A series of fairly hard hitting ads with the tagline AIDS is a Mass Murderer, will be played on Germany TV and cinema screens in the lead up to World AIDS Day. The video features a couple having sex, however, at the end of ad, the male raises his head and is clearly supposed to be Hitler. A number of posters are also being produced and the imagery is again of a couple however, the male character is either Hilter, Stalin or Saddam Hussein.
AIDS has always been a focus of hard hitting ads. I don’t remember many ads from my childhood, but one that has always stuck with me is from 1987 from back home in Australia. I’ve embedded it below. It is one of the most frightening ads I’ve seen, but the message is essentially that AIDS doesn’t discriminate and it is a devastating disease that could affect anyone, so take proper precautions and don’t be naive.
That, personally, was a pretty effective ad. The Hitler one I think goes a tad too far.
I realise that AIDS doesn’t receive the same headlines as it did in the 80s and 90s and AIDS groups and advertisers have to rely on shock value to get the message across these days because unfortunately there simply isn’t enough media or public interest. This is clearly what the campaign is trying to address as first line of the website’s homepage states “Over the past number of years, public interest in AIDS has massively declined. The number of victims, however, has not. As of now, over 28 million people worldwide have died. And every day another 5,000 fatalities are added to that number. This makes AIDS one of the largest mass murderers of all time.”
But, the problem with this ad is that the message could be read by some people as – if you have AIDS, you are as bad as Hitler/Stalin/Hussein. By personifying an individual with AIDS as a mass murderer, you could be running into trouble and you enter the territory of vilifying AIDS sufferers.
I know that there are few internationally recognisable female mass murderers, but I think it is also questionable that the person transmitting AIDS in these posters are only men. I know it sounds silly, but with people thinking chicken skin, kebabs and coke can act as contraception (I know, I was stunned too), it isn’t outside of the realms of possibility that young men would think you can only catch AIDS through sex with men and you can’t catch it from a unprotected sex with a woman.
I believe the most effective campaigns are a combination of shock and education. These ads only state protect yourself. From what? Where is the advice around condoms, clean needles etc.?
This ad is clearly only about raising the issue of AIDS as a media priority and is based purely on shock value. It will, as it already has sparked debate and gained publicity, but do we need more than that? Like other shock campaigns, people will also become desensitised, then the media will move to the next story, so what is the next step for media campaigns? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms.