.

The really sad thing about this anti-euro ad is the feeling that this is the way it's going to be from now until the referendum. No argument, no politics, just glossy ads and meaningless slogans.

Benetton-style children of colour wandering through Europe's beautiful countryside, Mum paying for her Hovis loaf in euros, the Oxo family saving the pound as they sup their gravy.

Whatever happened to political argument, it certainly isn't here. If we must have the euro, or if we must keep the pound, could we at least try to discuss the politics of the business?

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