Marketing FAIL: Du darfst

Or: You may. But should you?

A couple of weeks ago I was stuck behind the TV when programming was interrupted by the usual barrage of messages from their sponsors. And suddenly, amongst all the noise, a female voice proudly proclaimed in her German accent, “Fuck the diet!”

Huh? What? Did I hear right?

At first I was a little taken aback by the crass statement and wrote it off as a mere glitch in the matrix but when the ad came up again sometime later I got concerned. After all, this was early evening TV, not quite bedtime for the little ones, yet still unsuitable — not only for public TV, but also for the products being advertised: A range of slimming food products by a Unilever brand called “Du darfst” (English: You may).

Oh well, local TV is littered with garbage and gutter language by default, and the odd bit of cussin’ and swearin’ usually don’t bother me none. “Fuck it,” I figured and promptly forgot about it.

A few evenings later the wife comes up to me, reporting on the same shocking slogan she had heard earlier that day. She was equally unimpressed and couldn’t understand why (being a local product) they simply couldn’t use the German equivalent of “Vergiss die Diät” or “Scheiß’ auf die Diät” — if they must insist on being vulgar.

My guess is that it wouldn’t fly with the advertising standards authorities.

"Fuck the diet" invokes thoughts of women and cucumbers...

Well, as it turns out there’s an entire campaign for the product range utilising the catch phrase. You can even download a “FUCK the Diet Button” (badge) from their web site — although I’d be hard-pressed to find a use for it other than to punctuate this blog post.

It also turns out that there’s quite a stink about the slogan: Some consumers reckon it’s brave and cheeky (admittedly, my inner child admires the ballsiness) while others brandish it outright crude, common, and even stupid. Media commentators and observers have gone on to describe the campaign as a new low — no, not in calories, but in advertising standards and poor taste.

The mature part of me falls into the latter category, not only because it’s sloppy copywriting and unsuitable for daytime public television but mainly because it’s ONE BIG FAT DENGLISCH FAIL.

Other than the obvious and supposedly rebellious meaning which should’ve been rephrased as “Fuck dieting” to drive home a point that I would’ve rather expected to originate from a fast food chain or the Heart Attack Grill, another interpretation of the too ambiguous phrase is… well, to literally “forget your diet” and eat whatever you want! Not our products but anything — healthy or otherwise: munch away, girls! Hey, we sell overpriced, low-calory slimming food, we show slender-to-ordinary-size women in our adverts, our website features a slim dietitian named Silke Kayadelen and loads of healthy recipes but that’s OK: pile up, dig in, pig out, and fuck the diet!

Burger and shakes, baby!

Following protests and ridicule, all traces and history of the faux pas (launched around 29. March) were removed and the campaign adapted some three weeks later to the much less controversial phrase “Diät – OHNE mich!” (English: Dieting – without me).

Yes, it’s certainly lame and more of a knee-jerk reaction than a thought out concept but it sure got the word out. And it beats the suggested act of sitophilia.

No press isn’t always worse than bad press.

Image credits: Ogilvy & Mather Advertising Düsseldorf, Heart Attack Grill

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