Celebrities and condoms seem to go together, from Bill and Monica to the Olympic fuwa. So when I first saw a tweet about condoms bearing a likeness to Osama Bin Laden, Mao Zedong and Adolf Hitler I didn’t think it was anything worth blogging about. The condoms are ugly and silly anyway and I didn’t think they were funny.
Now however, it seems the German condoms have irritated China’s “netizens,” who are not at all amused. And I can’t really say I blame them. While placing Mao in the same category as Hitler and Bin Laden is debatable, it is not debatable that this was an insane marketing decision, at least if the ad agency (Grey Worldwide) and their client (Doc Morris Pharmaceuticals) want to do business in China.
Something about the whole thing just seems “off.”
And again, whether the comparison is valid or not, you don’t throw sand in the face of one of your most important markets. To discuss this from a perspective of morality and history is one thing. From a marketing perspective, it’s plainly idiotic.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.