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November 26, 2005
Forgettable Moments In German Marketing

When a country finds itself demoralized, usually someone in the government thinks that a blend of Norman Vincent Peale and Madison Avenue will rejuvenate the nation -- rather than actually fixing the problems. Britain tried it in the 1960s with the "I'm Backing Britain" campaign. Gerald Ford laughably tried to stop inflation by getting people to stop buying goods to "Whip Inflation Now", and handed out those silly WIN buttons. These efforts usually show nothing more offensive than a desire to avoid the painful process of fixing problems that popular but destructive policies have wrought.

Leave it to Germany to inadvertently add offense to stupidity. With their social net strangling their economy and facing a raft of hard choices, someone thought spending 20 million on an ad campaign to boost German self-confidence. However, no one thought to do any research on the slogan selected -- Du Bist Deutschland (You Are Germany) -- until a historian came up with this little wet blanket of an item from the 1930s:

The 20 million Du Bist Deutschland - You Are Germany - campaign was devised to inspire Germans to stop moaning and do something good for their country.

Beethoven, Einstein and the sports stars Franz Beckenbauer and Michael Schumacher have been cited in advertisements encouraging Germans to take more pride in their homeland.

But a historian from Ludwigshafen has provoked an uproar with his discovery that the same Du Bist Deutschland cry was used at Nazi rallies in the 1930s.

Stefan Mrz uncovered photographs of a 1935 Nazi convention in which soldiers display a banner reading, in gothic script, Denn Du Bist Deutschland (Because You Are Germany). The slogan was topped with the head of Adolf Hitler. Leading Nazis such as Hermann Gring and Joseph Goebbels attended the event.

While the Nazis used many such slogans, the awful parallel comes from the similar intent between the two uses: to convince Germans that they can make their country great again. Most disturbingly, the new campaign uses Albert Einstein as one of the icons of their advertising campaign -- a man who had to flee Germany because of the Nazi takeover and the coming genocide of the Jews in Europe.

No one thinks that the advertising campaign signals the return of the Nazis. Ironically, one of the reasons given by the government for the campaign was to throw off the depression of association with the Nazis and their horrible crimes against humanity, although using Einstein for that purpose seems a bit crass, considering the circumstances. It does demonstrate a certain amount of vacillating and foot-dragging on behalf of Berlin and a lack of intestinal fortitude to actually take on the real problems Germany faces. One would have hoped that they, of all people, would understand that public spectacles do nothing but distract people from the real solutions necessary to solve their long-term economic failures.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 26, 2005 7:25 AM

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