NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Using Auschwitz as part of your ad campaign probably doesn’t seem like a good idea to most.
Apparently it did to The Circuit Factory gym in Dubai.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the founder of the gym posted 10 photos of a new ad campaign to the gym’s Facebook page. One of the ads included an image of the railroad leading to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp with the slogan “Kiss Your Calories Goodbye.”
The image was not well received, and started getting Tweeted around the web.
Twitter user Alison Lehr posted the image, describing it as “The circuit factory epic fail ad. Apparently you lost your brain while trying to lose weight.”
New Yorkers seemed equally miffed.
“My wife’s relatives — she lost people there during the war. How can you even associate one thing with the other. It’s just unacceptable, really unacceptable,” Alan Singer of Midtown told CBS 2’s Emily Smith.
Companies hire ad agencies all of the time to push the envelope. You see it in Times Square every day, but to use human suffering to promote your brand? That’s taking it to a whole new level.
Advertising campaign and public relations specialist Tom Cunningham told CBS 2’s Smith it’s the shock factor gone terribly wrong.
“There’s a lot of people in advertising who think any notoriety, any publicity is going to be good. But to use this image or message which is horrible is inappropriate,” Cunningham said.
In different ad campaigns The Circuit Factory has used bulimia to try to garner attention, but this ad seems to establish a new low.
The Circuit Factory founder Phil Parkinson apologized and took the photo down, Tweeting “Apologies for the insane poster campaign that was put up this morning. The creative guy has been told where to go.”
The gym issued this statement: “We made a stupid mistake and we deeply regret the upset that it has caused to so many people. We recognise that this was a completely tasteless advert and we removed it shortly after it was posted online. The creative guy will not be used again. As a small gesture of our remorse, we are donating money earned this weekend to a fund that helps people associated with the holocaust. We have also changed our Facebook Fan and Group page profile pictures to the poster attached and will leave it online for the next 7 days. These are not empty words; we are truly sorry.”
The ADL welcomed the apology. National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement the ad raises some troubling questions.
“We are increasingly troubled by both the ignorance and mindset of a generation that appears to be so distant from a basic understanding of the Holocaust that it seems acceptable to use this horrific tragedy as a gimmick to bring attention to promoting losing weight,” Foxman said. “What do we have to do to educate and impart to current and future generations the perils of bigotry, racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism?”
After the ad was taken down, the Circuit Factory’s Facebook page put up a new image, this one reading: “Our values include raising the quality of people’s lives, through physical exercise. Not cruelty or suffering. We made a big mistake and we are truly sorry.”
That said, the ad may not have been bad for the company’s business. Parkinson reportedly told ArabianBusiness.com that the ad — and it’s backlash — prompted a huge amount of interest in his gym.
“A huge number people have researched or Googled… our YouTube channel has shot up, our [Facebook] group page has got an hundred extra members in minutes and we have had about five times as many inquiries as before,” Parkinson told the website. “It has got to the point I am nervous that I can’t cater for demand.”
What do you make of the ad? Sound off in our comments section.