How Hitler invaded the marketing world

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A long-held taboo on using Nazi imagery to sell products appears to be weakening. Is it just ad-land’s love of shock value — or something bigger?

In a South Korean television commercial, a young woman in a military trenchcoat holds a soldier’s cap bearing a motif of what looks like an eagle gripping a swastika. The voiceover says: “Even Hitler could not take over the East and West at the same time.” The cosmetics manufacturer Coreana was later forced to withdraw this advertisement for its skin serum after complaints from the Israeli embassy in Seoul.

It was not an isolated case. Only last month, a Ukrainian energy company was forced to apologise after it launched a billboard campaign using the image of Adolf Hitler to threaten customers who fail to pay their gas bills on time. Earlier this year, a hotel in Belgrade, Serbia, was slammed by the Anti-Defamation League after featuring an Adolf Hitler-themed suite, which had apparently proved a popular attraction.

Then there was the restaurant in Mumbai, named Hitler’s Cross, which in 2006 caused fury among the Jewish community in India. And last year, in New Zealand, the Hell Pizza chain was forced to take down a billboard featuring Hitler delivering a sieg-heil salute while holding a slice of pizza, after complaints from the Jewish community.

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